NASCAR & Auto Racing

With no wins, one top 10, Labonte has a modest goal

A little more to chew on while pondering Sunday's Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway:

Practice update

Bowyer's showing presence again

Everything seems to be pointing Clint Bowyer's way. He has led every practice, including both Saturday. He might have won the pole had qualifying not been rained out Friday. Not bad for the guy who won this race one year ago and has a shot at the championship. Jimmie Johnson and Bobby Labonte were the only other drivers to run in the top-five of both practices Saturday.

Observer picks

David Poole

Somebody is going to step up to challenge “The Big Three” in this Chase. It starts this weekend with a driver who's overdue for a win.

WINNER: Denny Hamlin

Jim Utter

There's nothing like throwing the Chase standings into chaos in the opening weekend. Bowyer appears the perfect candidate to do just that – in fact he did it just last year.

WINNER: Clint Bowyer

REAR-VIEW MIRRORElevator

JIMMIE JOHNSON

His charge into the Chase looks much like last year. Will the result be the same?

DAVID RAGAN

No Chase, but a first Cup win would cap a great season.

Notebook

Labonte looking for strong finish

Bobby Labonte has said his goal over the final 10 races of the season is to get his No.43 Petty Enterprises team into the top 15 in points.

So far, he is off to a good start as one of three drivers to run in the top five of both practice sessions Saturday.

“We unloaded and I don't think we changed a single thing to the car,” Labonte said. “That will help us tremendously (today) because we won't spend so much time trying to catch up.

“I feel confident about our chances, but it won't be easy. We've got to pass a bunch of cars starting 20th, but I think I have a car underneath me to do it.”

Labonte is 20th in points with one top-10 finish this season, a 10th at the July race at New Hampshire.

A little superstition never hurt

Reminded that when qualifying was rained out last week at Richmond, Va., he won the race, Johnson said he has recently received other good omens.

“My mom and dad were out in Southern California for (funeral) services for my grandmother (last month) and they went somewhere for lunch and his receipt was $48,” Johnson said, alluding to his car number.

“Then he said they were on flight No.148 or something like that and he had to call me and tell me and that warmed me up more than thinking about the rain (Friday). So hopefully my dad's got that mojo right now and is on to something.”

Johnson said he has his own superstitions. “My microwave, I'll start it at 48 seconds and stop it at one. Instead of getting up at 7:30, it's 7:48 and stupid things like that,” he said. J.U.

Hornish a voice for kids

Driver Sam Hornish Jr. will be the voice of “Roary the Racing Car,” an animated series designed for preschoolers that will premiere Oct.13 on PBS Kids Sprout, the first 24-hour preschool destination available on demand and online.

Hornish, a former Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar Series champion, is in his first full season of competition in NASCAR's Cup series. J.U.

Goodyear getting early start on 2009

Goodyear officials are getting an early start to the 2009 season with a tire test 9a.m. to 5p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday at Daytona International Speedway in preparation for next year's Daytona 500.

Drivers David Ragan and Paul Menard – neither of whom made the Chase so they receive no extra testing time – are scheduled to participate. J.U.

Race facts

Sylvania 300

WHERE: New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Loudon, N.H.

WHEN: 2 p.m. today.

WEATHER: High near 77 with 60percent chance of thunderstorms.

TV: Coverage begins at 1 p.m. on ABC.

RADIO: Performance Racing Network

RACE DISTANCE: 300 laps or 317.4 miles

TRACK: 1-mile paved, flat oval.

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