GREENSBORO, N.C. – Terry Labonte is one of the most storied drivers in NASCAR history.
The former Hendrick Motorsports standout known as the “Ironman” made 665 consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts – a record that stood until 2002.
Labonte also won two Sprint Cup Series championships – in 1984 and his triumphant title in 1996 with Hendrick Motorsports. With 22 victories and 361 top-10 finishes in his career, Labonte was voted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame and will be enshrined as part of the Class of 2016 next January.
“You go into each season to win races and championships,” said Labonte, who was honored during a surprise celebration at Terry Labonte Chevrolet in Greensboro, North Carolina. “But you never, ever expect to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. I was surprised, and can’t thank everyone enough. It’s really special.”
Labonte joined Hendrick Motorsports in 1994 and teamed with crew chief Gary DeHart to score three victories that first season. But Labonte’s greatness was best exemplified away from the track.
“All the guys (at Hendrick Motorsports) just loved him,” DeHart said. “Some drivers work for teams and they never even come into the shops. Terry would come in, spend time with the team, go out to lunch or dinner, provide his input – and the team would drop over backwards to do anything for him. If there was something he wanted in the car, everyone would want to chip in and help get it done. Everybody respected him.”
Labonte was sitting in a hotel room when he first learned that he had been voted into the Hall. Right away, the texts came streaming in and his phone rang off the hook. But one call was especially important to the Texas native.
“It was so cool to have (Hendrick Motorsports owner) Mr. (Rick) Hendrick give me a call when it happened,” Labonte recalled. “He offered his congratulations. We had so much fun talking about all the great stories. I couldn’t have won that second championship without Mr. Hendrick’s help and support.”