'Iceman' Terry Labonte shows emotion in induction
RELATED: NASCAR inducts Class of 2016 into Hall of Fame For one wintry Saturday afternoon at least, the Iceman almost cracked. Terry Labonte struck the perfect blend of class and appreciation in his NASCAR Hall of Fame induction speech Saturday afternoon, joining four additional worthy members of the Class of 2016. His accomplishments were celebrated, but so was the manner in which he achieved them -- with a steady, understated style that earned him the Iceman nickname. There was plenty of ice in the Charlotte area with accumulation still lingering from the fringes of Winter Storm Jonas, which delayed the ceremony from its original Friday date. But the two-time premier series champion, rarely given to heavy doses of emotion, nearly melted during his heartfelt 12-minute, 15-second acceptance speech. "Well, if I ever have to give another speech or anything like that, I'm not going to let my wife sit on the front row because I looked at her and she was crying, and I looked at my mother and she was crying, and I thought, 'Oh, God, I'm going to cry, too,' " Labonte said after the ceremony, the seventh induction gala for the NASCAR shrine. "I can't look at them no more. I don't know, I wasn't anticipating that at all. "But you know, my family is very excited about it, and it's quite an honor to be in the NASCAR Hall of Fame." Provided with a tough act to follow after Bruton Smith's entrancing speech before him, Labonte welcomed the crowning accolade with exceptional grace. The soft-spoken Texan showed his appreciation for the NASCAR Hall of Famers who preceded him in enshrinement before thanking NASCAR for their devotion to the sport of stock-car racing. SEE THE SPEECHES: Bruton Smith " Labonte " Jerry Cook " Turner's daughter " Isaac's family When Labonte's speech turned to his family -- many of whom were in attendance at the Charlotte Convention Center -- the emotions hit home. "He was telling a story about his parents and he knew they hadn't heard that, and he told me that he might get a little emotional at that point," said Kim Labonte , Terry's wife of 37 years who sat front and center for the ceremony. "I was trying to keep it together. It means a lot when you look back at his career and just the things he's accomplished and sacrifices that people made, like his parents. It just brings all the memories back closer this last week, getting ready for the Hall of Fame induction. "I kept trying not to tear up, but they were just there and I couldn't stop them. When he saw me, it triggered the same response in himself." For Bobby Labonte , who joined his brother as a premier-series champion in 2000, the quiver in his older brother's voice resonated as he mentioned the measures his parents took to further their racing careers. "It probably didn't hit me until his speech just how big it really is," Bobby Labonte said. "I kind of came in here like, this would be a nice little dinner or lunch, so anyway, when it was all said and done, I was watching like, 'Holy cow.' I'm looking around and going, 'This is pretty big.' It's exciting to see. "Being his little brother and watching him all those years, good gosh, I got to see all that stuff. So it really is cool to see his accomplishments and what all he's done and being able to follow right behind him watching him. It gave me goosebumps when I was listening to him." RELATED: Best images from the NASCAR Hall of Fame induction The elder Labonte's on-track prowess did much of the talking for him. His 22 wins and 27 pole positions in NASCAR's top division were only surpassed by the two championships, spread a record 12 years apart in 1984 and '96. He transformed from Iceman to Iron Man by setting the sport's longevity record with 655 consecutive premier-series starts, a mark that stood until 2002. Asked to pull a favorite memory from his 37 seasons behind the wheel, Labonte actually recalled a race where he finished fifth. The 1996 season finale came on a chilly November day at Atlanta Motor Speedway , where Labonte led 28 laps and recorded his 21st top-five result in 31 races. It was enough to make him a two-time champion. RELATED: See the past champions of the sport's top series His younger brother joined the celebration in Victory Lane, but his attendance there was compulsory. Bobby Labonte led a dominant 147 of 328 laps to win the season-ending race from the pole position, touching off a brotherly bash in one of the sport's most memorable moments. "For our parents, they're standing there and kid No. 1 and kid No. 2 are both in Victory Lane on the same day, at the same time, the moment, in the same race," Bobby Labonte said. "How does that work? How many times does that happen? That was a pretty surreal moment that that all took place for me to be able to win, he was able to win -- all in the same day. It was like, wow -- that kind of blew us away. Our emotions don't get too high, but that blew us away." The emotions ran high for most of the two-hour ceremony for Terry Labonte , his family members, and the estimated two dozen "rowdy friends" who made the long-distance trek from his home state. Labonte ended his speech by saying that he'll fondly recall being introduced as a champion two times over, but that recognition as a NASCAR Hall of Famer trumps all. "You don't start out saying, 'I want to be in the Hall of Fame someday,' " Labonte said. "It's something that, you know, when you look back and you kind of race from week to week and season to season and you win some races and win some championships and when it's all over and said and done with and you're selected to be in the Hall of Fame, then that's quite an accomplishment."
Terry Labonte to be Southern 500 grand marshal
MORE: Buy tickets for Darlington " SHOP: Darlington gear Two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Terry Labonte will serve as grand marshal for the Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on Sept. 6 (7 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio). Labonte is a sentimental favorite for the honor, as he is the series' last driver to win the Southern 500 when it was held on Labor Day weekend -- Aug. 31, 2003. It was the Class of 2016 Hall of Fame driver's final victory in Sprint Cup . "Darlington is where I won my first race and my last, and I'm honored to serve as grand marshal for the first time at the Bojangles' Southern 500 ," Labonte said in a press release Thursday. "I love the Labor Day tradition, and Darlington always brings back special memories for me. I look forward to being part of such a historic weekend for NASCAR." RELATED: Darlington's throwback paint schemes Labonte will give the command to drivers to start their engines accompanied by Bojangles' CEO Clifton Rutledge. Bojangles' has had the naming rights to the Southern 500 since 2012 and extended the partnership through 2019. " Darlington Raceway has such a rich history in NASCAR and the State of South Carolina, and it is truly a privilege for Bojangles' to have our brand aligned with such a memorable event," Rutledge said. "The Bojangles' Southern 500 is returning to Labor Day weekend where it belongs and that is a big deal to everyone, including all of us at Bojangles'. For me, being a part of giving the command to start engines with a NASCAR legend like Terry Labonte is a huge thrill." Labonte's two wins at Darlington in 1980 and 2003 were landmarks in a career marked by 22 wins, 182 top-five finishes and 27 poles in 890 starts from 1978 to 2014. His 361 top-10 finishes ranks 10th all time. Known as both the "Iceman" and the sport's "Iron Man," he will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Jan. 22, 2016 along with Jerry Cook, Bobby Isaac, O. Bruton Smith and Curtis Turner. In 1998, Labonte was named one of NASCAR's 50 greatest drivers, a perfect fit to participate in Darlington's throwback celebration that features remembrances of numerous NASCAR legends. MORE: Cale Yarborough throwback scheme " Bowyer's Baker tribute car Labonte won his first championship in 1984 driving the No. 44 Piedmont Airlines Chevrolet owned by Billy Hagan with Hall of Fame crew chief Dale Inman. Labonte's second series championship came in 1996 driving the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
#TBT: Terry Labonte takes checkered sideways at Bristol
It seemed as though Terry Labonte had the 1995 Goody's 500 won, as he propelled around Bristol Motor Speedway in his No. 5 Chevrolet. The Hendrick Motorsports wheelman had led 59 of 500 laps at the historic short track and had developed a lengthy lead over the second-place car of Dale Earnhardt. Granted, the black No. 3 is likely not the car any driver wanted to see in their review mirror in those days. As the laps dwindled down, Earnhardt continued to shave away at Labonte ’s lead, lessening the gap to 1.6 seconds with eight laps to go. But with Bristol only 0.533 miles in length, the task seemed daunting, even for the ruthless "Intimidator." As the white flag was waved, Labonte began to battle lapped traffic, allowing Earnhardt to reach his bumper. In the final corner, the "Intimidator" tapped Labonte's bumper, turning the No. 5 car sideways -- but still first across the finish line to take the checkered. The front end completely destroyed and leaking fluid, Labonte drove his No. 5 Chevrolet into Victory Lane, ready to commemorate what would become one of NASCAR's most memorable finishes. "That was a finish, wasn't it?" Labonte said with a grin in Victory Lane."… (Earnhardt) gave me a little shot in the back there, I just stood in the gas and we beat him across the line. " … Think I used up a pretty good race car, but we'll get another one." In great spirits, Labonte then climbed out of his heavily damaged car, the Kellogg's rooster on the front bent in several directions and the front end smoking. "I think I ran all night long, didn't put a scratch on it until the end, but that’s the way it goes." Labonte said, smiling. "We won."
Born: February 25, 1961 Hometown: Corpus Christi, TX Premier Series Stats Competed: 1991, 1993-2016 Starts: 729 Wins: 21 Poles: 26 Years on Ballot: 1 The ultimate grinder, Bobby Labonte raced any car he could get behind the wheel of before he got his first break as a full-time premier series driver at 28 years old in 1993. His persistence paid off with a career highlighted by 21 trips to Victory Lane and the 2000 premier series title. A success in all three of NASCAR's national series, Labonte was the first of four drivers to win both an XFINITY and premier series championship. He is also one of 27 drivers to win a race in all three national series. The Texan showed up on the biggest stages throughout his 2000 premier championship season, earning two of his four wins in the Brickyard 400 and Southern 500. He beat out second-place Dale Earnhardt by 255 points for the series crown. Bobby and his brother, Terry Labonte , are one of two pairs of brothers (Kurt and Kyle Busch), who each boast a premier series championship.
Terry Labonte reflects on career ahead of finale
Two-time champion to run his 890th career race and 61st at Talladega RELATED: Follow your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge for chance at $100,000 prize TALLADEGA, Ala. -- In 1979, Terry Labonte climbed into a car to compete at Talladega Superspeedway in NASCAR's premier series for the first time. Sixty starts later, he'll be doing it for the last time Sunday, tying the record for most career starts at the 2.66-mile track at the same time as he ends a storied career. After 37 seasons of racing, Labonte is retiring -- and this time, he says, it's for good. Labonte first announced his retirement during his last full-time season as a driver in 2004, but it didn't take much for the veteran driver to heed the call to return to the track. "The first time, I guess, it was about halfway through the next year and Rick Hendrick called me, and Michael and Darrell (Waltrip) had asked him if he'd give me a call and see if I'd go run Michael's car," Labonte said. "So I ran a few races in that car and then I thought, 'You know, that was kind of fun, just running a few races here and there.' " The two-time premier series champion, who topped the circuit in both the 1984 and 1996 seasons, has been a constant in the sport across changes in safety, race car technology and rules, as well as a generational change of competitors. Among the 12 remaining drivers in this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, six had not yet been born when Labonte began his premier series career: Joey Logano , Kyle Busch , Carl Edwards , Denny Hamlin , Kasey Kahne and Brad Keselowski . Despite his age difference compared to many of today's top contenders, Labonte said he still would want to compete in this year's new elimination-format Chase, but he also enjoys watching the added pressure and excitement of the playoffs. There is, however, one thing that makes Labonte happy he missed the current format: Winning the title hangs on a track he's not so strong at. Of all the tracks on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule, his worst average finish is at Homestead-Miami Speedway at 26.1. "The only thing I don't secretly care about is, I think they should take the last race and move it around to different tracks, kind of like the Super Bowl does," Labonte said. "So I think it would be really cool, because when you've got three or four guys that are really good at that track, and I'm never very good at that track, I would not look forward to that last event going up there against some of the guys that are very good up there." Labonte also addressed rumors that circulated concerning a life in public office, something his brother and nephew took advantage of, making yard signs and posters for Labonte's "campaign." "I'm like 90 percent of the people in here -- I'm way too overqualified for that," Labonte joked in the media center. "I had no idea how that started or where it came from." The Corpus Christi, Texas, native plans to be around the garage every so often, but as a member of his marketing company, SSG/Brandintense. The North Carolina-based firm works to bring marketing to live events for a face-to-face interaction between a company and its customers. In February, Labonte was added to the list of names under consideration on the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2015 ballot. With 22 wins and 361 top-10s in now 890 starts -- not to mention two championships -- his career features a long list of accomplishments. His favorite memory of that career, however, has less to do with himself than his supporters. "It was actually the first time, I think, I ever noticed the crowd. I was passing Dale Jarrett," he said, recalling a 1999 race at Texas Motor Speedway . "We had been running really good all day and they had just beat us on the pit stop, and I ran him down and passed him with less than 10 laps to go, and I saw the whole place stand up. And I had never seen the crowd, actually noticed the crowd stand up at the track, and I thought to myself, 'Oh, man, I better not screw this up, 'cause I think there's 200,000 people there pulling for me, and they're gonna be mad if I don't win this thing.' " MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Kahne honors Labonte with Darlington look
RELATED: All the 2016 throwback paint schemes " Buy tickets " Vote now Kasey Kahne became the latest NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver to unveil a throwback paint scheme for next week's Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway . Kahne's No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports LiftMaster Chevrolet was displayed Wednesday afternoon at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina, with Terry Labonte in attendance. The scheme is a nod to Labonte's paint scheme in 1981 when he drove for team owner JD Stacy. "Darlington's throwback weekend is one of the coolest programs any track does all year," Kahne said in a LiftMaster release. "I'm glad that LiftMaster is participating in the program to celebrate their start of the garage door opener business. I appreciate the opportunity to honor Terry Labonte with our throwback paint scheme at one of my favorite tracks." This is the second season the legendary track has hosted a throwback-themed race weekend, with teams sporting paint schemes similar to those seen in the past. The Bojangles' Southern 500 is scheduled 6 p.m. ET, Sunday, Sept. 4 (NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR). &amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
NASCAR Hall of Fame: Terry Labonte
From his first win at Darlington Raceway in 1980 to his last 23 years later at the same track; Texas Terry Labonte has always been one of NASCAR's ironmen.
Pursuing NASCAR's triple crown intrigues Bobby Labonte
TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Bobby Labonte quietly bowed out of full-time Sprint Cup Series competition at the tail end of the 2013 season. No retirement tour, no gifts. Certainly no ponies. The 2000 premier series champion has selectively dabbled in the sport since, however, with a handful of unremarkable starts at Indianapolis and the restrictor-plate tracks, knowing the pack racing may be his last remaining shot at picking up his first -- and likely final -- Cup victory in more than a decade. Labonte will run in Sunday's GEICO 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Talladega Superspeedway , his second of a scheduled four-race slate in 2016. While not sure if this same type of deal will continue to be available to him in future years, the brother of NASCAR Hall of Famer Terry Labonte hinted at an interestingly hush-hush opportunity that could be coming down the pipeline later on this season. "I do have a couple other possibilities I am excited about that might come to fruition later on in the year that I didn't see coming around the corner but they are opportunities that might lead to something that I have been more excited about than anything I have done in my career," Labonte said Friday at Talladega. "Racing is still a big passion of mine and I know I am not going to go do a lot of things I used to do but there are still some opportunities out there that are still up on my radar that I would like to do." But what does he have left to prove? What racing goals remain? "That is a great question, too. Winning any race. It might be a bicycle race. Racing at the Sprint Cup level has gotten so intense that if you can't do it every weekend … (Talladega) is different as we all know. Last weekend and next weekend is different than here," Labonte said. "It is one of those things that I guess I kind of want to race more in a way but I don't want to race more in some ways. I don't want to do it every weekend but I know there are different series you can do that aren’t quite as strenuous as this. "My brother told me one time after about two years of retirement, 'You know, you will have a lot more friends later that you didn't know you had.' And that is true. I am enjoying that. As far as racing goes I am enjoying it and my opportunity is only four times right now through a little bit of what I want to do and a little bit from other people." One remaining goal is obvious: becoming NASCAR's first Triple Crown winner by notching a championship at each of its three national series levels. Labonte has the two arguably tougher feats down, winning the XFINITY Series (then Busch Grand National) title by 74 points over Kenny Wallace in 1991, then taking his first and only Sprint Cup Series (then Winston Cup) title by a wide, 265-point margin over Dale Earnhardt in 2000. It's a long shot, and Labonte admits that "everything has to line up right," but he's at least considered the prospect of running for a Camping World Truck Series title. He has 10 career starts in the series, with one win (2005 at Martinsville). "It is absolutely something that we have talked about and met with some people about," Labonte said. "I couldn't just make it happen by snapping my fingers and we couldn’t quite get it all lined up. I definitely had it in my mind that it was something I really wanted to do. I would still entertain that but there is also a point where if you can chase the championship that is one thing, and you can do it in a lot of ways. "When I started racing when I was little, the passion was to race and win and that is what you want to do. You want the chance to do that. We did it back then and I think the Truck Series is very appealing to me. I loved it when I did a few of them for a couple of guys and won a race and finished in the top five quite a bit. It is definitely a different level and the garage area is a lot calmer there than it is in the Sprint Cup Series and it kind of, at this point in time, is very appealing."
Terry Labonte humbled by great honor
Terry Labonte recalls his career and gives thanks to those that helped him achieve his NASCAR Hall of Fame induction.
Both 'Iceman' and 'Iron Man,' Labonte now is a Hall of Famer, too
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
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