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Labonte Likes the Looks of October

  • Sep 29, 2003

TALLADEGA, Ala. (Sept. 29, 2003) – Reggie Jackson was known as baseball’s “Mr. October” for his post-season heroics. But No. 44 might have nothing on No. 5, considering Terry Labonte’s track record for October success.

As Labonte rolls into the final quarter of the 2003 season, he’s eyeing the next 31 days with particular interest. And there’s good reason for his optimism.

Of Labonte’s 22 career victories, five have come during the month of October—most recently in 1997 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.

The two-time champion is in the midst of his best season since 1999, entering the final stretch of races in ninth place in the point standings and still riding high from his historic victory at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway on Labor Day weekend.

Reflecting on his past successes in October, Labonte sees the next month as a golden opportunity to solidify his standing in NASCAR’s Top 10 and perhaps pick up another victory along the way.

“October always has been a pivotal month on the schedule,” Labonte said. “If you’re running for a championship, it’s time to position yourself for the final weeks of the season.”

Labonte’s October magic began with his second career victory Oct. 30, 1983, at Rockingham, N.C. In 1987, it was North Wilkesboro, N.C.

He was victorious at Phoenix International Raceway in 1994 and struck again two years later with a dramatic win at Lowe’s Motor Speedway that was a key race in his march to a second championship.

Labonte followed that with his Talladega triumph on Oct. 12, 1997.

“It’s my favorite time of the year and, yes, there are tracks remaining on the schedule where we’ve run very well in the past,” he said. “Maybe you do elevate your game a little bit and you definitely want to avoid any mistakes that could take you out of contention.

“The same holds true if you’re racing for spots further down in the top 10.”

He’ll get his first opportunity this year to add to his October win list with the Oct. 5 running of the Banquet 400 at Kansas Speedway.

The No. 5 winning on the fifth day of the month? Never say never to “Mr. October.”

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