NASCAR Hall of Fame, Class of 2016
Terry Labonte voted into NASCAR's Hall of Fame on Wednesday RELATED: See all seven Hall of Fame classes " Bruton Smith gets nod from Brian France MORE: Labonte's daughter, Kristy, talks about 'Growing Up NASCAR' CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A year ago, Terry Labonte postponed a trip overseas to attend the announcement for the 2015 class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. But the two-time premier series champion wasn't one of the five selected for induction. Wednesday, Labonte, 58, was in a hotel room in Dallas, Texas, when the 2016 class was unveiled. And this time, Labonte's name was one of the five called. Labonte, Speedway Motorsports founder O. Bruton Smith, Modified champion Jerry Cook, 17-time race winner Curtis Turner and 1970 premier series champion Bobby Isaac will officially be inducted into the Hall Jan. 22, 2016. Reached by phone after the announcement, Labonte said he and his son Justin, "and a couple of other guys are out here in Dallas on a project we've been working on. ... We had just got back to the room, sitting down watching TV." Shortly thereafter, the Corpus Christi native said said his cell phone "started blowing up." Congratulations began pouring in. "I said, 'oh wow, I just got selected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame,'" Labonte said. "(Justin) said 'Oh cool. Is it on TV?' "I said 'I don't know,' so he started flipping the channels looking for it." It's no surprise to those who know Labonte that his reaction seemed somewhat understated. It's the same unassuming attitude that marked a NASCAR career that lasted nearly four decades. Labonte made his first premier series start in 1978 for car owner Billy Hagan, and up until he hung up his helmet for good last season, his approach never wavered. No fuss, no frills. Just show up and get the job done. His championship titles came 12 years apart, one won with Hagan in 1984 and the second with successful team owner Rick Hendrick and Hendrick Motorsports in ‘96. He won 22 points races, and on a variety of track layouts – short track, intermediate, road course and the bigger venues of Pocono (2.5-miles) and Talladega (2.66 miles). MORE: Hall of Fame Class of 2016 revealed " Our writers' predictions and ballot His 890 career starts is third highest among drivers in the series while his 655 consecutive starts was the most by any driver until it was surpassed in 2005. It was a run of such magnitude that earned him the nickname "The Iron Man." Labonte's consecutive starts streak had ended five seasons earlier, in 2000, when a particularly hard crash at Pocono Raceway left him with an inner ear injury. Forced to take himself out of the car the following week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway , a distraught Labonte went on to miss the road course race at Watkins Glen a week later before finally returning to competition at Michigan. "When you start out racing, it's not one of your goals you set," Labonte said of his selection to the Hall. "You set out to do as good as you can every weekend and try to win races and win championships. "To be selected to something like this is really, really an unbelievable bonus, something you never really expected or looked forward to, I don't think. So it's really quite an honor." Video from two of Labonte's victories are among the most often replayed when the series travels to Bristol Motor Speedway , where he earned two of his 22 victories. In the 1995 night race at BMS, contact from Dale Earnhardt as the two raced toward the checkered flag sent Labonte's No. 5 Chevrolet nose first into the wall – but only after it had crossed the finish line for the win. The 1999 night race also featured Labonte and Earnhardt dueling for the win, with Labonte taking the lead at the white flag. As the two cars entered Turn 2, a nudge from Earnhardt once again sent Labonte's Chevrolet spinning. This time, however, there was no recovery. "Didn't mean to turn him around; I meant to rattle his cage though," Earnhardt said in Victory Lane. "I don't think I ever had a cross word with Terry, not that I can remember, for anything," 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Bill Elliott said Wednesday. "We always raced and respected each other and went on down the road. "I can't think of a single time ever. I don't know of anybody that could say that. Except when he backed into Earnhardt at Bristol that time." Labonte was the second driver to win at least one race in all three of NASCAR's national series – Sprint Cup , XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series. "Obviously this is a really proud day for the Labonte family," Bobby Labonte , Terry's younger brother and the 2000 Sprint Cup champion said in a statement issued by his Breaking Limits public relations firm. "I think back to when we were kids racing quarter midgets, and I always wanted to do what Terry was doing and be like him. He kind of blazed the trail as he advanced through different series, and I was fortunate to follow in his footsteps. "I never would've thought way back then that we'd both grow up to be Sprint Cup champions and now one of us in in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. It's a pretty special day." The younger Labonte won the season-ending race at Atlanta in '96 as his brother, who finished fifth, wrapped up his second championship. While Terry Labonte 's championships came 12 years apart, his final victory came 23 years after his first. Both came in the Southern 500 at Darlington (South Carolina) Raceway. "You think bout how you started and who the people were ... that helped you get started in the early part of your career," he said. "Winning your first race and the championship and then later I was able to drive for Rick Hendrick, the great team at Hendrick Motorsports and all the people that helped me win the second championship. "It's just really a lot of people that really were kind of part of this over the years that kind of help to get you where you're at. "It's hard for me to imagine, really, to be in the same class as some of those people that are in there because some of them I really looked up to over the years when I was growing up that did so much for our sport." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Cook, Isaac , Labonte, Smith, Turner comprise Hall's seventh class
Four drivers and track mogul Bruton Smith make list for seventh class
NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France announces the newest members to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Reigning Sprint Cup champ to help determine seventh class of enshrinees
Find out why this story still resonates with young drivers RELATED: Evolution of rookie meeting " Youngest, oldest rookie winners A 2005 crash involving Bobby Labonte at Pocono Raceway continues to serve as a reminder for rookie drivers today in NASCAR’s three national series. "We were getting ready to put right-side glasses in the trucks when we were going to Talladega," NASCAR XFINITY Series Director Wayne Auton said. "We'd never run right-side windows in the trucks before. I was talking to Bobby about some stuff to help us get ready to go down there and one of the things he brought up was about running the right-side glass. "I sort of questioned about why we should be worried about the right-side glass. And he said, 'well what happened to me was … I got pinned up against the outside wall (on the) driver's side.' There was so much smoke inside the car he got disoriented … and couldn't get out of the car." As a result of the incident, Labonte set out to correct the problem, meeting with former crew chief Jimmy Makar one evening at the Joe Gibbs Racing shop. "He told me that he crawled in the car, buckled himself in and then told Jimmy to turn off the lights," Auton said. "He started to get out of the car and … hooked himself on something. So he stopped and told Jimmy to turn on the lights. They adjusted some things he crawled back in the car, buckled back in, turned off the lights. Started to come out again, got hooked on something, stopped, turned on lights, adjusted that, sat back down … and he came out of the car. "He said he tried that two or three times just to make sure he knew where everything was in the car." Makar, now senior vice president of racing operations at JGR, said the biggest issue for the driver was the bars inside the car and locating the window release on the right side. "You have to crawl over them and you have to find the window release; that was hard to do," Makar said. “When you're in a panic and trying to do it, it's not intuitive. "Crawling over those bars is hard enough, but those two things combined, that was something that he said on his own that 'we need to figure this out. I need to be able to do this better.' "Most of the stuff that’s in the way is stuff that has to be there. The bars, the way the seats are with the headrest, it makes it very hard to get through that space. "It's just a matter of figuring you the best way to maneuver yourself, headfirst or feet first, what part is first? And that was mostly it, just doing it. And not having to do it in a panic the first time." Auton relates the importance of being able to exit the vehicle from the right side each time he oversees a rookie meeting where the right-side windows are required (all tracks 1.5 miles or larger). Locks are attached to a strap that, when pulled from the inside, release the window. "The driver can take it out from the inside or the safety teams or crews can take it off from the outside," Auton said. "… We don't want it locked to where the driver can't have access to remove it." "Most think you just crawl in your car and you drive it and you don't worry about nothing. We try to explain to them that it's as important getting out of your car as it is getting in it. Because there might be that one time that you need to go out the right side." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
His uncanny skill at qualifying a race car proves that. His 49 career poles ranks tied for eighth all time.
Harry Hyde was a leading crew chief in NASCAR in the 1960s through the 1980s, winning 56 races and 88 pole positions and was also the 1970 championship crew chief for Bobby Isaac .
No. 24 driver sets track record, has earned three of the last four poles RELATED: Starting lineup for race " See every car in the field LAS VEGAS — Scratch one small item off Jeff Gordon 's swan song bucket list. With a track-record lap at 194.679 mph, Jeff Gordon won the pole for Sunday's Kobalt 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway , one of three active Cup tracks where the four-time champion had not won a Coors Light Pole Award—before Friday afternoon's time trials. Covering the 1.5-mile distance in 27.738 seconds, Gordon shaved .201 seconds off the track record Joey Logano set last year. Logano (194.315 mph) was second to Gordon in Friday's qualifying during a third and final round that saw nine drivers break the track record. "Oh, boys, this is good!" Gordon said after setting the record. "That was a damn good lap." The pole was Gordon's second of the season and the 79th of his career. The top qualifier for the season-opening Daytona 500 , Gordon did not make a qualifying run in last week's Sprint Cup race at Atlanta because his No. 24 Chevrolet didn't clear inspection in time. Friday's time trials represented a welcome turnaround. After running a conservative 193.653 mph in the second round of knockout qualifying, Gordon knew he had a shot at the pole. "Well, I didn't come off the throttle much, if any—I know I had to blip it just the tiniest, tiniest bit," Gordon said of his pole-winning lap. "The lap before, in the second session, I was a little conservative and the car just stuck so good, I thought when I heard some of the lap times that were up there (in the third round), I knew (I had to) be fully committed and just go for it. "So I drove it down into (Turn) 1. I may have come off of it just a tiny bit, but it wasn't much at all. And it stuck so good, I was like, 'Okay, do I run wide open through (Turns) 3 and 4?' I don't know. It was real close. There was a lot of wide-open throttle there. It was fun. What a turnaround from last week. I'm just so proud of this team and keeping their heads up. Last week was a tough one, and this is a great, great way to start out weekend here in Las Vegas… "I can't believe I won my first pole in Las Vegas in my final race here." Gordon's Hendrick Motorsports teammates, Kasey Kahne (194.287 mph) and Dale Earnhardt Jr . (194.091 mph), qualified third and fourth, respectively. Kyle Larson (193.959 mph) grabbed the fifth spot on the grid. Reigning series champion Kevin Harvick will start 18th, having failed to make the final 12 at a 1.5-mile intermediate speedway for the first time since last year's Las Vegas race. NASCAR officials pulled the No. 2 Ford of last year's Las Vegas race winner, Brad Keselowski , after noticing the team had flared out both rear fenders on the car. Before the start of the season, NASCAR informed teams that manipulating the car bodies would not be permitted. Accordingly, Keselowski's car had to clear inspection an additional time before being allowed to qualify. Nevertheless, Keselowski made the final 12 and earned the 11th starting spot for Sunday's race. Note: The only two remaining tracks where Gordon has not won a pole are Kentucky and Kansas. The only active track where he has not won a Sprint Cup race is Kentucky. READ MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news WATCH: Latest NASCAR video PLAY: NASCAR Fantasy Live FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule All-time Sprint Cup poles Rank Driver Poles 1. Richard Petty 123 2. David Pearson 113 3. Jeff Gordon* 79 4. Cale Yarborough 69 5. Darrell Waltrip 59 6. Bobby Allison 58 7. Mark Martin 56 8. Bill Elliott 55 9. Ryan Newman* 51 10. Bobby Isaac 49 *Active driver