Sometimes retirement really does mean goodbye.
In a NASCAR-world of partial schedules, retirement tours that don't reach fruition and racers that stay in the game far past their prime; two-two series champion and Texas native Terry Labonte will turn his last lap in a Nextel Cup series car this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.
"I'm looking forward to it," said Labonte. "I've always enjoyed racing at Texas out there. It's going to be a little bit different, I think, going out there knowing it's your last race. You know, like I have said before, I've been doing this for a long time, been very fortunate over the years to be with some good teams and win some races and a couple of championships. I don't know, I just felt like it was the right place for me to run my last race was in Texas."
Labonte cut back to a limited schedule in 2005 but has garnered little results. Now, Labonte is ready to hang up his helmet for good.
"I wouldn't advise a limited schedule to anybody after I did it," commented Labonte. "It's a little bit tougher than I thought it was going to be. I think it wouldn't be so bad if your team ran every week and you just drove it occasionally that would probably be okay. But running a limited schedule when you have a team that doesn't have any points, you know, you're one of the last cars on the track, last cars through inspection. Sometimes you don't have the full practice sessions. You don't learn things from week to week. You're always trying to play catch up, seems like you're behind a little bit. It's a little bit tougher than I thought.
"Our sports changes so much right now as far as the setups go and shocks go and the technology side of it. You're chasing a moving target. Back five years ago, we ran the same springs at some of the race tracks three or four years in a row before you'd ever change, you'd just be fine tuning your car, where today it's just it's a lot different. Like I said, it's been a little bit harder than I thought."
Labonte will close his storied career with 22 victories, the last of which came at Darlington Raceway in the Southern 500.
"I just feel so fortunate that I've been able to compete in the sport as long as I have, been able to do so many things that I've had the opportunity to do and still feel very fortunate to have been able to make a living at something I love doing. You know, I don't know, I never dreamed that I would be able to have a career as long as I've had. If you look at other sports, most people don't have near that opportunity to compete for as long as I've been able to."
While Labonte, who will step away from the sport just shy of his 50th birthday, doesn't rule out being at the race track; it just won't be behind the wheel of a stock car.
"It depends on what Justin (Labonte, son) does I guess, if I go to some of the races with him. It just depends on what he's doing. He's working on a Truck deal next year, he's got a late model car and a dirt car. Some of the most fun we had this summer was watching him run the dirt car, he ran his fist dirt car race in Corpus Christi this year.I am sure I will go to some of the races with him but on what level we don't know," explained Labonte.
Labonte's son has one Busch series win in 75 starts and will race his first Truck race at TMS this weekend in the No. 24 Toyota Tundra for Bill Davis Racing.