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Labonte's streak continues with Phoenix ride

Phoenix Racing General Manager Steve Barkdoll confirmed that Bobby Labonte will be in the team's No. 51 Chevrolet this week at Michigan -- extending Labonte's consecutive start streak to 703.

And it won't be the first time for the pairing.

Labonte drove 14 races for Phoenix Racing in 2010 -- making his 600th start in the summer Daytona race that year -- after his deal with TRG Racing ended midseason.

"We helped keep his streak going back then and he helped us because were able to get some sponsors with him driving for us,'' Barkdoll said Tuesday, noting that so far the team had signed Labonte for just the Michigan race and that former world champion Jacques Villenueve would be in the car for the road course race at Sonoma in two weeks.

"Everything can change but we wanted to help keep Bobby's streak going,'' Barkdoll said.

Labonte has 14 previous starts for Phoenix Racing, and he expressed his gratitude to the team via a statement on Tuesday.
"James has always been one of the first to reach out to offer help in a situation like this," said Labonte. "I enjoy racing with Nick Harrison, Steve Barkdoll and the entire group of guys. I'm looking forward to this weekend."

"A few years back you didn't have the opportunity like this, but now there are lots of talented drivers that can do one-offs and things like that.''

The JTG/Daugherty Racing team -- where Labonte has been for the past three seasons -- announced during the weekend it would put A.J. Allmendinger in Labonte's No. 47 Toyota at Michigan hoping to get additional driver feedback on why the one-car team has struggled.

Labonte is expected to be back in the No. 47 at Sonoma and JTG co-owner Brad Daugherty insisted over the weekend that "Bobby's our guy."

"I enjoy racing for Tad (Geschickter), Jodi (Geschickter) and Brad," Labonte said in Tuesday's statement. "They have given me a great opportunity to help this team grow. It's where my focus has been since racing with the team in 2011. I want to see this team get better and will do what I need to do to make that happen.

"We just completed our first test at Kentucky, which was valuable time spent on the track, that should assist in improving our team performance starting this weekend and going forward."

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