Terry “Thanks for the Memories” Labonte
2006 Ride: No. 44 Kellogg’s Chevrolet/No. 96 DLP Chevrolet
2006 Owner: Rick Hendrick/Bill Saunders
2006 Crew Chief: Peter Sospenzo/Philippe Lopez
Stats: 17 races, zero wins, one top five, one top 10, 41st in points.
High Point: By stretching his fuel mileage and not making a final pit stop with his competitors, Labonte took the lead in the Dodge/Save Mart 350 on lap 72 in the No. 96 DLP car. When the rest of the cars made their stops he used an 18-second advantage over Jeff Gordon to lead the next 17 laps of the event, finally getting overtaken by the Rainbow Warrior after a series of late caution flags. Still, Labonte was able to finish the race in the third position, posting his best result since winning the Southern 500 back in 2003.
Low Point: After starting his No. 44 Kellogg’s/Terry Labonte Tribute Chevrolet 43rd in his final race, the Dickies 500, Texas Terry finished the final race of his career 23 laps down in 36th after handling problems left the car a pile of junk. Labonte spent the last 13 seasons of his 29-year career driving for Hendrick Motorsports; for his selflessness and dedication to their organization, couldn’t they have given him a competitive car for one final ride?
Summary: In 29 years of racing, Texas Terry amassed 848 starts, two championships, 22 victories, 27 pole positions, 182 top fives and 361 top-10 finishes. Saying goodbye at Texas was tough, but Labonte’s legacy will live on forever.
2007 Outlook: Fishing, hunting, tackling the “honey-do” list, and lots of relaxing.
Grade: A for Terry, F for Hendrick Motorsports.