NASCAR’s Bobby Labonte – From Boy to Superstar

Robert Alan Labonte was born on May 8, 1964 was born in Corpus Christi, Texas. Bobby Labonte as he is fondly known as, grew up watching his older brother, Terry Labonte, racing and he decided early on that he wanted to be just like him. By the time he was five, Labonte was already racing in quarter-midgets. He won his first quarter-midget championship when he was only seven years old and spent most of his pre-teen years sweeping the competition in races throughout the country. He was a force to be reckoned with and did not play a fool on the tracks. In 1978, the Labonte family moved to North Carolina to encourage his older brother’s career on the track.

Labonte went on to make his Busch Series debut in 1982 with a 30th spot finish. He worked his way up to the driver’s seat by first being the fabricator on his older brother’s crew team once he graduated from Trinity High School. Although he did try out a variety of divisions, Labonte went back to racing in the Busch Series in 1985. Even though he only finished 30th on his first race back, he bounced back and clinched the 17th spot in the next race. He went on to win his first pole position in the next season and came in second at Road Atlanta.

In 1987, Labonte won 12 races in the late-model stock cars division at Caraway Speedway. The Next season, he won six times at Concord Motorsports Park and after running six more Busch Series races, he came in at 16th. He managed to bring home two top tens, and had his first top-five finish at North Carolina Speedway. Labonte announced in 1990 that he was going to race full-time in the Busch Series. He won two poles, six top-fives and ten-top tens with a fourth place standing and the Busch Series “Most Popular Driver” award.

In 1991, Labonte won the NASCAR Busch series championship with his two wins, ten top-five and 21 top-ten finishes. The year picked up when he won at Bristol and at Indianapolis Raceway Park. He also managed to participate in two Winston cup starts with a 34th and 38th finish. In the next season, he won three races at the Busch Series at Lanier, Hickory and Martinsville although he unfortunately lost the title to Joe Nemechek by three points which is so far the closest finish in Sprint Cup, Nationwide and the Craftsman Truck Series.

In his rookie season of the Winston Cup Series, Labonte managed to pick up one top-five, two top-tens and 19th finish in spots. He was also runner-up to the Rookie of the Year title. He went on to start in two more Busch Series with a pole win and a 2nd and 24th place finish respectively. In 1994, Labonte added another pride to his joy when his own driver, David Green won the Busch Series championship for the Bobby Labonte Racing. He went on to race full-time in the Winston cup with one top-five and two top-ten and a 31st place finish.

Labonte went on in 1995 to pick up his first career win at the Coca Cola 600, the season ending race at Atlanta in 1996 where his older brother won the championship and in 1997 he won the season ending at Atlanta again. His 7th spot was the best finish in his career during that time. He went on to win five Winston Cup races in 1999 but in that season he had to persevere through a broken shoulder. The next year, he won 4 races at Darlington, Charlotte and Pocono. In 2007 Labonte won twice at the Pocono and at Atlanta.

His next win took place Martinsville in 2002 which was his first career shot track there. He managed to scrap through at eighth place in 2003 on standings with another 2 races at Atlanta and Homestead. He however, hit a dry spell in 2004 with no winnings at all and not much difference in 2005. He did participate in the 24 hours of Daytona road race his brother Terry, Jan Magnussen and Bryan Herta. 2006 and 2007 proved to be better seasons for Labonte with a windfall win at Martinsville Speedway, a miraculous 21st spot finish at the Daytona 500 in 2007 (which had a lot of accidents), the Busch Series win at Talladega Speedway which was his first Busch Series win since 1998.