The indications were there from that first green flag he took as a little boy growing up in small town Texas. Bobby Labonte was perhaps simply destined to be a winner, a champion. And on January 31, he will officially become a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Even from those early laps he turned trying out a quarter-midget on a short track near his familys Corpus Christi home, the elementary-aged Labonte left no doubt about his competitive frame of mind or his talent behind the wheel. There was something special there. Unmistakable.
When he first started out in quarter-midgets he was either going to wreck or win, Labontes older brother Terry recalled with a slight chuckle. He was wide open.
He did good though. We had quarter-midgets and I remember the first time my dad made him go out and follow me and he wouldnt even follow me. I was just going to show him the line, but no, he wanted to pass me.
I knew from the start he was going to be competitive.
Competitive and Hall of Fame-worthy. As it turns out, all those years ago on that South Texas short track, Terry was actually watching and guiding a Hall of Famer in traininghis brother.
Bobby Labonte, now 55, went on to become one of the most successful drivers of his generation, earning two national series championships - the Grand National (now NASCAR Xfinity Series) title in 1991 and answering that with the 2000 Cup Series championship. He was the first driver in NASCARs long and storied history to win both titles.
He also earned the prestigious 2001 IROC championship and was the first driver to win races in all three major NASCAR racing divisions Cup (2002), Xfinity (1992) and the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoor Truck Series (2005) - at a single track (Martinsville, Va.).
In 1994, Bobby won a second Grand National title this time as a team owner with driver David Green.
And now Bobby will formally join Terry, a two-time Cup Series champion, in the sports grand NASCAR Hall of Fame in two weeks. Labontes former Cup Series team owner Joe Gibbs and his former Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Tony Stewart will also be inducted in this Hall of Fame class of high achievement. Joining them are celebrated engine builder and crew chief Waddell Wilson and the late, hugely-popular driver-turned-broadcaster, Buddy Baker.
The Labonte brothers become only the second pair of siblings to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, joining Glen and Leonard Wood.
As with the Wood Brothers, the Labonte brothers have a celebrated history now marked with a rare and coveted Hall of Fame exclamation point.
While Bobby Labonte and his wife Kristin couldnt be more genuinely honored or excited to attend the NASCAR Hall of Fame induction gala in Charlotte next month, he admittedly still gets a kick thinking of how he got the big news.
A year prior Labontes first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame, the couple got dressed up and attended the selection announcement at the Hall. However, Labontes name was not among the five chosen for the 2019 class.
So last spring, for his second year of eligibility, Labonte changed the vibe and opted not to attend the formal Hall of Fame announcement in downtown Charlotte. Instead he and Kristin went for a bike ride at the time the news was to be revealed. The two are avid riders and say it just felt like a good way to deal with the natural tension of a potential life-changing moment.
Were about halfway into our 20-mile ride and I see on my phone which is connected through a little computer on my bike - the word Congratulations as a text message, Labonte vividly recalled. Then all of a sudden, a phone call comes, then another, so we just had to stop on the road and answer the phone and the texts. And I called my mom and dad.
They told me, he continued with a hearty laugh. Youre not the first to call.
Labonte said the pride, the memories and the overall great sense of accomplishment he was able to share with family and friends that afternoon was palpable. After all, so much of his career was family-centric. When his brother Terry eight years his senior - got a chance in NASCARs big leagues in the 1980s, the entire Labonte family relocated from Texas to North Carolina for support.
And it was there that Bobby Labonte really began to flourish, first working in the pits then as a competitor earning that first opportunity to immerse himself and his dreams in the NASCAR culture.
Both Labonte and his father Bob helped work on the Billy Hagan-owned NASCAR Cup Series team that Terry won his first Cup championship with in 1984. But two years later Terry Labonte left the Hagan team to drive for NASCAR Hall of Famer Junior Johnson - and his younger brother and father were let go from the team.
Instead of that being a major setback for Bobby Labonte, however, it really turned into a career send-off.
He and his father worked together to form and fund their own late model team and Labonte began turning heads as he raced throughout the Carolinas earning a dominating 10 wins en route to the 1987 Caraway (N.C.) Speedway track title, which was a huge highlight of that time. With the prize money he began to earn, Labonte was able to fund occasional starts in the NASCAR Grand National series. And before long, his talent and determination turned humble mid-pack showings into championship caliber headlines.
Labonte soon began capitalizing on the increased opportunity and burgeoning confidence.
He fielded his own team fulltime in the Grand National Series winning the 1991 championship over another future NASCAR Hall of Famer, Jeff Gordon. The following year Labonte lost the series title to Joe Nemechek by a heart-breaking three points.
Labontes hard work and impressive results landed him a full-time job with the Bill Davis Racing Cup Series team in 1993. He earned his first career Cup Series pole (at Richmond, Va.) that fall and finished second to Gordon for the seasons Rookie of the Year honors.
In 1995, Labonte was hired by Joe Gibbs Racing to take over for Dale Jarrett in the famed No. 18 Interstate Batteries car. Labonte won his first Cup Series race that Memorial Day weekend in the series longest event, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
He finished runner-up to Jarrett in the 1999 Cup championship and then answered with a mega 265-point edge over the late seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt for the 2000 Cup title. Labonte finished eighth or better in the championship six times in a seven-year span between 1997 and 2003.
Labonte won 21 career races at 11 different tracks and 26 pole positions at 16 different tracks. Notably, his last pole position came in his home state at Texas Motor Speedway.
And he did it competing against a list of fellow Hall of Famers from iconic champions like Earnhardt, Jarrett, Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin and Bill Elliott to Gibbs teammate Tony Stewart and those undoubtedly future selections such as Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch.
The competition was tough, Labonte said. It really was in that era.
Of course, highest among that great list of legends that Labonte sparred with on-track will always be his brother Terry. They finished first and second in multiple races.
One of the most noteworthy races for them, however, was 1996 in the Atlanta Motor Speedway Cup season finale when Bobby won the race and Terry, who finished fifth, clinched his second Cup title. They celebrated with a victory lap around the track together.
You cant write it any better than that, Terry Labonte said. That was a pretty special day.
Usually the last race of the year is the only time two people get to go to victory lane and to be able to do that with my brother was pretty special.
In many ways it was the only fitting way to celebrate a family that left such a bold mark on the sport. Some would find it intimidating to have an older sibling excel in the career you shared. But Bobby Labonte was inspired by it and learned from it. And he went on to earn his own stripes and celebratory hardware.
In two weeks, the sport and entire industry will honor Labontes impressive Hall of Fame-worthy accomplishments. And no one will be prouder than his family, who guided, cheered and took great pride in a career well spent and now again, duly celebrated.
I think about how I watched my brother race since I was a kid, Labonte said. We always raced in different divisions growing up so I was always watching his racing, following him. Whatever he did, I was the little brother, I guarantee I was the nuisance brother. But I was always wanting to be like my brother.
So for all this to have taken place with the NASCAR Hall of Fame, in my head, Im thinking I got to be like my brother. That is cool and I never would have thought that would happen and it did.
Its so awesome for our parents. We were all like the steady boat over the high seas. Never drifted.
And now essentially, their family port is the NASCAR Hall of Fame - alongside the best of the best.
Read the original:
- CCL Stock Price: Carnival Corp sailing the high seas after as analyst sinks rivals - FXStreet - May 28th, 2020
- Sea of Thieves' big Tall Tale adventures are finally getting checkpoints - PC Gamer - May 28th, 2020
- Russia Intercepts P-8, Sends MiG-29s and Su-24s to Libya - Aviation International News - May 28th, 2020
- Relief and fear - Authorities promise tight ship, but COVID-19 concern high in communities as joyous relatives welcome cruise workers - Jamaica... - May 28th, 2020
- Sea of Thieves sails onto Steam on June 3 - PC Gamer - May 28th, 2020
- Opinion | A red line that Beijing shouldn't try to cross - Livemint - May 28th, 2020
- Exclusive: BP's North Sea chief Ariel Flores promoted - News for the Oil and Gas Sector - Energy Voice - May 28th, 2020
- The myriad consequences of trauma - Sydney Morning Herald - May 28th, 2020
- Mutiny on the high seas saved trafficked Rohingya - Dhaka Tribune - May 11th, 2020
- UN rights office concerned over migrant boat pushbacks in the Mediterranean - UN News - May 11th, 2020
- How smaller neighbours of China are taking on the dragon - WION - May 11th, 2020
- Tips, links and suggestions: what are you reading this week? - The Guardian - May 11th, 2020
- Is Call Of The Sea Coming To PS5? - PlayStation Universe - May 11th, 2020
- Shore Lore: Tales of the night patrol - News - Wicked Local Brewster - May 11th, 2020
- The Disgraced Offices of Joseph Muscat - The Shift News - May 11th, 2020
- Stranded Deep: How to Build a Raft | Screen Rant - Screen Rant - May 11th, 2020
- Botanical gardens, gym or commune among ideas for a refurbished Celandine Hall in Ramsgate - The Isle of Thanet News - May 11th, 2020
- Pirates of the Caribbean: The Worst Thing About Each Main Character, Ranked - Screen Rant - May 11th, 2020
- Legislative leaders and the S-word Floridians stayed home before they were told to Mar-a-Lago mess Live sports returns - Politico - May 11th, 2020
- Modis goal of making India Vishwaguru wont transform lives of Indians: Shivshankar Menon - ThePrint - May 11th, 2020
- The Isle of Gold by Seven Jane - coastalbreezenews.com - May 3rd, 2020
- Floating Power Plants Are Taking to the High Seas - gcaptain.com - May 3rd, 2020
- Mobile power plants take to the high seas, sidestepping red tape involved with traditional plants - NNY360 - May 3rd, 2020
- International Fisheries Managers' Pandemic Response Highlights Need to Expand Electronic Monitoring - The Pew Charitable Trusts - May 3rd, 2020
- Discovery Greenlights All On The Line Reality Series For May Premiere - Deadline - May 3rd, 2020
- 5 hidden gems on Hulu (for when you get tired of Netflix) - nj.com - May 3rd, 2020
- Let the boats in: Rohingya refugees plead for stranded relatives to be saved - The Guardian - May 3rd, 2020
- Why Warlike One-Upmanship Works to Russia's Benefit - The National Interest - May 3rd, 2020
- 10 Things That Make No Sense About The Pirates of the Caribbean Movies - Screen Rant - May 3rd, 2020
- Pirates Of The Caribbean: 5 Best Rivalries (& 5 That Make No Sense) - Screen Rant - May 3rd, 2020
- Pirates of the Caribbean: 5 Characters Who Got Fitting Endings (& 5 Who Deserved More) - Screen Rant - May 3rd, 2020
- Moderate becoming good: my journey to every place in the shipping forecast - The Guardian - May 3rd, 2020
- Bangladesh urged to open ports to allow in Rohingya refugee boats - The Guardian - May 3rd, 2020
- VE Day 75th: Even the longest journey starts with a single step - Standard Freeholder - May 3rd, 2020
- Pirates of the Caribbean: 5 Couples Fans Loved (& 5 They Hated) - Screen Rant - May 3rd, 2020
- The Inevitable Clash Between China & ASEAN Nations Over The South China Sea - EurAsian Times - May 3rd, 2020
- This is brilliant from Javier Tebas on football restarting - The Mag - May 3rd, 2020
- After weeks at sea, URIs research ship returned to a different world - WPRI.com - May 3rd, 2020
- There are officially zero Canadians still on cruise ships sailing the high seas - Maclean's - April 27th, 2020
- Venom by Bex Hogan: High stakes on the high seas - Cambridge Independent - April 27th, 2020
- Something is wrong with our bloody ships today - Atlantic Council - April 27th, 2020
- Let's stop pretending billionaires are in the same boat as us during this pandemic - The Guardian - April 27th, 2020
- China's bold behavior borders on aggression and must be checked | TheHill - The Hill - April 27th, 2020
- 7 start-ups with sights set on the seas - Siliconrepublic.com - April 27th, 2020
- Young people arrive in the Netherlands after crossing the Atlantic - Explica - April 27th, 2020
- At Sea Since October, Solo Sailor Takes Isolation to the Extreme While Battling Weather and High Seas - The Weather Channel - April 21st, 2020
- Oakland County-born singer shines some "Light" in Nashville - The Oakland Press - April 21st, 2020
- Sea of Thieves Is Finally Letting Crewmates Revive Each Other - Screen Rant - April 21st, 2020
- The global system drags anchor - United World International - April 21st, 2020
- Below Deck Sailing Yacht Recap: Out With The Old - Reality Tea - April 21st, 2020
- Oil price crash may not benefit India due to falling demand and full tanks - BusinessLine - April 21st, 2020
- Explained | Why are oil futures in negative terrain? - Frontline - April 21st, 2020
- Time to Buy Beat-Down SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. (SEAS) Stock? Here is the INSIGHT - The InvestChronicle - April 21st, 2020
- Chirayu Model For Fight Against COVID-19 In Bhopal With The Help Of The MP Government - Elemental - April 21st, 2020
- Last 3 cruise ships to dock today The last three cruise ships will be returning to - The Post Millennial - April 21st, 2020
- Outer Banks: Will there be a Season 2 and when will it likely be coming out? - Monsters and Critics - April 21st, 2020
- Protecting The High Seas: Researchers Use Big Data to Identify Biodiversity Hotspots - Noozhawk - April 15th, 2020
- Upcoming 'Sea of Thieves' Update Will Change the High Seas - Exclusively Games - April 15th, 2020
- Review: 'Sea Fever' Is a Contagion Thriller On The High Seas - Pajiba Entertainment News - April 15th, 2020
- Cruise lines turn to virtual cruising to give a taste of life on the high seas - The Telegraph - April 15th, 2020
- Tired of 'Frozen?' Here are a few less obvious kids movies to stream - Martinsville Bulletin - April 15th, 2020
- Death on the high seas; the mysterious death of a humble fishing observer - Stuff.co.nz - April 15th, 2020
- All the cruise ships that have had confirmed cases of COVID-19 onboard - Business Insider - Business Insider - April 15th, 2020
- Fossil discovery that changes the history of monkeys in the Americas - Somag News - April 15th, 2020
- Princess Annes Interview on Prince Andrew, Harry and Meghan & Life as a Royal - Vanity Fair - April 15th, 2020
- Interview: Building a robot to navigate the high seas - ComputerWeekly.com - March 4th, 2020
- 'High Seas' Netflix Review: Stream It or Skip It? - March 4th, 2020
- Design Collective by Cintas Creates High Fashion on the High Seas with Virgin Voyages Apparel Collection - Yahoo Finance - March 4th, 2020
- This Is How Much It Costs to Stay in Kylie Jenner's Vacation Villa - KMOX - March 4th, 2020
- The U.S. Navys Future Fleet May Run Aground In Heavy Weather - Forbes - March 4th, 2020
- Four things to do in the Hastings area - Bexhill Observer - March 4th, 2020
- As sea levels rise, high marshes along the Oregon coast are likely to shrink - Yale Climate Connections - March 4th, 2020
- If Honesty Is The Best Policy, Why Do We Forget It? - Forbes - March 4th, 2020
- Susan Calman announced to host Cruising With after Jane McDonald quit - Metro.co.uk - March 4th, 2020
- This is a solution that could help end illegal fishing - GreenBiz - March 4th, 2020
- Doomed: The Story of How Nazi Germany's Best Battleship Was Sunk - The National Interest Online - March 4th, 2020
- Is Turkey right on Idlib and refugees? - Ahval - March 4th, 2020
- The Perfect Time to Visit Panama City Beach for Every Type of Traveler - Thrillist - March 4th, 2020
- From Brexit to coronavirus: warehousing threats - Tina Massey - March 4th, 2020
- From the Mountain To The Sea: Highlander Teacher, Says Island Life Amazes Him - Fiji Sun Online - March 4th, 2020