Labonte Reminiscing His Championship Journey That Included A Prestigious Win At The Brickyard
The year was 2000 and it was a memorable one for Bobby Labonte at Joe Gibbs Racing. Four wins paved the way for his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. During his journey of becoming a champion, he won the prestigious Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway holding off Rusty Wallace to hoist the coveted trophy.
“It was something really special and that entire year we had been competitive week in and week out,” Labonte said. “The car that weekend was great in practice, qualifying and during the race. We were able to hold off Rusty there at the end to win.
“Winning there is something I’ll never forget,” Labonte continued. “I remember when I was still in the Busch Series (NASCAR Nationwide Series) and I would go take tours around Indianapolis Motor Speedway thinking, ‘I’d like to be here one day.’ And, then in 2000, we were able to go there and win. It was an incredible feeling.”
Now, he returns for his 18th visit. This time Labonte enters the 2.5-mile oval with JTG Daugherty Racing and the No. 47 Toyota Camry carrying a new brand - - HUGGIES® Little Movers Slip-On Diapers, which is a slip-on disposable diaper providing for an easy diaper change that will be available in stores beginning in August.
“This is a big launch for HUGGIES® Little Movers Slip-On Diapers,” Labonte said. “We are looking forward to supporting them at the Brickyard.”
Labonte has started every Brickyard 400 along with only three others - - Jeff Burton, Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin. In addition to his 2000 victory, Labonte has recorded four top-five and five top-10 finishes at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Before kneeling and kissing the bricks for the first time, he was so close three other times with Joe Gibbs Racing. He finished second in 1997, third in 1998 and second in 1999.
“That win meant a lot to me,” Labonte said. “We were so close for three years straight finishing second, third and second before we finally won. It was a big accomplishment.”
Since 1994, 17 Cup races have taken place on hallowed ground. Labonte is one of eight Brickyard winners going on to win the season’s championship after his name was inscribed in the PPG Trophy permanently housed in their Hall of Fame Museum. As important as this weekend is to Labonte as year’s past, it is just as important to his crew chief Frank Kerr.
“I get goose bumps every time I go there,” said Frank Kerr, who grew up driving open wheel cars, winning 250 races in divisions such as, USAC, World of Outlaws and ALL STAR (four-time ALL STAR Champion). “When the first car is on track coming down the straightaway, it sends chills down my spine. It’s not the start of the race with 43 cars that gets to me, it’s actually the first car on track that weekend, no matter who it is.
“It’s just the coolest place in the world and the most historic venue we go to on the circuit and it doesn’t matter how many times you walk into that facility, you are still in awe,” Kerr continued. “I remember my first time there. It was either 1978 or 1979 for a race. I went into the museum for ideas to build my Dirt Modified. I came across an old Kurtis Roadster and I copied it to build my rear suspension - - making my car from it. I can’t wait to go back this weekend.”
By: jtg racing