Report: Terry Labonte interested in buying Phoenix Racing — could brother Bobby be far behind?

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Terry Labonte Racing? How about Labonte Brothers Racing?

Both have a pretty nice ring to them, don’t they?

And one of those names or something similar could soon become reality amid a report by The Associated Press on Thursday that two-time Sprint Cup champion Terry Labonte may be interested in purchasing Phoenix Racing from current owner James Finch.

Finch is looking to sell his team before he’s forced to shut it down permanently due to lack of funding and sponsorship.

And one of the potential suitors to purchase the team is the elder Labonte brother.

“James been trying to sell that thing for a long time and Terry told me about it,” younger brother Bobby Labonte said Thursday at Daytona International Speedway, where he was preparing for Saturday’s Coke Zero 400. “I hope Terry can do it.”

While it’s unlikely at this point that Bobby would join Terry as a co-owner, there’s no question that the elder brother is giving the purchase a great deal of thought.

“I think Terry would like to do it, but you’ve got to get money to feed the cow,” Bobby Labonte said.

There reportedly are at least two other individuals interested in buying the team, according to the AP report: Harry Scott, co-owner of Nationwide Series team Turner Scott Motorsports, and an unidentified potential buyer.

Terry Labonte was apparently not available for comment.

While Finch has had difficulty getting enough funding to keep the team operational and competitive, he has some of the best cars and equipment available, purchased or leased from Hendrick Motorsports.

That in itself would be a significant lure to anyone seeking to purchase the team’s assets and equipment.

Terry Labonte, 56, stopped racing full-time after the 2004 season, but has continued to run a limited part-time Sprint Cup schedule, including three of the 17 races held thus far in 2013.

But having a team to call his own may be a lure the Corpus Christi, Texas native can’t resist.

“I think he has a good feeling about things, about people,” Bobby Labonte said. “He enjoys it. He enjoys racing.

“You may not look at him and think that, but he likes being a part of successful things and helping people out, whether it’s having 20 employees or having a successful business. That’s just how he is.”

Terry Labonte won the then-Winston Cup championship in 1984 and 1996. He has 22 career wins in the Cup series and has earned nearly $45 million in 36 years and 884 race starts on the Cup circuit. Bobby Labonte won the Winston Cup crown in 2000 and has 21 wins in 706 starts over 22 years on the Cup circuit.

Could younger brother Bobby potentially drive for his older brother? That certainly seems like an intriguing possibility, especially since Bobby Labonte will miss up to five races this season for JTG Daugherty Racing as A.J. Allmendinger fills in to give the team a different driver perspective and input. Labonte did not race in last week’s event at Kentucky Speedway, breaking a streak of 704 consecutive starts, second-longest among active drivers behind Jeff Gordon’s 706 consecutive starts.

With Bobby Labonte in the last season of his current contract with JTG Daugherty, working for his brother may not be a bad idea. But the younger Labonte hedged about the possibility.

“That might be a little tough because we are different in a lot of ways,” Bobby Labonte said of racing for his brother. “He would do anything he could to help me, just like I’d do anything to help him. But there’s more to it than that.”

Cooper solidifies PWC GT presence with Callaway Corvette

Callaway, Cooper, Gill. Photo: PWC
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Pirelli World Challenge could use a “face” of the series from a driving standpoint, and American Michael Cooper is a good candidate to fill that role for 2018.

Cooper, 27, has won PWC Touring Car, GTS and, most recently the SprintX GT titles within the series and has quickly blossomed into one of the series’ top GT stars.

It’s been a rapid rise for the Syosset, N.Y. native, entering into a world filled with series stars and champions such as Johnny O’Connell, Patrick Long, Alvaro Parente and a host of others.

But under O’Connell’s tutelage, Cooper admirably filled the rather gaping shoes vacated by Andy Pilgrim at Cadillac Racing, steering the Cadillac ATS-V.R to multiple race wins in the last two years – including a sweep of this year’s season finale weekend at Sonoma.

Cooper and Jordan Taylor were the model of consistency in SprintX this year, winning once at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and surviving contact at Circuit of The Americas to take that title.

With Cadillac withdrawing its ATS-V.R program at the end of the year though, Cooper was left a free agent for 2018. Fortunately with one door closed another opened, in the form of the GM-blessed but full Callaway Competition USA effort with its Callaway Corvette C7 GT3-R that will come Stateside next year. Cooper and Daniel Keilwitz will be in the team’s two cars for the full season; the car was fully unveiled last week at the PRI Show in Indianapolis.

The Callaway is a proven commodity in Europe but couldn’t run in the U.S. unless the path was cleared by one of GM’s factory programs to end a direct, potential head-to-head competition.

Moving from the Cadillac to the Callaway Corvette should be a natural transition, Cooper said last week.

“It worked out incredibly well that GM decided to allow Calloway to run the car in the United States and it created an opportunity for me that wouldn’t have been there otherwise,” he told NBC Sports. “I talked to a lot of other GT teams and at the end of the day, I felt like this was the best direction for me to be competitive next year and to also continue furthering my career with General Motors.”

Indeed Cooper has graduated from the Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R in GTS to the Cadillac and now to the Callaway Corvette. Cooper hailed the Cadillac team for what they did for his career growth.

“Working with Cadillac Racing has been instrumental in developing my abilities both on and off the track,” he said. “So I’m definitely a much more well-rounded driver now and have a lot of experience in the World Challenge GT field, so I kind of know what to expect going into that first race and going into that first corner in St. Pete.”

As noted, the car’s success in Europe means it’s a well-oiled machine by the time Reeves Callaway has worked with PWC to bring it Stateside next year. And as Cooper explained, discussions had been underway for a bit of time to ensure his presence in this car and team.

“I think the car is going to be extremely capable. It’s already won championships and races in Europe. I think, in bringing it over here, we’re going to hit the ground running straight away,” he said.

“Calloway had wanted me to come drive for them in July or August. We always kept in touch since then, and there was a lot of work trying to put together a program before they decided that they were going to do a fully fledged factory program. So once they made that decision, I think the pieces were kind of in place already, and the conversations had been had to be able to say ‘You’re going to be our guy.’”

December is late for IMSA programs to get finalized, but it’s relatively early for PWC, with the season not starting until mid-March in St. Petersburg. An extensive testing program should follow, as Callaway establishes its U.S. base and infrastructure.

“It’s definitely early for a Pirelli World Challenge program to be announced in December when we start racing in March. So that’s very good,” he said. “But, the team has a lot of work ahead of them in terms of getting infrastructure set up here in the United States, because a lot of their racing program has been in Europe. So, there will be a testing program, but they have to get the infrastructure in place first. But, we’ll be well prepared for St. Pete, I’m certain of it.

“Last year was the first year when I could sit back, kick my feet up, and know what I was doing next year. So, to be able to have everything done and be able to announce it this early on makes my life less stressful and now I can just focus on preparing myself and my team for next year.”