A proven go-kart and quarter midget winner, the younger Labonte moved to North Carolina, but found himself twisting wrenches on his brothers team and not dawning his fire suite much in the 1980’s.
Things changed in 1987 while working with Jay Hedgcock, Labonte won the Late Model Stock Car title at Caraway Speedway (NC). We actually saw him contend for the win there earlier this season in a tour-type Modified with the SMART Modified Tour. That bid in 1987 led to bigger things in 1988 and more success around the Charlotte area. He won one of the Big 10 Series races at Concord Speedway and along the way he pocketed a few more wins and was third in the track’s NASCAR points.
Away from Caraway, he was second at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in the All American Challenge Series event.
In 1988, he returned to win again in the Big 10 Series to prove he could win the big races in the big places. The Big 10 Series at that time was perhaps the biggest Late Model deal outside of the All Pro Series in the Southeast and the ASA National Tour.
In 1989, he drove mostly in the NASCAR Busch Series on the big tracks before getting a full run in 1990. He was solid on the short tracks with poles at Bristol and a top 10 run in the Oxford 250. At the time, the Oxford 250 was a Busch North combo event with the Busch national series. A top 10 was as much of an accomplishment then as it is now.
In 1991 Labonte won the Busch Series title and in 1992 he came up three points short. All five of his wins in those two seasons came on short tracks.
After his NASCAR cup career, Labonte spent time racing overseas in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series where he made 15 starts over three years.
Now, Labonte is running the balance of the SMART Modified Tour and the full Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) schedule. This weekend, Labonte will run the Dayton 100 for the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour at Kil-Kare Speedway (OH).
Race fans will be able to watch the Dayton 100 live on Speed51.TV with a monthly or yearly subscription.
-Story by: Elgin Traylor, Speed51 Stat Boy
-Photo credit: Speed51