Hall Of Fame Racing and Yates Racing have announced that Ben Leslie will be Bobby Labonte's new crew chief for the No. 96 Ask.com/Academy Sports + Outdoors Ford for the remainder of the 2009 season.
While Todd Parrott will remain with Yates Racing, working and assisting both Menards and Labonte's teams in the shop.
Labonte's team got off to a great start, were 10th in the points after a fifth place finish at Vegas. In the last five races, they've done nothing since, their best finish was 22nd and he's 28th in the point standings.
As a Labonte fan, you could see a change needed to happen. It didn't look like Labonte or Parrott were on the same page and their performance should have been better.
"Ben's experience with Ford Racing is really an asset to our organization," said Max Jones, co-owner of Yates Racing.
"The No. 96 team is fortunate enough to have a Champion driver and a group of experts in the sport. I believe Ben will bring the right changes to this team to help it accomplish some solid finishes this season and climb a few positions in the points."
Leslie, prior to coming to Yates Racing, spent three season working with Ford Racing as a liaison with NASCAR managing Ford's development in all three of NASCAR's elite series.
He also has worked with Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch and Ricky Rudd. With Martin in 2001, Leslie led him to a second-place finish in the Cup Point Standings, had 15 top 10 finishes and won the Coca Cola 600.
"I'm looking forward to working with Ben," said Labonte.
"He's done a lot with Ford Racing specifically and I like that he has experience with many Champion drivers. I'm excited to see what we will do together on the track in the next few weeks."
I like the move, Labonte's struggling with driving a Ford and Leslie's experience with the manufacturer will make that learning curve much more easier.
When you have a driver like Labonte, who's No. 96 from the drop of the green isn't handling right and every adjustment doesn't help improve it.
It's a no-brainier, change has to come and especially when your sponsor Ask.com is only committed to 18 races. They do have Academy Sports+Outdoors on board for five races and that leaves 13 sponsor-less races.
Let's hope this move works, their performance improves and Ask.com or Academy Sports+Outdoors adds more races to sponsor the No. 96.
Photo Credit: bobbylabonte.com