Bobby Labonte closed the NASCAR season with a dominating victory in today's NAPA 500, reasserting his mastery of Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Labonte, who finished second in the Winston Cup standings to Dale Jarrett, won for the fourth time in his last seven starts at the track. It was his third victory since the 1.54-mile oval was redesigned in 1997.
"What a way to end the year," Labonte said. "It's been a lot of fun. To end the year with five wins is just unbelievable."
Labonte's Pontiac pulled away at the end of the 325-lap race, finishing about half a straightaway ahead of Jarrett, who passed Jeremy Mayfield for second on the last lap.
It was the third straight victory for Joe Gibbs Racing, with Labonte adding to the two straight by rookie teammate Tony Stewart in Phoenix and Homestead, Fla.
Labonte, who started 37th in the 43-car field, didn't lead for the first time until Lap 91. From that point on, the younger of the two racing brothers from Texas was out front for a race-high 147 laps.
He took the lead for the final time during a restart on Lap 290, roaring past Jeff Burton, who had beaten Labonte out of the pits on the last stop by the leaders. It was no contest the rest of the way, as Labonte pulled steadily ahead, winning by 2.428 seconds.
Nobody had ever won a race at this track from farther back than 30th, a feat accomplished in 1983 by Dale Earnhardt, who started 36th and finished ninth today.
Labonte wound up 201 points behind Jarrett, who wrapped up the title the previous Sunday in Homestead.
"Bobby's going to win his championship," Jarrett said. "He was the man here today, but he's the man at a lot of places."