2008 Ride: No. 45 Petty Enterprises Dodge (nine races); No. 10 Gillett Evernham Motorsports Dodge (Pocono – July)
2008 Primary Sponsors: Marathon Oil, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Wells Fargo, Richard Petty Driving Experience, Victory Junction Gang Camp (No. 45); Charter Communications (No. 10)
2008 Owners: Richard Petty/Boston Ventures (No. 45), George Gillett (No. 10)
2008 Crew Chiefs: Stewart Cooper (No. 45), Mike Shiplett (No. 10)
Stats: 10 races, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 0 top 10s, 46th in points
Best Finish: 16th – Daytona, Coke Zero 400 (July)
High Point: After going two and a half years in between restrictor-plate race starts, the Labonte nicknamed “Iceman” showed he still knew how to keep his car out of trouble and get the job done. Despite having to take a champion’s provisional to make the race, the 1984 and 1996 Cup Series titleholder went from shotgun on the field to a 16th-place, lead-lap finish at Daytona in July.
After such a successful experience the first time around, Terry Labonte was asked to pilot the No. 45 Petty Enterprises Dodge once again at a restrictor-plate event; this time, it was for Talladega in October. And despite not starting a race there since the fall of 2004, Texas Terry shined once again en route to a 17th-place finish, completing all 190 laps of the scheduled distance. Those two runs turned out to be the best performances for anyone behind the wheel of the No. 45 all season.
Low Point: In a one-race stint for GEM, replacing rookie Patrick Carpentier, Labonte had high hopes for a solid run at one of his best tracks – Pocono. But an uninspiring weekend ended with a disappointing 32nd-place finish, one lap off the pace.
Summary: Remember when Labonte retired at the end of the 2006 season? Apparently, the part-time opportunities stemming from his past champion’s provisional are simply too much to pass up. In the last two years, he’s made 13 Sprint Cup starts, failing to score a top-10 finish but collecting over $1.24 million in winnings in the process.
This year, the majority of Labonte’s work was focused around the No. 45 Dodge, jumping in as a substitute for Kyle Petty when he left for his annual six-race sabbatical as a booth analyst for TNT. Getting an opportunity to work with brother Bobby once more, Terry not only had a blast but gave the race team some of their best performances all season, earning him a handful of additional starts even after Kyle became available to drive once again. GEM also tabbed him to sub for a race at Pocono, the only other part-time ride Labonte chose despite being courted by several other teams throughout the season.
Team Ranking: No. 2 behind his brother during his stint with the No. 45. As much as you’d like to believe Texas Terry is still 100 percent, his skills are far diminished compared to the continual full-time work of his younger brother and 2000 Cup Series champ.
Off-Track News: Labonte’s unretirement (again) was really the only big news story of his season. Known for his quiet, laid-back personality, this 51-year-old wasn’t going to make any waves with the press – positive or negative.
2009 Outlook: It’s unsure if or when Labonte will drive in Cup again. With a smaller field in 2009, chances are the Texas native may finally be able to enjoy his retirement; several races will struggle to simply fill a 43-car field, making the use or availability of past champion’s provisionals a moot point.
Quotes of the Year: “Bobby and I have always enjoyed the time we have spent together on the racetrack… we haven’t been teammates very much, but when we are it makes that time even better.” – Terry Labonte
“This was a great move by us because Terry is the same driver today that he was when he won the 2003 Southern 500 or when he finished third at Sonoma a few years ago. When he jumps behind the wheel of a racecar, he is still the ‘Iceman.’ To have him as a teammate again is special for our whole family. It means a lot to me, because I grew up wanting to be just like him.” – Bobby Labonte on the addition of his brother to the No. 45 team part-time
2006 Frontstretch Grade: F
2007 Grade: D
2008 Grade: C-