NASCAR's Iron Man It's 600 and counting for Labonte PHOENIX (Oct. 22, 1998) In the heat of the desert this weekend, Terry Labonte and the No. 5 Kellogg's Corn Flakes Chevrolet will attempt to forge another NASCAR record as Labonte tries to...
NASCAR's Iron Man It's 600 and counting for Labonte
PHOENIX (Oct. 22, 1998) In the heat of the desert this weekend, Terry Labonte and the No. 5 Kellogg's Corn Flakes Chevrolet will attempt to forge another NASCAR record as Labonte tries to make his 600th consecutive NASCAR Winston Cup Series start, in the Dura Lube/Kmart 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.
A special "Iron Man2" paint scheme has been created to veil Labonte's typical No. 5 Monte Carlo. It is a reprise of the "Iron Man" graphics package that Labonte used in the spring of 1996, when he tied and then broke Richard Petty's record of 513 consecutive races started.
The original Iron Man ride is now a museum piece at the Hendrick Motorsports compound near suburban Charlotte, N.C., but it has been transported here for display during a special pre-race reception to honor Labonte on Thursday night at Action Performance.
"We won a race in that car and broke Richard's record the very next week," Labonte said, recalling his record-breaking spring. "Along with my two championships, breaking Richard Petty's record and then adding to it as much as I have are the highlights of my career. It's a privilege to be part of NASCAR, and an honor any time you're associated with Richard Petty and other legends of the sport."
After making his NASCAR Winston Cup in the fall of 1978, Labonte ran only four more races that year in order to protect his rookie status for 1979.
When Labonte drove in the season opener on Jan. 14, 1979 at Riverside International Raceway in California, it's certain that the 22-year-old native of Corpus Christi, Texas, had no idea he would be standing in the Arizona desert nearly 20 years later on the doorstep of a remarkable NASCAR record -- 600 straight races.
Ten of those races have been run at Phoenix International Raceway, including a dominating win in 1994 when Labonte lapped all but two of his competitors and led 112 laps to post his 13th career victory. Two years later, en route to his second NASCAR Winston Cup championship, Labonte crashed during practice for the Phoenix event and was forced to use a back-up car in the race.
Hampered by a broken left hand, he persevered to finish third and added 15 points to his series lead. Two weeks later in Atlanta, Labonte won his second championship as younger brother Bobby won the race.
Terry Labonte will see if he can extend his historic streak and log his latest milestone when the 11th Dura Lube/Kmart 500 starts shortly after 2 p.m. EST on Sunday.
Dale Jarrett is defending champion of the race, which will be telecast by TNN.
Bud Pole Award Qualifying is Friday afternoon.
Source: NASCAR Online