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Bobby Labonte

NASCAR Busch Series and Winston Cup champion

Bobby Labonte

Robert Allen Labonte was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, on May 8, 1964. He grew up watching older brother Terry race quarter-midgets, and he began racing quarter-midgets himself at the age of five. The Labonte family moved to North Carolina when Terry moved into NASCAR in 1979, and Bobby began his own NASCAR career, in the International Sedan Series, the following year.

Labonte was still in high school when he made his Busch Series debut in 1982, finishing 30th at Martinsville. After graduating from Trinity High School he became a fabricator at Hagan Racing, where he helped build brother Terry's Winston Cup cars. He returned to the Busch Series in 1985, running his own car in two races at Martinsville, finishing 30th and 17th, respectively. Turning his Busch car over to Terry in 1986, Bobby spent the next four years in the NASCAR Late Model Series, with a few appearances in the Busch Series.


Labonte's first full season in the Busch Series as an owner/driver (of the #44 Slim Jim Oldsmobile) was a successful one, with 6 top-5's and 17 top-10's. He ended the season fourth in points, and as the Most Popular Driver in the series.


Two wins, 10 top-5's, and 21 top-10's propelled Labonte to the top of the Busch Series championship in just his second full season. He also made two starts in his Bobby Labonte Racing Winston Cup car, finishing 34th at Dover and 38th at Michigan.


Despite wracking up 3 wins, 13 top-5's, and 19 top-10's, Labonte lost the Busch Series championship to Joe Nemechek by three points (the closest finish ever in the Busch Series).


In his first full season in the Winston Cup Series, Labonte drove Bill Davis Racing's #22 Maxwell House Ford Thunderbird to 6 top-10 finishes and placed second behind Jeff Gordon for Rookie of the Year honors.

With Labonte now a full-time Winston Cup driver, David Green took over the responsibility of driving the primary Bobby Labonte Racing Busch Series car; he finished third in the points. Labonte drove a second car in two Busch Series races, finishing 2nd and 34th, respectively.


Labonte continued to enjoy success in his second season with Bill Davis Racing, collecting 1 top-5 and 2 top-10's.

Bobby Labonte Racing enjoyed even more success in the Busch Series, with David Green winning the championship and Labonte earning a victory at Michigan.


At the end of the 1994 season, Labonte left Bill Davis Racing to take over the Joe Gibbs Racing #18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet. He drove the #18 to his first Winston Cup victory at the Coca Cola 600, and went on to win both races at Michigan. He also earned 5 top-5's and 14 top-10's, and finished the season 10th in points.


Labonte collected 5 top-5's and 14 top-10's through the 1996 season, and then ended the year with a victory at Atlanta. Brother Terry won the Winston Cup championship in that same race, and the two shared a victory lap; Bobby finished the season 11th in points. Bobby also ran 16 Busch Series races, and wracked up 1 win, 9 top-5's, and 13 top-10's.


Now driving a Pontiac Grand Prix, Labonte wracked up 9 Top-5's and 18 Top-10's before once again ending the season with a victory at Atlanta. He ended up 7th in points, his best finish at that point in his Winston Cup career. He also enjoyed success in the Busch Series, scoring 1 win, 4 top-5's, and 8 top-10's in 16 races.


Labonte began the 1998 "regular" season with a 2nd place finish in the Daytona 500, behind Dale Earnhardt. He went on to win at Atlanta and Talladega and to score a total of 11 top-5's and 18 top-10's, and finished the season 6th in points. He also ran 5 Busch races, scoring 1 win, 2 top-5's, and 3 top-10's.


Labonte won the spring race at Dover, both Pocono races, the second Michigan race, and the season finale at Atlanta, for a total of 5 (the most wins he ever scored in a season). He suffered a broken shoulder while qualifying for a Busch Series race at Darlington, but still started the Cup race two days later; Matt Kenseth relieved him at the first caution. Despite ending the season with 5 wins, 23 top-5's, and 26 top-10's, he lost the championship to Dale Jarrett by 201 points.


After winning the second race of the season at Rockingham, Labonte went on to record wins at Indianapolis, Darlington, and Charlotte. He took the Winston Cup points lead at California (the 10th race of the season), and never relinquished it on the way to winning the championship, finishing ahead of Dale Earnhardt by 265 points, with 4 wins, 19 top 5's, and 24 top 10's. He became the first driver in NASCAR history to win the championship in both Busch and Winston Cup, and he and Terry are to date the only brothers to have won the Winston Cup.


Labonte's first race as Winston Cup Champion was the Budweiser Shootout, in which he finished 7th. He and teammate Tony Stewart crashed on lap 173 of the Daytona 500, which ended with the tragic death of Dale Earnhardt. He rebounded to a 2nd place finish the following week at Rockingham, but did not make it to victory lane until the July race at Pocono. He did not win again until the next to last race at Atlanta, and ended the season with 2 wins, 9 top-5's, and 20 top-10's to finish 6th in points. Although he failed to hold onto the Winston Cup championship, he did become the 13th consecutive NASCAR driver to win the IROC championship.


A single win at Martinsville, 5 top-5's, and 7 top-10's left Labonte 16th in points at the end of the 2002 season, the first time he had failed to finish in the top 10 since 1996.


Labonte rebounded somewhat in 2003, winning at Atlanta and Homestead and scoring 12 top-5's and 17 top-10's to finish the season 8th in points.

[The NASCAR Winston Cup Series became the NASCAR Nextel Series following the 2003 season.]


Labonte had his first winless season since 1994 but did manage to score 5 top 5's and 11 top-10's before ending the season 12th in points.


The 2005 season proved even more disappointing, as Labonte only scored 4 top-5's and 7 top-10's in the Nextel Series. His did get a win in the Craftsmen Truck Series at Martinsville, making him the first NASCAR driver ever to score a win in all three major series at the one track. At the end of the season he asked to be released from his contract with Joe Gibbs Racing; his request was granted, and he signed on as the driver of the Richard Petty Enterprises #43.


In his inaugural season in the #43, Labonte scored 3 top-5's and 8 top-10's.


Although he managed to avoid the many accidents that plagued the Daytona 500 to finish 21st, Labonte only managed to score 3 top-10's in the Nextel Series. He did, however, manage to beat Tony Stewart to the finish line at Talladega in April to score what would be his last Busch Series win.

[The NASCAR Nextel Cup Series became the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series between the 2007 and 2008 seasons.]


Labonte enjoyed even less success in the #43 in 2008, scoring only 2 top-10's before being released by Petty at the end of the season.


On January 23, 2009, Labonte was confirmed as the driver of the Hall of Fame Racing #96 Ford Fusion. He only managed to garner one top-5 finish in the #96 before being replaced by Erik Darnell for 7 of the final 11 races of the season. His only other top-10 for the year was a 10th place finish at Talladega in the TRG Motorsports #71.


Labonte stayed in the TRG Motorsports #71 through June, when lack of sponsorship forced TRG to park the car. After driving the Robby Gordon Motorsports #7 at New Hampshire, Labonte was hired to take over the Phoenix Racing #09 beginning at Daytona, and he split the rest of the season between Phoenix Racing and TRG Motorsports. On October 11 Stavola-Labonte Racing hired Labonte to drive its #10 car at Charlotte and Texas. Despite bouncing around, Labonte managed to compete in every race for the 2010 season.


Labonte began the 2011 season at the wheel of the JTG/Daugherty Racing #47 Toyota Camry. His 4th-place finish in the Daytona 500 was his 200th career top-10 Cup finish, but he only managed to garner one other top-10 that season.


Labonte stayed with the #47 through the 2012 season, but again only managed to score 2 top-10's.


Although he began 2013 in the #47, Labonte jumped into the Phoenix Racing #51 at Michigan. He returned to the #47 for the Sonoma race, but JTG/Daugherty chose to put A.J. Allmendinger in that car at Kentucky, ending Labonte's streak of consecutive starts at 704. He shared the #47 with Allmendinger for the rest of the season.


Released by JTG/Daugherty after the 2013 season, Labonte began 2014 in a second HScott Motorsports car. A blown engine during practice forced him to start the Daytona 500 at the back of the field, but he managed to finish the race in 15th place. A deal to run for James Finch in additional races fell through, and he spent the rest of the spring testing cars for Richard Childress Racing. He returned to the race track as the driver of the Circle Sport #33 at Talladega, where he ended up getting caught in the "Big One" and finishing 26th. His only other race was in the Tommy Baldwin Racing #37 at Indianapolis.


In December 2014, Labonte announced that he would drive for Go FAS Racing on the restrictor-plate tracks in 2015, taking over for his brother Terry. He finished 24th at the Daytona 500.

In addition to his remaining racing committments, Bobby Labonte manages several businesses, the most important of which are:
reaking Limits, LLC, a full-service marketing and public relations agency;
Longhorn Chassis, LLC, a dirt late model chassis and fabrication company;
The Bobby Labonte Foundation, a non-profit venture supporting various North Carolina area charities;
Bobby Labonte Racing, a championship-winning Busch Series and dirt late model team; and
The North Carolina Quarter Midget Association and Track.

Bobby's official website is He currently lives in Trinity, North Carolina, with wife Donna, with whom he has two children (Robert and Madison).

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The Robinson Library >> Recreation >> Automobile Travel and Racing

This page was last updated on May 07, 2018.