I know it may be hard to believe for fans who watch the Allstate 400 and the other four races the #08 Toyota competed in last year, but behind the wheel of that car was "Texas" Terry Labonte, the two time series champion.
Terry Labonte, the brother of current competitor Bobby Labonte, has run a partial schedule every year since announcing his retirement from full-time competition after the 2004 season.
For '05 and '06, Labonte was running for Hendrick Motorsports in a fifth car for part of the season.
After 2006, it was believe Terry was officially going to retire for good.
But in 2007, a struggling Michael Waltrip Racing team hired him for the two road courses and Indianapolis.
2008 was sort of a resurgence for Terry Labonte. He was hired by Petty Enterprises to run the #45 car when Kyle Petty went to broadcast. Terry seemed to have life again.
Three top-20 finishes in a car that wasn't up to par with its competitors.
Last year Labonte ran six races. The Daytona 500 with PRISM Motorsports, and five more races for Carter-Simo Racing.
It was painful to watch the 1984 & '96 Champion put around, sometimes starting and parking, other times fans wishing he did.
Which brings us to 2010. Terry Labonte stated last season that he wants to get as much racing in the new car as possible.
That means Terry wants to race, and if you're Robby Gordon, you're pulling all your strings.
Gordon's #7 Toyota sits just NINE points behind 35th place Kevin Conway's #37 car in owner's points.
Robby Gordon is one of two owner drivers left in Sprint Cup Racing. For the last few years he's made it work.
Hiring Labonte would make sense for Gordon. No one would hire Terry in the first five races because brother Bobby, the 2000 series champion, had the past champion's provisional rights over Terry for being the more recent champion.
Now Bobby's #71 TRG Motorsports team is in, and Terry is next in line.
Robby Gordon's qualifying efforts have just been awful. If he wasn't in the top-35 he would only make about ten races a year.
So hiring Labonte would be the smartest thing Robby could do. Although Terry hasn't ran there since 2004, the track hasn't changed one bit.
Terry has 27 top 10 finishes in 53 starts at the circuit's smallest track.
Labonte would be able to focus on race trim the whole weekend, a big plus for Robby's team...and only being nine points out, Robby can't miss this one—look what happened to Mike Bliss.
Terry's experience and know-how, and Robby's organization, would be a good fit to put Gordon's team where it needs to be.
And with these teams going back and forth, and being fully funded, expect to see "Texas" Terry's face a lot more.
I know I'm one fan that won't have a problem with it!
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