Bobby Labonte's program has gone flat, and that's a good thing for him.
With a victory today at Pocono International Raceway -- the flatest NASCAR oval -- he firmly established himself as a Winston Cup championship contender.
After struggling for years on surfaces banked at 18 degrees or less, Labonte posted his fifth top-five finish in six races this year on the flats.
The 35-year-old Texan won for the second time in three weeks and ninth time in his career. He drove his Joe Gibbs Racing Pontiac to a six-length victory over the Chevrolet of three-time Pocono winner and reigning series champion Jeff Gordon.
"I couldn't believe it," Labonte said. "Jeff was awful quick, and I thought he was going to catch us at the end."
Gordon, who finished in the top two for the seventh time in the last eight races at Pocono, figured he could get to the front. But getting there and staying there were different things.
"It was simple, we just couldn't lead," Gordon said. "I knew I was in trouble when we were out in front."
The win, coupled with Jeff Burton's accident on the second of 200 laps, moved Labonte to second in the series standings. After his 11th top-five finish, Labonte trails Dale Jarrett by 89 points after 15 of 34 races.
Labonte won in his 13th try on the 2 1/2-mile triangle. His only previous top-five finish at Pocono was a fourth last July in the Pennsylvania 500. He led three times for 27 laps, including the final 15.
Jarrett was third in a Ford. He led the most laps, 71. Mark Martin was fourth in a Ford, followed by the Chevy of pole-sitter Sterling Marlin. There were 22 lead changes among 13 drivers.
The race turned into a 4-hour 12-minute marathon because of 11 cautions that slowed the field for 46 laps. Labonte's average speed was 118.908 mph, and he earned $151,110 from a $2.4 million purse.
CAPTION: Dave Marcis's car slides along the wall at Pocono International Raceway. Eleven cautions slowed 46 of 200 laps.