Terrance Lee Labonte (born November 16, 1956, in Corpus Christi, Texas) is a racecar driver in NASCAR.
His father had worked on racecars as a hobby for his friends, so young Labonte’s interest in the sport seemed only natural. He started racing quarter-midgets when he was 7 and won a national championship at nine. But once he tried the local short tracks in a stock car as a teenager, he had found his calling. Driving on both dirt and asphalt, he won track championships in his hometown, in Houston, and in San Antonio from 1975 to 1977. During this time he also met the man who would become his first big-league sponsor and team owner, Billy Hagan. A successful businessman from Louisiana, Hagan offered Labonte a job on his Winston Cup team along with the promise to drive five races that year.
Labonte’s first start came in 1978 at The Track Too Tough to Tame, Darlington Raceway. He finished an impressive fourth that Labor Day weekend and competed for Rookie of the Year in 1979 along with Dale Earnhardt, Harry Gant, and Joe Millikin. Earnhardt won top honors in that department, but Labonte was one of three rookies to finish in the top 10 in points. The following year saw him win his first race, again at Darlington, in September 1980.
Within five years (1984) he won his first Winston Cup championship, the youngest driver ever to accomplish that feat at the time. In 1987, after almost 10 years with Hagan, Labonte made the first team change of his career and began a 3-year contract with the famed Junior Johnson. He made plans to field his own team in 1990, but promised investments fell through at the last minute and he instead signed to run the 1990 campaign with Richard Jackson before returning to Billy Hagan for the 1991-1993 seasons. His career seemed to have hit the skids by this time, failing to win a single race during those 4 years.
In 1994, Labonte joined Hendrick Motorsports and responded by notching 3 wins in each of his first two years there. In 1996, his pursuit of Richard Petty’s Ironman streak for consecutive races ended in April in Victory Lane at North Wilkesboro. Despite winning only two races, Labonte went on to win the championship that year as well, a record-setting twelve years after his first. Driving with a broken hand during the last two races of the season, Labonte and younger brother Bobby Labonte treated the fans to a dual victory lap in Atlanta at the last race of the year. Bobby won the race and Terry the championship on the final day of the season, giving Bob and Martha Labonte two winning sons that day.
After his championship run, Labonte’s point totals once again began to falter. For the next six years, his final standing in the season’s points dipped lower and lower, plunging from first in 1996 all the way to 24th in 2002. During this time his own Ironman streak ended as well. After hard crashes two weeks in a row in July 2000, he began to experience the vertigo that would force him from the car eventually at Indianapolis during the first week of August. His own family doctor finally determined that the culprit was a tiny piece of calcium that had been knocked loose in his inner ear. With finishes outside the top 20 in the year-end standings during those lean years, Labonte was written off once more as a driver with no wins left in him.
In 2003, Labonte’s career showed signs of life once again. He garnered a pole position at Richmond in May and visited Victory Lane for the first time since 1999 when he crossed the finish line first at Darlington in the last Labor Day Southern 500. In a year when the “young guns” were the talk of NASCAR, Labonte gave the forty-somethings not only a victory but a top-ten finish as well in the final point standings. Labonte announced that 2004 would be his last full-time on the Nextel Cup circuit, and is currently running a limited schedule for the 2005 and 2006 seasons. He now drives the #44 Kellogg's Corn Flakes car in Nextel Cup racing, which is based on his 1996 Championship paint scheme. He has also driven paint schemes with Pizza Hut and GMAC as primary sponsors.
The efforts, both on and off the track, of the quiet driver nicknamed the Iceman have not gone unnoticed. In 1998, the senior Labonte was named as one of The 50 Greatest NASCAR Drivers of All Time. A park was renamed for the brothers Labonte in their hometown of Corpus Christi in 2001, and they were chosen for entry into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in 2002. Labonte supports a variety of charities and due to his efforts, the Ronald McDonald House in Corpus Christi, the Victory Junction Gang Camp, and the Hendrick Marrow Program all have benefited.
Texas Terry has lived in the Thomasville, North Carolina, area for most of his career. Terry and Kim Labonte married in May 1978 during Terry’s first year with Billy Hagan after meeting at the car dealership where both worked while in high school in Texas. They have two children who have grown up around racing just as Labonte did years ago. Justin, born in 1981, was a late model track champion at Caraway Speedway in North Carolina in 2003 and raced a limited Busch Series schedule in 2004 (including a win at Chicagoland Speedway in July) with sponsorship from the Coast Guard. That sponsorship will expand to allow a full schedule in 2005. Kristy, born in 1983, is a business marketing major at High Point University.
Terry Labonte is one of the most versatile and consistent racers ever to drive in Winston Cup. Trophies have been presented to him in Victory Lane in each of NASCAR’s top series (22 times in Cup, 11 in Busch, and 1 in Truck) and at every configuration of track, including short tracks, intermediates, superspeedways, and road courses. He has been the champion of the 24 Hours of Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring as well as three all-star races: the Busch Clash (now known as the Budweiser Shootout) in 1985 and The Winston (now the Nextel All-Star Challenge) in 1988 and 1999. Competing eight different years in a series that pits some of the world’s top drivers against one another in identical cars, his name was engraved on the IROC trophy in 1989. Including his two championship seasons, he has finished in the top 10 in the year-end standings 17 times, and his top-five and top-ten totals approach 25 percent and 50 percent, respectively, of his total races. No matter what the future holds for Terry Labonte, his career has been one that should land him in any Hall of Fame.
San Francisco Chronicle
By the Numbers: Charlotte
starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway by Terry Labonte, the most among active drivers. Mark Martin has 56. starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway by NASCAR Hall of Hamer Richard Petty to lead the series. of the 108 (76.8%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at ...
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Richard and Lee stole all the headlines, winning a combined 254 races and 10 championships. Inman, who won seven titles as Richard's crew chief and another with Terry Labonte, got the credit when they didn't. Maurice was, as Richard said, the silent Petty.
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Go Blue Ridge
Johnson worked with legendary drivers like Darel Dieringer, LeeRoy Yarbrough, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, Bill Elliott, and Terry Labonte. In all, Johnson's drivers won 139 races and six championships. Junior was part of the first class to be ...
Charlotte Motor Speedway is Hendrick Motorsports' Playground
Hendrick also won three All-Star events in the mid- to late-1990s, two by Gordon (1995 and 1997) and one by Terry Labonte (1999). The Johnson era - After Gordon won his last All-Star Race in 2001, the Jimmie Johnson era at Hendrick Motorsports was ...
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