The Frontstretch: The Best Labonte Story...Never by Amy Henderson -- Monday June 26, 2006

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The Best Labonte Story...Never

That's History! NASCAR's Checkered (Flag) Past, One Story at a Time · Amy Henderson · Monday June 26, 2006


One of my favorite racing stories revolves around the Pepsi 400. Not too long ago, the event became the first NASCAR race to be televised on one of the major television networks during prime time. Not quite a so big a deal now, but it was at the time.

The race started, drivers raced, but in the late stages, there was a red flag. I can't recall what it was for, rain I believe. It turned out to be a long enough flag that the drivers were allowed to get out of their cars. They congregated on pit road, waiting for NASCAR to lift the flag. And thinking up mischief…especially the brothers Labonte.

One of the closest sets of brothers in racing, Terry and Bobby Labonte were both having a good race that night. In fact, when they looked at where their cars were parked, they noticed something. They had been running one behind the other when the red flag came out, so that was the way they were parked. Interesting. The two brothers pondered the situation.

Finally, one said to the other, “Wanna switch?”

The immediate answer was something in the neighborhood of a sly grin. The plan was set rolling. When drivers were called to their cars, the brothers Labonte would simply climb in each others' cars. Would anyone notice?

Would anyone care?

Would they get in trouble?

As with the schemes of countless siblings before and after, the question inevitably came up. But this was no ordinary “What if Mom finds out?” scenario. This was “What if NASCAR finds out? And doesn’t think we're nearly as funny as we do? And fines us?” Not to mention what the television network and sponsors would think…

So, the scheme was scrapped. It's kind of too bad, in a way. I don’t remember, offhand, who won that race. I don’t remember where Terry or Bobby Labonte finished, even…and they probably don't, either. But had “the Switch” taken place, though, fans would probably remember. “Hey. Do you remember the time Terry and Bobby traded cars?” would be part of the racing lore passed between fans.

I'd bet, “Hey, Bobby, remember the time we traded cars?” would also have been Thanksgiving dinner conversation in the Labonte household for years to come. Possibly followed by “Grandpa, we've heard that one a million times. Don't you have any other stories?”

Come to think of it, it's really too bad that's not history.

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