A great start to the 2017 season has a chance to get even better for John Labbous Jr. at the upcoming JEGS NHRA SPORTSnationals, which takes place May 26-28 at Beech Bend Raceway Park.
The longtime standout became the 22nd driver in NHRA history to double-up at a national event, winning in both Super Comp and Super Gas at the recent NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway. With the standout performances this year Labbous is also the national points leader in both categories.
Still riding that momentum from last month, Labbous Jr. hopes to have another memorable weekend in Bowling Green, Ky., where he will be competing in Super Street in hopes of a national event victory in his third different class.
“It definitely feels like we’ve got a handle on things right now,” Labbous said. “When you’ve been racing for as long as I have, the confidence comes and goes, and the win lights will turn off as quickly as they turn on. But when that water is underneath you, you try to stay on top of it and ride that wave as long and as far as you can, and then you hope there’s another one right behind it when you fall off. Right now I feel good about what I’m doing and hopefully that continues.”
Doing so at a race that annually features the top sportsman racers from across the country would be another feather in Labbous’ cap. He won the race in 2014, making it his first national event win, after finishing as the runner-up earlier that season in Super Gas at the Gatornationals. A year later, Labbous won the Gatornationals in Super Comp and finished runner-up at the JEGS NHRA SPORTSnationals in the same category.
With more than $108,000 in cash purse and special bonus race plus product contingency awards on the line, Labbous knows the importance of doing well at one of the biggest sportsman races each year.
“The more money I’m racing for, I feel like I dig in deeper and the SPORTSnationals pays good and is a very prestigious race,” Labbous said. “You have to keep your concentration up and stay focused. As a driver, we’re supposed to make it out like it’s just another race, but that’s so hard to do. It’s physically impossible, really. But you have to keep it under control and try not to get ahead of yourself.”
The location of the race also makes it meaningful for Labbous, who is the son of racing standout John Labbous Sr. He remembers watching his father have success at Beech Bend Raceway Park in the 1980s, and Labbous has performed well at the track over the years as well. The next step is would be adding a JEGS NHRA SPORTSnationals win at the facility that has already been home to a number of special memories.
“I remember being 12 years old or so watching my dad run Super Gas and him having success there,” Labbous said. “I consider that my home track and I’ve raced there frequently and turned on a few win lights. There’s a lot of nostalgia there and it’s just a cool place with so much history. With JEGS behind it and having it at Bowling Green, it helps take it to another level. It’s a national event just for sportsman racers.”
The racing action begins on Friday at 8 a.m. as the racers take to the track for qualifying runs. Super Stock, Stock, Super Gas, Super Street, and Super Comp along with Top Dragster, Top Sportsman and Comp Eliminator will take to the track during the day.
The evening will conclude with a special southern style cookout for the competitors hosted by JEGS, NHRA and the Dallas Jones-family. The cookout will take place in the “Shady Grove” pavilion adjacent to the pit area following the racing activities. Families can also take part in a special JEGS Family and Friends Night at Beech Bend Amusement Park and Splash Lagoon Water Park.
The racing continues on Saturday and will feature heads-up class racing in Super Stock and Stock eliminators as well as bonus C-Tech Fast Four Shootout races in Comp, Racing RV’s Top Dragster, and Top Sportsman. K&N Super Shootouts will take place in the three Super-eliminator categories Super Comp, Super Gas and Super Street.
Qualifying will be set on Saturday for a 32-car field in Competition, 128-car fields in Super Stock and Stock and expanded 64-car fields in both Top Dragster and Top Sportsman. All-run fields will be contested in Super Comp, Super Gas and Super Street.
Eliminations for all classes will be held on Sunday with National points at stake in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series including Comp, Super Stock, Stock, Super Comp, Super Gas, Top Sportsman, and Top Dragster categories while Lucas Oil Divisional points will be awarded in Super Street.
Memorial Day Monday is planned as a travel day or if needed as a completion day for the event.
Gates will open for the event on Thursday at 9 a.m.