2004 saw two first-time winners at Chicagoland Speedway in the NASCAR Busch and ARCA Re/Max Series.
Justin Labonte was trying to make success out of a NASCAR career like his dad, Terry, and ran a part-time Busch Series schedule in preparation for full-time in 2005. After seven races under his belt, the younger Labonte didn’t have a top-ten finish heading into the series’ race at Chicagoland.
The 2004 Tropicana Twister 300 didn’t appear to have one dominating car on the day. Pole-sitter Bobby Hamilton, Jr. led the first few laps before his engine expired.
And more woes proved the front was a place to avoid.
J.J. Yeley raced with a chance at getting his first Busch win, but pit troubles put the No. 18 car back in the pack with less than 20 laps to go and Yeley wouldn’t see the lead again.
Greg Biffle challenged Yeley for the top spot but blew up and tagged the wall and ending his shot at the win.
Mike Wallace and several others stayed out to gamble on fuel and Wallace looked for his second win in as many weeks. He won the week before at Daytona in a crazy last lap and picked up his first Busch Series victory in ten years. Wallace had to hold off a hard-charging Labonte to win the race, but the fuel tank went dry after taking the white flag.
Justin Labonte drove to his first NASCAR Busch Series victory in the Tropicana Twister 300. He started from the 34th-place, the worst any winner has started at Chicagoland in the series.
Like Labonte, Kyle Krisloff was also looking to start a successful NASCAR career. The 18-year-old signed a developmental deal to drive for Hendrick Motorsports in select ARCA races in 2004 and 2005.
Krisiloff made his ARCA début at Lake Erie Speedway in August and led 38 laps en route to a ninth-place finish. The next week he finished runner-up at Nashville Superspeedway to Joey Miller, who won in his ARCA début.
The Hendrick driver returned to the series at Chicagoland in September as part of an ARCA-IndyCar weekend at the track.
The ReadyHosting.com 200 was eventful to say the least. Similar to the NASCAR Busch Series race back in July, it was a race of survival.
Several contenders including Miller, Frank Kimmel, Tim Steele and Ryan Hemphill were all taken out in crashes. Only half of the 41-car field finished the race.
Like the Busch Series race, there was no clear-cut driver who was dominant. Brent Sherman, T.J. Bell and Krisiloff all took turns out front.
Fortunately, all three were in the running for the victory at the end of the day.
Krisiloff made the last pass for the lead on Sherman on lap 110 and never looked back to score his first career ARCA Series win. The victory was the second for the No. 5 Bobby Gerhart Racing team in 2004, who won with Blake Feese earlier in the season at Nashville.
Bell had to settle for second and Christi Passmore, who led the first 11 laps of the race, scored a third-place finish for her No. 91 team.
As for Justin Labonte and Krisiloff, both would run the Busch Series at one time or another, with Labonte running full-time in 2005 and Krisiloff in 2007 with the No. 14 Carl Haas owned team.
Although neither of the two drivers is now racing on the NASCAR circuit, their accomplishments at Chicagoland Speedway can never be taken away.
2004 Tropicana Twister 300 Top-Ten 2004ReadyHosting.com 200 Top-Ten
#44 Justin Labonte 1. #5 Kyle Krisiloff
#22 Jason Keller 2. #08 T.J. Bell
#9 Jeff Burton 3. #91 Christi Passmore
#38 Kasey Kahne 4. #44 Brent Sherman
#46 Ashton Lewis 5. #42 Chris Moore
#55 Robby Gordon 6. #25 Billy Venturini
#00 Jason Leffler 7. #38 Michael Simko
#37 David Green 8. #11 A.J. Fike
#18 J.J. Yeley 9. #43 Chevy White
#2 Ron Hornaday, Jr. 10. #19 Jennifer Jo Cobb