As if the racing season at Bowman Gray Stadium needed any more storylines with two weeks remaining, former NASCAR driver Bobby Labonte announced Wednesday night that he plans to race Saturday night in the twin 50-lap races in the Modified Division.
Labonte, who will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame next year, told speedsport.com that he will be driving in the first Modified race of his career.
“I have been to Bowman Gray a few times, watching and testing this summer, and it’s been a lot of fun,” he told speedsport.com. “It reminds me of some of the racing I did before Cup racing. The Modified races are really competitive, and the teams and drivers are serious and talented. I’m sure they will make it tough on me, but I am looking forward to strapping on my helmet and giving them a run for it in the No. 36 Alliance Insurance Services car on Saturday night.”
Labonte, 55, a native of Corpus Christi, Texas, is returning to competition in the United States after leaving two years ago to join the NASCAR Whelen Euro Tour. He raced full time in the Euro series last year and finished 14th in the points, with one top-five and four top-10s.
Loren Pinilis, the media relations director at Bowman Gray, said that he had seen the news about Labonte coming to race at the stadium but couldn’t confirm whether Labonte will be there.
“My understanding is that he’s already been at the Stadium a few times practicing and testing,” Pinilis said. “And I think that he recognizes what so many people already know, that Bowman Gray Stadium is such an integral part of NASCAR history and it’s such a blast to race at. Such fierce competition and racing in front of those great crowds, I think Bobby Labonte — he seems to be attracted to that. So we’re eager to see what happens.”
Labonte is the first driver to win a championship in both the NASCAR Cup Series and the Xfinity Series. He won 21 races at the NASCAR Cup level, including the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte, the Southern 500 in Darlington, S.C., and the Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis.
“If you look at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, I would tell you 70, 80, 90% of inductees have had some connection to Bowman Gray Stadium,” Pinilis said. “We were blessed to just have Leonard Wood out just a few days ago, actually, presenting some trophies and reminiscing about his days at Bowman Gray Stadium.
“So it’s been something that’s been going on for 71 years and we’re just excited for what’s to come.”