When the NASCAR takes the green flag on Sunday for the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, it’ll mark a career milestone for series veteran Bobby Labonte, driver of the No. 47 JTG-Daugherty Racing Toyota. Labonte is slated to make his 700th-career start at the Sprint Cup level this weekend. He’ll be the 14th driver in series history to reach the 700-race mark.
“You don’t go home after every race and count them,” Labonte said. “You don’t keep track. You just don’t. Looking back, it gives you a cold chill knowing how incredible that really is. It’s really happening. It’s just an awesome accomplishment in this sport. It’s hard to achieve in a lot of ways. I’m thankful to be able to get to that point.”
In his previous 699 races at the Sprint Cup level, Labonte has tallied 21 wins, 115 top-fives and 201 top-10 finishes. The most recent of his wins came in 2003 in the season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Labonte made his first Cup start at Dover International Speedway in 1991 in a family-owned entry.
“My first ever NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race was in Dover, Delaware on June 3, 1991, and it was a car that was built out of our Busch Grand National (NASCAR Nationwide Series) race shop,” Labonte said. “It was an Oldsmobile that my dad and I built and he was my crew chief. That was kind of cool because it was our car. We built it. We put it together, made the race, ran about 70 laps and our day ended when the engine blew up. It was still such an achievement for us to be able to compete at that level. It was the start of it all. I had been racing in the Busch Grand National Series and after winning the championship, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series was the next obvious step to take.”
He made his first trip to victory lane a few years later at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May 1995. He followed that up with a Sprint (then-Winston) Cup title in 2000. Both of those milestones were reached from behind the wheel of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing car. He made the move to JGR after a stint with Bill Davis Racing.
That first win came in NASCAR’s longest race of the year — the Coca-Cola 600. Making that race even more special was the first and second sweep for Labonte brothers Bobby and Terry, as older brother Terry Labonte finished second in that race.
Aside from the family-owned team, Bill Davis Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing, Labonte has also raced in the Sprint Cup Series for Petty Enterprises and now finds a racing home at JTG-Daugherty.
– photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR