Bobby Labonte; Schrader to Set Milestones at Michigan

Brandon CaldwellCorrespondent IAugust 17, 2012

Ken Schrader and Bobby Labonte will both be making milestone starts at Michigan this weekend.
Ken Schrader and Bobby Labonte will both be making milestone starts at Michigan this weekend.Jason Smith/Getty Images

Two veteran NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers will make milestone starts at this weekend's Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

Bobby Labonte will be making career start number 677, which will put him 15th on NASCAR's all-time starts list, passing the late-great, Dale Earnhardt.

In a career that has spanned from 1993 'til now, Bobby has 21 wins and is the 2000 Series champion. His win percentage all-time is 3.11%. Over those twenty seasons, Bobby has been a class act and a great ambassador for the sport of NASCAR.

I remember meeting Bobby Labonte in his rookie season in 1993, and I was only four years old. I said to him, "See you later, alligator." Bobby replied with "in a while, crocodile." I thought that was the coolest thing.

It's that reason alone why I fell in love with racing.

Sixteen years later was a long while, but I did meet him again in 2009. As a 20-year-old now, I told the Corpus Christi, Texas native that he made me a race fan forever on that moment back in 1993. It put a smile on his face, and he told me that I made his day. Not many series champions would be as humble as Bobby Labonte.

Labonte's career will continue into the 2013 season, and hopefully more milestones are to come for the 48-year-old driver.

Ken Schrader is also making a milestone start.

The 57-year-old driver, will roll off in FAS Lane Racing's #32 Ford at Michigan this weekend. It will be the 749th time Ken Schrader will fire the engine of a Sprint Cup Series car, passing Sterling Marlin for tenth all-time on the starts list.

Schrader didn't get started in Sprint Cup until 1985 and made five starts for his friend Elmo Langley. In 1986, Schrader landed a full-time ride for Junie Donlavey. In 1988, Schrader got the ride for Rick Hendrick and drove there through the 1996 season.

Ken ran full-time through the 2006 season. Since 2007, he's run part-time, and he didn't run at all in 2009.

Schrader has also been a great ambassador for the sport of NASCAR. His smiling face can be seen for miles. He's one of those guys who comes on the TV and makes you automatically stop your conversation to see what funny thing Ken Schrader may be thinking.

His four wins all came with Hendrick Motorsports. He hasn't won a race since 1991, had a top-5 since 1998 and had a top-10 since 2006.

Even with those stats, we'll be seeing Ken Schrader's name pop up in NASCAR, as long as Ken Schrader wants it to. His veteran presence and easy going personality make him a fit for any small team looking for a driver to fill in for a few weeks.

NASCAR could look for two better guys to be making milestones this week, but they wouldn't find them.