|credit: NASCAR Media|
2016 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee “Texas” Terry Labonte holds a rather dubious distinction as a two-time champion: his 12 years between titles is the longest by any Cup Series titlist. Labonte and fellow 2016 inductees Jerry Cook, Bobby Isaac, O. Bruton Smith and Curtis Turner will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Friday, Jan. 22, 2016. Here are the Fast Facts on one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers.
- Terrance Lee Labonte was born Nov. 16, 1956 in Corpus Christi, Texas. Introduced to motorsports by his father, Labonte began racing quarter-midgets at age 7 and won a national championship at age 9. As a teen, he moved into stock cars on both dirt and asphalt, winning multiple track championships from 1975-77.
- Labonte made his first NASCAR Cup Series start in 1978 at Darlington, qualifying 19th and finishing fourth. In 1979, he competed for Rookie of the Year honors against Dale Earnhardt, Harry Gant and Joe Millikan; while he didn’t take the honors – those went to Earnhardt – he ended the season with 13 top 10 finishes and finished in the top 10 in points.
- Labonte won his first Cup Series race in 1980 with Hagan Racing, taking the checkered flag in the historic Southern 500 at Darlington. In 1984, with a new sponsor in Piedmont Airlines, Labonte took wins at Riverside and Bristol on his way to his first Winston (now Sprint) Cup Series championship.
- Over the next two seasons, Labonte dropped in points to seventh and 12th, respectively, parting ways with Hagan at the end of the 1986 season and joining Junior Johnson and Associates in the famed No. 11 Budweiser Chevrolet beginning in 1987. In spite of winning the All-Star Race in 1988 and finishing in the top 10 in points all three seasons, Labonte moved on to Precision Products Racing in 1990 and back to Billy Hagan’s Hagan Racing team in 1991.
- In 1994, Labonte joined Hendrick Motorsports in the No. 5 Chevrolet, winning his second championship in 1996. Labonte was able to join his younger brother Bobby in a victory lap at the season finale at Atlanta, as Bobby won the race the same day Terry won the title. Labonte stayed with Hendrick Motorsports through 2006, racing his final two seasons on a part-time basis. He continued racing part-time through 2014, competing for Joe Gibbs Racing, Hall of Fame Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing, Petty Enterprises and others; his final race was the GEICO 500 at Talladega on Oct. 17, 2014.
- In his career, Labonte won 22 races and 27 poles in the Cup Series, 11 races and four poles in the Xfinity Series and one race and one pole in the Camping World Truck Series. He was the 1989 International Race of Champions (IROC) champ and drove the final IROC race in 1993 in place of the late Davey Allison, giving him an assist on Allison’s title. Labonte won the Southern 500 in 1980 and 2003, the 1985 Busch Clash (now Sprint Unlimited) and was a two-time All-Star Race winner (1988 and 1999).
- In addition to being named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998, Labonte is also a member of the National Quarter Midget Hall of Fame, inducted in 1989, and the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, inducted in 2001.
- Learn more about the NASCAR Hall of Fame at www.nascarhall.com.