Terry Labonte earned his second Cup Series championship with Hendrick Motorsports in 1996 and logged 22 career victories. By the time the 2000 Cup Series season ended, Bobby Labonte had 16 career victories and a NASCAR Cup Series championship.
That same year, he won the prestigious Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as well as three other races. When he left JGR in 2005, he had collected five more victories for a total of 21 in the Cup Series and another 10 in the Xfinity Series.
He joined Petty Enterprises in 2006 and after three seasons with the organization, followed by other ventures with Hall of Fame Racing, The Racers Group, James Finch and JTG Daugherty Racing, he stepped away from full-time driving in 2013. He made his final Cup Series start for Archie St. Hilaire at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway on Oct. 23, 2016.
H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler, former president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway, compares Bobby Labonte to three-time Cup Series champion David Pearson.
“Bobby Labonte was a cool dude,” Wheeler said. “He ran as hard as he needed to and even reminded me a lot of how David Pearson would drive. He just didn’t have the wins David had, but he didn’t run the dirt tracks like David. Like his brother, Terry, he came to North Carolina from Texas and learned so much. He was so extremely smooth with a race car and took the same line every time. I would tell the young drivers that if they could get out there and catch him and follow him, they could learn how to get around the race track the right way.”
In 2017 and ’18, Bobby Labonte entered select NASCAR Whelen Euro Series events, logging several top-five finishes. Since 2014, he has also worked with several national television networks as an auto racing analyst.
Award-winning crew chief and television analyst Jeff Hammond remembers Bobby Labonte as a very talented rising star nearly 40 years ago.
“When Bobby first showed up in the late 1970s, I was working for Billy Hagan and his Cup Series team,” Hammond said. “I was there as a crew man when Terry got in the car for the first time (in 1978). I saw how quickly Terry learned and how smooth he was as a driver and Bobby was exactly the same way when he started driving. What’s amazing is how well Bobby and Terry communicated at that time. Bobby really listened to his brother, so their driving styles are pretty much the same.
“When he made his move into the Busch (Xfinity) Series and later the Cup Series, he was very successful and became a champion in both series.”
Bobby Labonte’s NASCAR Xfinity Series championships as a driver and as a team owner rank as two of the greatest accomplishments for him and his family.
“I think for me, for our family to win the Busch Grand National (now Xfinity Series) championship as the driver was very special,” Labonte said. “We were also able to win the championship in that division with David Green driving our car. We did it on our own. I didn’t drive for another team owner and just did that at the time. I think putting all that into play really helped my career.
“At the time, it was an accomplishment, but when you look back on it, it was, ‘I can’t believe we did all that with four employees and six cars.’ Back then, that’s what a lot of people did, and we were able to beat them.”
Bobby Labonte, along with former Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Tony Stewart, and team owner Joe Gibbs will join legendary Red Byron as inductees into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in January.
“I guess the accomplishments of my career haven’t really hit me because it’s not something I think about,” Labonte said. “I’m still doing things. It’s incredibly meaningful but it just hasn’t hit me yet. One day I’ll sit back and say, ‘Wow. That’s cool.’
“It’s such an honor to be a part of this sport. Come Jan. 31, 2020 when the NASCAR Hall of Fame inductions are held, maybe that’s when it will sink in and I’ll really think about it.”