Darlington: Terry Labonte - GM top-ten interview

Labonte Makes Final Cup Career Run At Darlington Weekly Top-10 Behind The Hauler Chat With Terry Labonte, No. 44 Kellogg'S Monte Carlo Ss Dodge Charger 500 Darlington Raceway BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH TERRY LABONTE, NO. 44 KELLOGG'S MONTE ...

Labonte Makes Final Cup Career Run At Darlington

Weekly Top-10 Behind The Hauler Chat With Terry Labonte, No. 44 Kellogg'S Monte Carlo Ss
Dodge Charger 500
Darlington Raceway


YOU STARTED YOUR FIRST RACE HERE AND WON YOUR FIRST RACE HERE. DARLINGTON IS A SPECIAL PLACE FOR YOU, ISN'T IT? "It's the place where I ran my very first race. Being from South Texas, I didn't know a lot about it. Otherwise, I probably wouldn't have picked this place to be the first one [LAUGHS]. It's always been a special track for me, to be able to come down here for that first event and finish fourth (1978). I think we were third the next year in the Southern 500 (1979) and then came back and won the next year (1980). A few years ago, we won the last Southern 500 over Labor Day weekend, so that was pretty exciting. It hasn't changed any. It's still a tough race track and not much different than it was 25 years ago."

DO YOU HAVE TO SHOW A LOT OF RESPECT TO THE TRACK? "Oh, yeah. It's a track where you always feel like you race the track more than the competitors. It would be hard enough to run around here for 500 miles or 400 miles by yourself without hitting the wall at least once. That's why I say you have to race the track here more than a lot of places. It's definitely a tough race track. It's definitely a pretty narrow track, then they put the SAFER barriers in. That took a couple feet away."

BEING YOUR LAST TIME HERE, DO YOU HAVE SOME ADVICE FOR YOUNGER DRIVERS RUNNING DARLINGTON FOR THE FIRST TIME? "If you finish the race and stay out of trouble, you can have a good finish here. I've seen races here where there won't be much trouble for the whole race and other times you have some trouble. It's a tough place to run, there's no doubt about it."

WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER ABOUT YOUR FIRST START AT DARLINGTON IN 1978? "We'd finished fourth and I had no idea where we'd finished because I was not used to running car No. 92. When I looked at the scoreboard to see how many laps were left, I never thought about looking to see if my car was up there. I had no idea where I was running, I just didn't know. I'd never run a race longer than 200 laps on a half-mile track, so this was a pretty long event. After the race, I remember Bobby and Donnie Allison came over to congratulate me after the race. I thought that was so cool. These were guys that I had looked up to for so many years and I thought that was pretty neat of them to come over and congratulate me on a good run my first time out. That was exciting."

WAS THE LAST SOUTHERN 500 WIN YOUR FAVORITE MEMORY HERE? "Oh, yeah, that would definitely be it. That was a day we came down here, we unloaded, we were fast in every practice, we qualified like third and just ran good all day long. I think we were up in the top seven or eight the whole race. We had great pit stops and beat 'em out of the pits on the last stop. We came out in the front. It was one of those days where the car was right at the end, those guys made some great adjustments on it and it was just fast. Were able to win the race and it was pretty cool."

YOU'RE NOT TYPICALLY AN EMOTIONAL GUY, BUT DO YOU HAVE AN ADDITIONAL EMOTIONS GOING INTO YOUR FINAL DARLINGTON RACE? "I just hope we run a little bit better than we did a minute ago. We kind of struggled a little bit in practice here. I hope that we can run good. If we can have a good run, I'll be happy. We're not near as good now as we need to be, that's for sure. You know, they don't have much practice anymore and you can't test anymore. I'm glad it's my last year [LAUGHS]."

ARE YOU THE KIND OF GUY WHO THINKS BACK ABOUT ALL YOUR GREAT MEMORIES HERE? "Nope, no, I don't [LAUGHS]. I have some great memories here, no doubt about it. It's always been a pretty special track for me, just because I ran my first race here and won my first race here. It's definitely a special place."


DOESN'T THIS TRACK KIND OF FIT YOUR PERSONALITY? "I've come down here for so many years and had some good runs. I don't know why, I've just seemed to always run pretty well here over the years. There were times when we didn't run good. Like everyone else, you miss the setup from time to time. But overall, it's been a pretty good track for us. And I like running here. I like running here because it's a tough track. It's really fun to run if your car is working good. If your car is handling good and working good, you can pass people and have a good run."

WHAT IF YOUR CAR ISN'T RUNNING WELL?" "It's not much fun."

DID YOU EVER HAVE ANY BAD CRASHES HERE? "I broke my shoulder here, my scapula, in 1989. We went through the corner, somebody dumped oil out and everybody wrecked. I think Ricky Rudd hit me as I was sliding down the track."

ON COMING BACK TO DARLINGTON. "I'm kind of old fashioned. I still like it. I'm glad they're running here at night. The only thing that would be better is if it was on Labor Day weekend and real, real hot."

-gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Terry Labonte