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
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.
2000 Brickyard win for Bobby Labonte came with brother Terry sidelined
Terry Labonte talks with Garage Cam host Matthew Dillner about his final race in Talladega.
Kristy Labonte shares stories from a childhood in the infield
Nominee for the NASCAR Hall of Fame
Terry Labonte's daughter, Kristy, explains how going to the track every week was her normal, and how odd it was to see her dad's face on products they would use.
In this edition of Throwback Thursday, Terry Labonte fought to a third place finish at Phoenix in 1996 with a broken hand and went on to win his second NSCS Championship.
First race came 20 years ago at Phoenix Twenty years ago, a black Goodwrench No. 3 Chevrolet outran a rainbow-schemed vehicle to earn a historic victory. No, it wasn't a race involving Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon . It wasn't even in the premier series. This particular event was the 1995 Skoal Bandit Copper World Classic, the first-ever Truck Series race, and it was held Feb. 5 at Phoenix International Raceway , the site of this weekend's stop on the NASCAR circuit. Mike Skinner won that race -- and later that year, the series championship -- after a thrilling late duel with Terry Labonte , who was driving the Rick Hendrick-owned No. 5 Chevrolet. The field also included Ken Schrader , Geoff Bodine, Roger Mears and Bob Keselowski, as well as future series champions Mike Bliss , Jack Sprague and Ron Hornaday Jr . Twenty years later, the present-day NASCAR Camping World Truck Series consists of talented veterans driving alongside NASCAR's next stars. Camping World and NASCAR announced a seven-year extension in 2014, ensuring moments like the one below will continue for a long time to come. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
A stats-based look ahead to the fourth race of the 2015 Sprint Cup season Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live DAYTONA BEACH, Fla – Below is a look at some of the top statistical performers at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona going into the CampingWorld.com 500 on March 15. Greg Biffle (No. 16 Ortho Ford) · Five top fives, eight top 10s · Average finish of 13.8 · Driver Rating of 90.1, 10th-best · 288 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most · 873 Green Flag Passes, third-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 125.818 mph, 12th-fastest · 3,508 Laps in the Top 15 (55.5%), 11th-most · 432 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), 10th-most Carl Edwards (No. 19 Stanley Toyota) · Two wins, seven top fives, 12 top 10s; three poles · Average finish of 12.2 · Average Running Position of 12.7, eighth-best · Driver Rating of 99.2, fourth-best · 368 Fastest Laps Run, third-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 126.048 mph, sixth-fastest · 4,325 Laps in the Top 15 (68.5%), seventh-most · 462 Quality Passes, seventh-most Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet) · Two wins, 12 top fives, 22 top 10s; three poles · Average finish of 11.0 · Average Running Position of 10.1, third-best · Driver Rating of 100.5, third-best · 250 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most · 786 Green Flag Passes, 12th-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 126.021 mph, seventh-fastest · 5,173 Laps in the Top 15 (81.9%), second-most · 476 Quality Passes, fourth-most Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota) · One win, nine top fives, 10 top 10s; two poles · Average finish of 11.0 · Average Running Position of 12.0, seventh-best · Driver Rating of 96.6, sixth-best · 241 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 125.959 mph, ninth-fastest · 4,261 Laps in the Top 15 (70.9%), eighth-most · 419 Quality Passes, 11th-most Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Jimmy John's/Budweiser Chevrolet) · Six wins, nine top fives, 13 top 10s · Average finish of 11.4 · Average Running Position of 9.8, second-best · Driver Rating of 106.2, second-best · 523 Fastest Laps Run, second-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 126.232 mph, third-fastest · 4,958 Laps in the Top 15 (78.5%), fourth-most · 452 Quality Passes, eighth-most Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet) · Four wins, 14 top fives, 18 top 10s; two poles · Average finish of 7.7 · Series-best Average Running Position of 7.4 · Series-best Driver Rating of 114.0 · Series-high 609 Fastest Laps Run · 796 Green Flag Passes, 11th-most · Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 126.428 mph · Series-high 5,403 Laps in the Top 15 (85.5%) · 541 Quality Passes, third-most Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Dollar General Toyota) · One win, six top fives, 10 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 16.6 · Driver Rating of 87.9, 12th-best · 178 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-most · 857 Green Flag Passes, sixth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 125.837 mph, 11th-fastest · 3,924 Laps in the Top 15 (62.1%), 10th-most · 471 Quality Passes, fifth-most Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Alliance Truck Parts Ford) · Four top fives, five top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 14.6 · Average Running Position of 14.0, 10th-best · Driver Rating of 91.5, ninth-best · 169 Fastest Laps Run, 12th-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 126.089 mph, fourth-fastest Ryan Newman (No. 31 Quicken Loans Chevrolet) · One win, eight top fives, 10 top 10s; four poles · Average finish of 17.9 · Average Running Position of 15.0, 12th-best · Driver Rating of 87.9, 11th-best · 870 Green Flag Passes, fourth-most · 4,258 Laps in the Top 15 (67.4%), ninth-most · 569 Quality Passes, second-most Tony Stewart (No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet) · One win, eight top fives, 12 top 10s · Average finish of 12.4 · Average Running Position of 11.1, fifth-best · Driver Rating of 96.4, eighth-best · 220 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most · 818 Green Flag Passes, 10th-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 126.052 mph, fifth-fastest · 4,359 Laps in the Top 15 (72.6%), sixth-most · 465 Quality Passes, sixth-most The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 2015 Top 16 at Phoenix International Raceway Rank Driver Races Poles Wins Top Fives Top 10s DNFs Average Finish Driver Rating 1 Kevin Harvick 24 0 6 9 13 0 11.4 106.2 2 Dale Earnhardt Jr . 25 0 2 7 12 3 16.1 86.5 3 Joey Logano 12 0 0 2 6 2 15.1 85.5 4 Martin Truex Jr . 18 1 0 1 6 2 17.7 83.7 5 AJ Allmendinger 11 1 0 0 2 0 16.6 80.4 6 Kasey Kahne 21 0 1 4 7 1 18.0 79.6 7 Jimmie Johnson 23 2 4 14 18 1 7.7 114.0 8 Denny Hamlin 19 2 1 9 10 0 11.0 96.6 9 Casey Mears 21 0 0 0 0 4 26.0 61.7 10 Matt Kenseth 25 1 1 6 10 3 16.6 87.9 11 Greg Biffle 22 0 0 5 8 1 13.8 90.1 12 Ryan Newman 25 4 1 8 10 4 17.9 87.9 13 Paul Menard 16 0 0 0 2 0 22.0 66.2 14 Clint Bowyer 19 0 0 2 6 3 18.1 80.2 15 Aric Almirola 8 0 0 0 0 0 18.5 73.7 16 Brad Keselowski 11 1 0 4 5 1 14.6 91.5 * – Based on last 20 races at Phoenix International Raceway (2005 – 2014). Phoenix International Raceway Data Season Race #: 4 of 36 (03-15-15) Track Size : 1-mile Banking/Turn 1 & 2 : 10-11 degrees Banking/Turn 3 & 4 : 8-9 degrees Banking/Frontstretch : 3 degrees Banking/Backstretch : 8-9 degrees Frontstretch Length : 1,179 feet Backstretch Length : 1,551 feet Race Length : 312 laps / 500 Kilometers Top 10 Driver Ratings at Phoenix Jimmie Johnson ........................ 114.0 Kevin Harvick ............................ 106.2 Jeff Gordon .............................. 100.5 Carl Edwards .............................. 99.2 Denny Hamlin ............................. 96.6 Tony Stewart ............................... 96.4 Brad Keselowski ......................... 91.5 Greg Biffle .................................. 90.1 Ryan Newman ............................. 87.9 Matt Kenseth .............................. 87.9 Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2014 races (20 total) among active drivers at Phoenix International Raceway . Qualifying/Race Data 2014 pole winner : Brad Keselowski , Ford 139.384 mph, 25.828 secs. 02-28-14 2014 race winner : Kevin Harvick , Chevrolet 109.229 mph, (02:51:23), 03-02-14 Track qualifying record: Denny Hamlin , Toyota 142.113 mph, 25.332 secs. 11-07-14 Track race record: Tony Stewart , Pontiac 118.132 mph, (2:38:28), 11-07-99 Phoenix International Raceway : History · Construction was completed in January 1964. The facility consisted of a one-mile oval and a 2.5-mile road course. · Alan Kulwicki won the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix on Nov. 6, 1988. · The first spring race was held on April 23, 2005 and also the first night race, which was won by Kurt Busch . · The track underwent its first repave in 2011. The construction began in March and concluded in September of that year. · The following changes were made during the construction period (March – Sept., 2011): o Widened the frontstretch from 52 to 62 feet o Reconfigured pit road with the installation of concrete pit stalls o Pushed the dog-leg curve between Turn 2 and Turn 3 out 95 feet o Tightened the turn radius of the dog-leg from 800 to 500 feet o Implemented variable banking to ensure the immediate use of two racing grooves, including 10-11 degree banking between Turn 1 and Turn 2; 10-11 degree banking in the apex of the dog-leg; and 8-9 degree banking in Turn 4 Notebook · There have been 37 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Phoenix International Raceway , one per season from 1988-2004 and two each season since. · 196 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix; 143 in more than one. · Mark Martin leads series in starts at Phoenix with 34; Jeff Gordon (second all-time) leads all active drivers with 32. · Geoffrey Bodine won the first pole in 1988 at a speed of 123.203 mph (29.220 sec.). · There have been 20 different Coors Light pole winners, led by Ryan Newman with four. · Youngest Phoenix pole winner: Kyle Busch (4/22/06 – 20 years, 11 months, 20 days). · Oldest Phoenix pole winner: Mark Martin (03/03/13 – 54 years, 1 month, 22 days). · Ryan Newman , Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards are the only drivers to win consecutive poles. Newman won three straight (2002-04), Gordon won the fall of 2006 and the spring of 2007. Edwards won the fall of 2010 and spring of 2011. · Denny Hamlin (November, 2005) and AJ Allmendinger (April, 2010) won their first career Coors Light poles at Phoenix International Raceway . · There have been 23 different NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race winners at Phoenix, eight have won more than once, led by Kevin Harvick , with six – (’06 spring race and Chase race, ’12 Chase race, ‘13 Chase race, ’14 spring race and Chase race). · The eight drivers have won more than once at Phoenix: Kevin Harvick leads the series in wins with six followed by Jimmie Johnson (four), Davey Allison (two), Jeff Burton (two), Dale Earnhardt Jr . (two), Jeff Gordon (two) Carl Edwards (two) and Mark Martin (two). · Of the eight drivers with multiple wins at Phoenix International Raceway , Mark Martin is the only driver to win in two different manufacturers: Ford (1993) and Chevrolet (2009). · Five drivers have won consecutive races at Phoenix: Davey Allison (1991,1992); Jeff Burton (2000, 2001); Dale Earnhardt Jr . (2003, 2004); Kevin Harvick (swept 2006) and (2013 Chase race and swept 2014); Jimmie Johnson is the only one of the five to win three consecutive races (fall 2007, swept 2008). · Hendrick Motorsports leads the series in wins at Phoenix with nine, followed by Roush Fenway Racing with seven. · Four of the 37 (10.8%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Phoenix have been won from the Coors Light pole: Jeff Gordon (spring 2007), Jimmie Johnson (fall 2008), Mark Martin (spring 2009) and Carl Edwards (fall 2010). · Seven of the 37 (18.9%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Phoenix have been won from the front row: four from the pole and three from second-place. · 18 of the 37 (48.6%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Phoenix have been won from a starting position inside the top 10. · 19 of the 37 (51.3%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Phoenix have been won from a starting position outside the top 10. · 3 of the 37 (8.1%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Phoenix have been won from a starting position outside the top 20. · Jimmie Johnson leads the series in average finish at Phoenix with a 7.696; he is the only active driver with an average finish inside the top 10. · Ricky Rudd won the 1995 race from the 29th-place starting position, the furthest back a race winner has started. · Matt Kenseth won the 2002 race from the 28th-place starting position, the furthest back an active race winner has started. · Three perfect Driver Ratings of 150.0 have been recorded at Phoenix, Kurt Busch in April of 2005 and Kevin Harvick in November of 2006 and November 2014. · Youngest NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Phoenix International Raceway winner: Kyle Busch (11/13/2005 – 20 years, 6 months, 11 days). · Oldest NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Phoenix International Raceway winner: Mark Martin (04/18/2009 – 50 years, 3 months, 9 days). · Mark Martin leads the series in runner-up finishes at Phoenix with five; followed by Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart with three each. · Jimmie Johnson leads the series in top-five finishes at Phoenix with 14; followed by Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon with 12 each. · Alan Kulwicki (11/6/1988) and Bobby Hamilton (10/27/1996) are the only two drivers to post their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career win at Phoenix International Raceway . · 21 of the 23 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers who have won at Phoenix participated in at least two or more races before visiting Victory Lane. Alan Kulwicki (11/6/1988) and Tony Stewart (11/7/1999) are the only two drivers to win at Phoenix in their first appearance. · Jeff Gordon competed at Phoenix International Raceway 16 times before winning (4/21/2007); the longest span of any the 23 winners. · Six drivers have made 10 or more attempts before their first win at Phoenix: Jeff Gordon (16), Ryan Newman (15), Kasey Kahne (14), Denny Hamlin (13), Carl Edwards (12) and Rusty Wallace (11). · Jamie McMurray leads the series (active drivers) with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Phoenix without visiting Victory Lane with 23. · Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Phoenix was the (4/10/2010) race won by Ryan Newman with a MOV of 0.13 seconds. · Two drivers have won at Phoenix and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship in the same season: Jimmie Johnson (2007, 2008 sweep and 2009); Dale Earnhardt (1990). · Danica Patrick is the only female driver that has made a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start at Phoenix International Raceway . Driver Starting Position Finishing Position Date Danica Patrick 32 22 11/9/2014 Danica Patrick 33 36 3/2/2014 Danica Patrick 32 33 11/10/2013 Danica Patrick 40 39 3/3/2013 Danica Patrick 37 17 11/11/2012 · Car numbers that have produced three or more Phoenix wins: Car Number – Drivers – (Years) o No. 48 – Jimmie Johnson (2007, 2008 sweep and 2009) o No. 99 – Carl Edwards (2010 and 2013) and Jeff Burton (2000, 2001) o No. 29 – Kevin Harvick (2006 sweep, 2012 and 2013) o No. 5 – Mark Martin (2009), Kyle Busch (2005) and Terry Labonte (1994) o No. 4 – Kevin Harvick (2014 sweep) and Kasey Kahne (2011) NASCAR in Arizona · There have been 42 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races among three tracks in Arizona. Track Name City NSCS Phoenix International Raceway Avondale 37 Arizona State Fairgrounds Phoenix 4 Tucson Rodeo Grounds Tucson 1 · 32 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as Arizona. · None of the drivers from Arizona have won a race in NASCAR’s three national series. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule