TERRY LABONTE , DRIVER OF THE NO. 5 KELLOGG'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: Terry Labonte announced his plan for retirement during a special media breakfast at Hendrick Motorsports today. Hosted by Fox's Mike Joy, featured guest speakers included ...
TERRY LABONTE , DRIVER OF THE NO. 5 KELLOGG'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
Terry Labonte announced his plan for retirement during a special media breakfast at Hendrick Motorsports today. Hosted by Fox's Mike Joy, featured guest speakers included NASCAR's Mike Helton, Team Owner Rick Hendrick, Terry Labonte, Bobby Labonte, and Ken Schrader. Labonte's family was also present.
Terry Labonte will run a limited schedule of 20 races in 2005 and 2006, 10 in each year. In 2005 his first race will be at California Speedway (Feb. 27) and the final race will be at Texas Motor Speedway in '06. Kyle Busch will be the new driver of the No. 5 Kellogg's Chevy in 2005. Decisions on shop, crew and equipment will be made and announced at a later date.
MIKE JOY: "When Terry Labonte burst onto the NASCAR scene, he was a rarity. He and Ricky Rudd both started their driving careers before their ages reached double digits. That was in a time when most fellows didn't get a chance to get into a stock car or a race car of any kind until they had received driver licenses. Terry became the first of a new breed. He was the youngest NASCAR driver to reach $1 million in career earnings and has surpassed that many times over.
"Some of the things that stand out in his career are that only 7 drivers in NASCAR Cup history have won more championship than Terry. Only two drivers have more qualifying laps at over 200 mph than Terry. He has two Winston Cup championships, one IROC championship, and he's raced in the 24 Hours of Daytona. He's pretty much done it all. He came back from an injury that was at the very least, career threatening. He came back strong to win a second championship for Rick Hendrick and stand fourth on NASCAR's all-time list of races started. He has competed in every All-Star race the sport has had except one. Certainly great marks."
RICK HENDRICK: "It's good to see everybody here this morning. Thank you, the media, and Kellogg's for being here. This is a special day. I want to acknowledge what a great friend Terry Labonte had been to me and my family. When I was sick, Terry was a big part of keeping everything together and actually winning championships. If you want to see a template of professional values and family and what this sport is all about, it's the Labonte family. Terry and Kim have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Marrow Program. Terry and I are partners in a Chevrolet dealership and we've developed a friendship that's going to go on forever. Terry's going to help me for a long time. He's good at raising young people and he says he's going to keep all these young guys we have in check.
"Terry is a guy who has done so much for our organization and so much for our sport, and still won the Southern 500 last year and we look forward to winning some races this year. Terry, come up here and tell them what you're going to do."
TERRY LABONTE: "When I walked in and saw Kenny and Bobby here, I hoped this wasn't going to be some kind of roast (laughs). Thank you for being here. This is kind of one of those days that's exciting for me because I have decided what I want to do and it's time to tell everybody. I've come to the conclusion that I've got to do what I want to do. The thing that fits me best is I want to run a limited schedule for the next two years. We're going to run 20 races in the next two seasons. We're going to run 10 a year. The coolest thing about it is - thanks to Rick and Kellogg's - I get to pick the tracks I want to go to and pick the races I want to run. Kenny said I might have a hard time figuring that out. But I'm excited about that. This is going to be an effort that we're putting together to try to go to race tracks we think we can win at. We're not going to just show up and go through the motions. We're putting together a genuine effort to try and win races. That's what's exciting for me. When you look around this museum, one word that comes to mind is success. And we're hopefully going to add a couple of trophies to it in the next couple of years.
"Our 'Shifting Gears Tour' is going to start off in California next year and it's going to end up in Texas in '06. That'll be the last race. So that's the deal. I'm excited about it. I can't wait to get started. I'm not sure what I'm doing with some of my Sunday's off. That's going to be unusual. But I'm still going to be at the race track most of the weekends. Justin is going to run his Busch car and I've told him I'm going to be at a bunch of his races. I've got to thank my wife, Kim, who has been on a limited schedule for a while now, but she's been there most of the time. My parents, Bob and Martha, are here today, and of course my daughter Kristen. This is an exciting day for us. I'm looking forward to the next two years. I couldn't be happier. Thanks to Rick Hendrick for giving me this opportunity, and to John, and everybody here at Henrick Motorsports. What a great organization. It was a dream of a lifetime for me to be able to run NASCAR and especially at Hendrick Motorsports. I think it's fitting for me to say, 'Hey look. Here's the deal and here's what we're going to do.' And I'm going to be able to end my career here at Hendrick Motorsports."
MIKE JOY: "If there's one track that defined Terry's career it would be Darlington. He made his first Cup start there for Billy Hagan. He started 19th and finished 4th. He won his first Cup race there in the Southern 500 in only his 59th career start. And he won the last traditional Labor Day race there and we thought somebody in the old guard ought to win, and we're pretty glad you did. I wonder if you've decided if Darlington will be somewhere in those 20 races? (Terry nods) Probably."
MIKE HELTON: "Thank you for letting me be a part of today's announcement more from a personal note than professionally. But professionally, on behalf of all of NASCAR, Terry I want to thank you for the contributions that your career over the 20-plus years has made to the successes that we now enjoy in NASCAR. It's obvious that NASCAR has a lot of characters in it. But there a few such as Terry who have defined the character of NASCAR through their way of handling things like their professionalism and the entire Labonte family's commitment to motorsports, commitment to success, and to the things that make NASCAR what it is. We're very proud of your championships, Terry. We're proud of your participation in motorsports and of the fact that you chose NASCAR. All of the Labontes have been great examples of what NASCAR is all about. It's certainly played a huge roll in what we enjoy today in this sport as far as the attraction it is. A lot of that attraction comes from the soundness of the people who participate in it and their dedication and commitment to more than just what goes on on the race track. Terry is a perfect example of that. We're very grateful that Terry has chosen NASCAR as his career. Today's a bit bittersweet. As I was coming up today I was thinking about the first time I ever met Terry and Kim an the things that we've done away from the race track together that let you see more of Terry than you see at the race track. I was thinking the fans that follow our sport, and we're in an era where a lot of the individuals (like) Bill Elliott and Rusty Wallace and Terry and others, are winding up their active career on the race track. And it's unfortunate that a lot of the new fans that we've got today may not have been able to have seen these characters when they were in their heyday making NASCAR what it is. Hopefully the history books and the museums and the stories will live on forever - long enough to endure their heritage as part of this sport because it certainly is. It'll never go away. We're very proud of that. And certainly we are as proud of Terry as anybody is to have Terry a part of this organization to make it work.
"On a personal note, I have to say it's a bittersweet moment because there are individuals in the sport that you have an attachment to that helps glue all of this together weekend after weekend. And to think today that you won't see Terry walking through the garage with a uniform on or his face in the driver's meeting, is a little bit bittersweet. But the good news is with Justin's career we'll see hopefully a lot of Terry and Kim around in the years going down the road. I can't imagine this sport without a Terry Labonte in it. So Terry, good luck, congratulations, and thanks for all you've done."
KENNY SCHRADER: "I've got some Labonte stories if you all want - I can get with you all later (laughs). I didn't even know I had to come up here and talk. I came to stand back there and just listen because I was trying to watch a professional like Terry and see how you gracefully get out of this business. I thought right now my only option was to get fired (laughter). I want to see how he's going to make his exit.
I got to be his teammate at Hendrick Motorsports for several years. He's just one of the people when I first started Cup racing that you could go to and ask a question and get a serious answer. I hate to say it, but Cup racing wasn't the same when a lot of us started and when Terry started. The money wasn't in the sport that's in it now. There are a whole bunch of people that are in it because they just truly, truly love to race. That's what Terry is. I'm glad he's getting to leave on his terms and that he's nice and healthy. I know what the whole family has done to support him. I'm just very proud of him and proud to know him as a friend."
BOBBY LABONTE: "Let's see. Where do I start? I won't do that to you, but obviously there are a lot of things that come to mind with Terry. I was five years old racing, and he taught me how to race. That was a pretty big deal. And I can remember the first time I was on the race track with him - well, I don't remember exactly but I was told what the story was - I wrecked him. It's just amazing that it's been this long a period of time. We do things on Sunday's and we just enjoy. It's been a lot of fun. There are some times that weren't as much fun. One story comes to mind. I can remember at Riverside, California, I think it was in 1985 or '86, Terry crashed on the front straightaway and went over the fence onto pit road. I was working on a pit crew. I took off running. I didn't see the pit wall right in front of me and I fell flat down. Crashed. And I still outran everybody to the car because you've got to remember that the safety guy who was there was drinking martinis (laughs). You had to be there to see that one. I got there and Terry got out of the car and we checked on him. I said, 'You were upside down'. He said that he saw the gauges were upside down one time. Back that night in the hotel room, I went over to Terry and Kim's room and Terry's got these bruises on him and I said, 'Hey check this out man. I've got scuff marks all over me from trying to get to you.' You know what I mean? It's just one of those deals where you see your brother and you just run to it.
"Obviously in Atlanta in 1996 winning the race and Terry winning the championship that day - what a cool deal. There in Victory Lane were Rick Hendrick, Joe Gibbs, Terry and I and Mom and Dad. I look at that picture quite a bit. It was a monumental day. Our parents won twice that day - their kids won both deals. You can't go to Victory Lane with both your kids on that day. It was just unbelievable. All the times that we parked beside each other and ride together to the race tracks and knock on the door - from the first day we owned a motorhome to Saturday night. We'd bang on the door and say hey, did you see this. Stuff like that is really cool. My PR guy, Joe Crowley, said they wanted a comment on the amount of races Terry has started (when he made his 800th career start). And I said I didn't care because nobody has asked me about how many races I've been to with him. I was there in 1978 living at Terry and Kim's apartment off some road in Charlotte for the summer after they'd gotten married - which I know really bugged them - but I can remember going to Darlington for the first race and trying to sneak into the pits. I can remember being there for the first win in 1979. I went to Victory Lane in Darlington. That place has changed so much. But I was there also. I was working on the pit crew or hanging out at the fence or I was bothering them or whatever a young punk kid would do. And so it's kind of like maybe I should be retiring. I don't know. Anyway, this is an incredible feeling. I'm proud of Terry and his accomplishments and the marks that he's set and the people that he's met that admire him and the examples that he's set for all kinds of people in racing. I've always wanted to grow up and be like my brother."
MIKE JOY: "I think that number of career starts stand right now at about 810. That's a lot. It's fourth now on the all-time list. In fact, most of Terry's career numbers are going to stand in the top10 of this sport for a long time. You and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports and the folks you've driven for are proud of the numbers you've put up and the career you've had and the accomplishments you've made. It stands even taller what you've accomplished in life with your family values and what you've brought to this sport. I can't find anybody out there who is not a Terry Labonte fan. What you've done is really cool for this sport and for your family and for all of us who have families to look up to."