CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Terry Labonte is a NASCAR Hall of Famer.
The NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2016 was announced Wednesday evening, and the former Hendrick Motorsports driver was included, joined by Bruton Smith, Curtis Turner, Jerry Cook and Bobby Isaac.
"It's quite an honor," Labonte told NBC Sports. "Just to be a part of it is really so special."
The decision was made by a voting panel that includes representatives from NASCAR, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, manufacturers, track owners, broadcasters, media members, former owners and drivers – and even one ballot from a nationwide fan vote.
The main criteria for induction are NASCAR accomplishments and contributions to the sport.
There’s no doubt that Labonte met that standard.
A two-time NASCAR premier series champion, Labonte raced for Hendrick Motorsports for more than a decade – 1994 to 2005 – earning 12 wins in the process.
His tenure was highlighted by the 1996 season, when he won two races and earned four pole positions, a career-high 21 top-five finishes and 24 top-10s en route to his second Cup championship.
"When you start racing, one of your goals is not to make it into the Hall of Fame," he said. "You just kind of go out and do the best you can every week and every season."
In his career, he found Victory Lane 22 times, but perhaps most impressive was his ironman streak of 665 consecutive starts – a record that stood until 2002. He was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Great Drivers in 1998 as part of the sport’s 50th anniversary.
Labonte’s first Cup championship came in 1984 – making him the only driver to win his first two championships so far apart. He is one of only six drivers to have won premier series championships in two decades.
"I didn't plan it that way," Labonte laughed. "I really felt like when we won the championship in '84, I thought, 'This is really pretty cool.' I said, 'I think we've got a good shot at it the next year.' That next year took 12 years to finally win the second championship.
"Thanks to Rick Hendrick and the folks at Hendrick Motorsports for giving me the opportunity to drive for a great team there."
He and the rest of the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2016 will be enshrined during an induction ceremony on Jan. 22, 2016.