HIGH POINT, N.C. (BVM) — Bobby Labonte competed in NASCAR for over two decades. Following a Hall of Fame career, Labonte has stayed close to the sport and continues to thrive in the racing scene.
Bobby Labonte’s early life
Labonte grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas, with his older brother Terry. At 5 years old, he started racing quarter midgets. Bobby continued to race them until his family moved to North Carolina, where Terry made his NASCAR Winston Cup Series, now known as the NASCAR Cup Series, debut in 1978.
Bobby continued to race go-karts through high school. He’d take some time off from racing, but he never wandered too far from the track.
Bobby Labonte’s NASCAR career
In 1982, he’d make his NASCAR debut in the Busch Grand National Series, now known as the Xfinity Series. Bobby continued to hang around Terry and his team, and in 1985 he returned to the track with his own car. He’d only raced twice, but with a top-20 finish (17th), Bobby’s career was off to a promising start.
He also found success racing late-model stock cars. He won 12 races and captured the track (Caraway Speedway) championship in 1987.
By 1990, Bobby was racing in the Busch Series full-time. He raced in the No. 44 car and founded his own team. He finished fourth in the overall standings and was voted “Most Popular Driver” in the Busch Series.
Bobby went on to have his most successful season (1991) in the Busch Series. With two wins, 10 top-five finishes and 21 top-10 finishes, he captured his first Busch Series title. Bobby also made his NASCAR Winston Cup Series debut at the Budweiser 500.
He’d keep racing at a high level over the next three years (1992-94). In 1993 he joined Bill Davis Racing and drove in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series for a full season. He accumulated six top-10 finishes and finished second to Jeff Gordon in Rookie of the Year voting.
Bobby continued to race for Bill Davis Racing In 1994. He had one top-five finish and two top-10 finishes to finish 21st in the standings in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.
Bobby joined Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) at the end of the season and took over the No. 18 car. He’d earn his first career win in 1995 at the Coca-Cola 600. Bobby’s success continued into 1999 when he won five NASCAR Winston Cup races; the most he’d win in a single season. Bobby finished in second place behind Dale Jarret for the championship.
The 2000 season saw Bobby win four races, have 19 top-five finishes and 24 top-ten finishes. Those results led to him finishing 265 points ahead of Dale Earnhardt Sr. and capturing the NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship. He held the No. 1 spot for 25 straight weeks and became the second driver since Cale Yarborough not to register a DNF (did not finish) designation the whole season.
Bobby continued to compete in the NASCAR Cup Series but would never capture another championship. He asked for his release from JGR after falling out of the top 20 during the 2005 season. This led him to join Petty Enterprises.
He drove the famous No. 43 car from 2006-08 and had three top-five finishes and 11 top-10 finishes with the lore of Richard Petty’s former number. He was released from the contract in December 2008.
Bobby found a new team (Hall of Fame Racing) to race for in 2009. He’d race in the No. 96 car and have only one top-five finish. He followed that up with arguably his worst year as a racer, with only two top-20 finishes in 2010.
Bobby continued to bounce around from team to team for the next six seasons. His last season in the NASCAR Cup Series came with GO FAS Racing. He’d finish in the top 20 twice before being released at the end of the 2016 season.
Bobby’s 25 years in the NASCAR Cup Series were full of success. Over his career, he made 729 starts, won 21 races, finished in the top-five 115 times and won the 2000 NASCAR Winston Cup Championship.
Bobby Labonte’s net worth and achievements
Bobby also entered the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2020.
Bobby Labonte after NASCAR
Labonte has continued to enjoy racing after his time in the NASCAR Cup Series. He joined the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series in 2017, where he became the first NASCAR Cup Series champion to race in the Euro Series.
As Labonte continued his racing career, he battled kidney cancer. It was originally found in 2016, but by 2021, the tumor had tripled in size. He was back on the track that season following his recovery.
Bobby joined the SMART Modified Tour in 2021 as well and currently has teamed up with Sadler/Stanley (SS) Racing for the 2023 season. He’s also continued to cover the sport he loves as an analyst for NASCAR on Fox.