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Terry Labonte 'Shifting Gears' in 2005-06

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Oct. 12, 2004) - Terry Labonte will extend his storied stock-car career for an additional two years, today announcing his intentions to drive a partial NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series schedule with Hendrick Motorsports beginning next season.

The two-time Cup Series champion will embark on a 20-race campaign—split evenly between 2005 and 2006—in Chevrolets branded with the No. 44, Labonte’s car number during his first title season of 1984.

Expanding one of NASCAR’s most enduring relationships, Kellogg Company will continue its 11-year support of Labonte and Hendrick Motorsports by assuming primary sponsorship of the No. 44 team for half of the planned events.  GMAC and ditech.com have also secured dates.

Yellow and red with green and white trim, the No. 44 Kellogg’s Chevrolets will resemble the fleet Labonte drove to his second championship in 1996.

“This is something I’ve thought long and hard about,” said Labonte, 47, who elected to vacate the No. 5 Chevrolets he steered for more than a decade.  “Though I still have the desire to compete, another 36-race grind isn’t all that appealing.  After more than two decades, this is the best of both worlds.

“It’s exciting for me to extend my relationships with Kellogg’s and Hendrick Motorsports—two organizations that have helped define my career.  These races are also an opportunity to show appreciation to all the loyal fans who have shown so much support over the years.

“And, of course, I’ve got my old number back.  Hopefully, we’ll be able to make some of that same magic the car brought us in 1984.”

Dubbed “Shifting Gears—Lone Star Style” in deference to Labonte’s Corpus Christi, Texas, roots, the tour will kick off Feb. 27, 2005 at California Speedway and conclude at Texas Motor Speedway in November 2006.  Though the 20-race slate has not been finalized, the 26-year NASCAR veteran has confirmed plans to make four return trips to his home state.

“I’m not sure my words can do justice to Terry Labonte,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports.  “He’s a true friend, a gentleman and a humble champion.

“Terry is one of the greatest talents I’ve ever seen and I’m proud to say he’s driven for Hendrick Motorsports.  It’ll be great to have him back for two more years.”

Since joining Hendrick in 1994, Labonte has posted 12 of his 22 career wins—all with Kellogg’s backing—and bested teammate Jeff Gordon by 37 points to claim the 1996 Winston Cup (now NEXTEL Cup) title in one of the closest finishes in NASCAR history.

“This has been a winning combination for us, both on and off the track, since 1994,” said Rob Grainger, director of account-specific marketing, Kellogg Company.  “We’re thrilled to continue our partnership with Hendrick Motorsports and honored to share these next two years with Terry Labonte, a true NASCAR legend.”

Along with backing Labonte and the No. 44 program, Kellogg’s will continue its longstanding support of Hendrick’s No. 5 NEXTEL Cup entry, with 19-year-old Kyle Busch assuming driving duties as a rookie-of-the-year contender in 2005.

“The fact that I have this opportunity is amazing,” Busch said.  “I’ll never be able to fill the shoes of Terry Labonte, but I’m proud to follow in his footsteps.  He’s an icon in our sport and a great role model for young drivers like myself.”

Busch is currently challenging for the championship in NASCAR’s Busch Series, piloting the No. 5 Hendrick-owned Chevrolets.  As the youngest full-time competitor in any of the sanctioning body’s top three divisions, the Las Vegas native has claimed four pole positions, five victories, 12 top-five finishes and 18 top-10 results through 28 of 34 races in his first full season.

“It’s been a privilege for Kellogg Company to have been involved with Terry’s career for more than a decade, and we’re excited to continue the relationship for another two years,” said Jeff Montie, president, Kellogg North America.  “We welcome Kyle to the Kellogg’s family and look forward to his future NEXTEL Cup successes, in his rookie year and beyond.”

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