Volume I, Issue 3, Page 19

The undisputed King of stock cars, Richard Petty, did it. Now, Terry Labonte has gone and done it. Petty hit his 1000th race milestone way back in 1986 with 1000 NASCAR starts. Because Petty was the last of the longtime racers that started in the days when NASCAR ran 60 plus races a year, many thought that the 1000-start record would be unbreakable. Well, Texas Terry hit 1000, but in a slightly different way.

Terry took the green at the Banquet 400 at Kansas Speedway recently and his combined total of races in NASCAR and the International Race of Champions (IROC) hit 1000. Terry, who has the nickname of ‘The Iceman’ for his steely concentration has a career that spans four decades, the majority coming in his 845-race NEXTEL and Winston Cup Series run. He once held the ‘Iron Man’ title of consecutive races. He has also participated in the Busch Series (124 races), the Craftsman Truck Series (3), and IROC (27). During that time, Labonte won two Winston (now called NEXTEL) Cup championships in 1984 and 1996, one IROC title, 11 Busch Series races and one Craftsman Truck Series event. He also clinched the 1993 IROC championship for the late Davey Allison with his substitute effort at Michigan that year. Labonte was the first driver to record a win in all three of NASCAR's major touring series and "retired" from his brief, three-race Truck Series career after winning from the pole position at Richmond, Va., in 1995. Because of that, his lifetime average Truck Series finish is second.

Now, if you think Terry ought to press on and hit 1000 Cup starts, he would have to race almost five more full seasons to hit that mark. That’s not likely to happen as the trend in NASCAR today is for drivers to not keep racing as long as their predecessors did. It used

to be that a driver would add five years to his career by winning a race. Today, however, the trend is to get out while the gettin’s good. There are too many young drivers that have gotten to be very good at winning so, as seen in other sports, age does play into it. 

At Kansas, Labonte's No. 44 GMAC Chevrolet carried a red, white and blue retro paint scheme inspired by the No. 44 Piedmont Airlines Chevy Monte Carlo SS he drove for car owner Billy Hagan. Terry said, "I actually talked to Billy Hagan earlier this week. That paint scheme we ran in '84 brings back a lot of neat memories. We had a heck of a team back then and ran awesome every weekend. It was quite a season."

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