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Chevy 600: Labonte Reaches Milestone at Pocono

LONG POND, Pa. (June 11, 2004) – In a NASCAR career spanning four decades, Terry Labonte’s magic numbers pop up regularly like mile markers along the interstate.

Two Cup Series championships, 655 consecutive starts, 22 career wins, 27 pole positions, $35 million in earnings—you get the idea.

Another milestone gets added to Labonte’s résumé this weekend when he will start his 600th race for Chevrolet in Sunday’s Pocono 500 at Pocono Raceway.

“I’ve won most of my races in a Chevrolet and both championships,” Labonte said.  “I’ve always been a Chevy guy and probably always will be.”

Indeed, 19 of Labonte’s 22 career wins have been with Chevrolet, including the 1995 Pocono 500.  His very first NASCAR start (Sept. 4, 1978) came in a Chevy; Labonte started 19th and finished fourth in that year’s Southern 500.

The Monte Carlo he’s wheeling around Pocono’s 2.5-mile triangle this weekend is quite different than the one he drove here for the first time 26 years ago.

“The cars today are smaller, lighter, with a lot more downforce,” Labonte said.  “Believe it or not, they actually are easier to drive than they were then.

“The sport’s a lot different, too.  When I started, NASCAR was all about Daytona (Fla.), Darlington (S.C.) and the other tracks in the southeastern U.S.  Now, we compete in many of the major media markets across the country—including Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas.”

It’s that expanded media coverage that’s made it possible for Labonte’s parents to keep tabs on his career, especially on those weekends when Bob and Martha aren’t traveling to the track.

“I can remember days when I would have to stop, find a pay phone and call home after leaving the race to tell them how I finished,” Labonte said.  “Network television and the internet have changed all that.”

What would be his favorite Chevrolet memory?

“The day we won the championship in Atlanta in 1996,” Labonte recalled.  “Bobby (Labonte) won the race that day and we made a victory lap together.  That’s still one of the highlights of my career, period, and I’m just glad that Chevy and General Motors were able to share that with us.”

And, oh yes, another one of those racing “mile markers” will pop up along Labonte’s road to the Hall of Fame later this year when he makes the 800th start of his career July 25 in Loudon, N.H.

Of course, he will do so in a Chevrolet.

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