For the second time this season, Bobby Labonte nursed his car home on little more than fumes, winning the Pennsylvania 500 today for the first two-race sweep in 13 years at Pocono International Raceway.
With two late-race caution flags as his final ally, Labonte went the final 45 laps to win for the third time this season. Last month in Dover, Del., Labonte disdained a final fuel stop and won the MBNA Platinum 400.
This time, the economy run was less dramatic because series points leader Dale Jarrett and Mark Martin also made it to the end. The fuel window on the 2 1/2-mile track is generally 40 laps, but 10 laps of caution helped them finish ahead of cars that repeatedly pitted to top off.
Labonte didn't back off once he was told he probably had enough fuel to finish. "I ran as hard as I could," said Labonte, who also won the Pocono 500 to match Tim Richmond's 1986 Pocono sweep. "We didn't have the fastest race car all day, but we had the fastest one at the end."
Fate also had a hand in Labonte's 10th career victory. Jarrett had a bad clutch that hurt him during pit stops. Martin was given a stop-and-go penalty when one of his tires rolled across pit road. Defending race and series champion Jeff Gordon blew a tire and Jeff Burton, who won two weeks ago when Tony Stewart lost a fuel gamble at Loudon, N.H., blew his transmission.
Only Labonte managed to avoid all the pitfalls. He led the final 33 laps, bringing his Pontiac home 8.655 seconds ahead of Jarrett's Ford. Martin was third in a Ford, followed by Labonte's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Stewart, and the Chevrolet of Wally Dallenbach.
The 4-hour 16-minute race, slowed twice by light rain, featured 27 lead changes among 15 drivers. Labonte's average speed was slowed to 116.982 mph by nine cautions covering 49 laps. Labonte, third in the standings, 283 points behind Jarrett and 29 back of Martin, earned $139,385 from a purse of $2.2 million.