As one streak ends, another hopefully begins for Bobby Labonte.
Labonte didn't take the green flag in last week's race at Kentucky for the first time in NASCAR since Nov. 15, 1992 at Atlanta. It snapped his consecutive start streak at 704 races, the second-most among active drivers (Jeff Gordon has started 705 consecutive races).
"I've got to start a new one now, I guess," Labonte said Thursday at Daytona International Speedway. "I mean, you know it's going to end at some point in time, but I was really looking forward to going to Kentucky ... You hate that happened, but there's a reason for everything."
Driving Labonte's No. 47 JTG/Daugherty Racing car at Kentucky was AJ Allmendinger, who was signed for five races to help determine areas where the single-car outfit can improve. Allmendinger's first race with the team was last month at Michigan, but Labonte was able to land a ride with Phoenix Racing to preserve his streak.
Labonte will continue to drive for JTG/Daugherty throughout July, but Allmendinger will return to the team for three races beginning at Watkins Glen on August 11.
It's a situation that is understandably uncomfortable for all involved, particularly Labonte.
"You really just take it as it is and you just try to handle it as good as possible," he said. "I hate that it happened and wish that it wouldn't have happened, but at the same time ,if it helps our race team out, I think it's going to be a good thing.
"We've just got to make sure that it (helps)."
At 49 and on the backside of his career, Labonte is staring at an uncertain future. He hasn't won a race in nearly 10 years and his best finish this season is a 15th place finish in the Daytona 500. Both Labonte and JTG/Daugherty say they would like to continue their relationship, but the 2000 Cup champion is a free agent at the end of the year and it appears unlikely he will be back with the team in 2014.
There are questions about whether Labonte might consider retirement, but he says it's something he hasn't considered.
"You know, I don't know," Labonte said. "That's a question I can't really answer. I don't know."