Labonte wants own Darlington celebration Shawn A. Akers DARLINGTON, S.C. (Aug. 27, 1998) Getting into Victory Lane at Darlington Raceway for the first time in his life was a big thrill for Bobby Labonte. The only problem was, he ...
Labonte wants own Darlington celebration Shawn A. Akers
DARLINGTON, S.C. (Aug. 27, 1998) Getting into Victory Lane at Darlington Raceway for the first time in his life was a big thrill for Bobby Labonte.
The only problem was, he wasn't supposed to be there.
Labonte was 16 years old, and he had just watched as older brother Terry Labonte earn his first career NASCAR Winston Cup Series win in the 1980 Southern 500 at the track "Too Tough to Tame." Bobby had watched the race from Terry's pits, but because he was too young to help the team celebrate, he had to duck his way into the winner's circle.
"It was a long time ago, but I remember it like it was just yesterday," said the 34-year-old Labonte, who now drives Joe Gibbs' No. 18 Interstate Batteries Pontiac. "It was great. Actually, I wasn't supposed to be there, but I snuck in the pits that day and it was probably one of the most exciting things I had ever experienced when Terry won that race."
Since that day, Bobby has been to Victory Lane a few times himself in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, but never at Darlington. He made it there this spring, however, when he won the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division Diamond Hill Plywood 200 in March.
"I love to race at Darlington because of all the history and tradition of the place," said Labonte, currently fifth in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series point standings. "It's a tough ole place and it'll jump up and bite you in a heartbeat, but it really means something when you win.
"Jeff (Gordon) has been sensational at Darlington, but I think he's won enough at Darlington in the last few years to last a lifetime. Not to mention the extra million he won last year."
Gordon will be gunning for his fourth-consecutive Pepsi Southern 500 title next weekend.
"Right now, I'd be satisfied with one in a row," Labonte said. "That sounds like something Yogi Berra would say, doesn't it?"
Speaking of a million dollars, Labonte will once again have a shot at the Winston "No Bull 5" $1 million bonus next weekend. He has already had three opportunities to claim the bonus, but couldn't quite get to the checkered flag first.
Labonte hopes that weekend will be his time to shine.
"I hope four is the charm," Labonte said. "A million-dollar charm. I'm zero-for-three in those this year. Maybe I can move up a notch, preferably two, at Darlington."
Should that happen, one thing's for sure. Nobody will be able to say that Labonte doesn't belong in Victory Lane.
Source: NASCAR Online