Bobby Labonte’s tough season with JTG Daugherty Racing comes to end this Sunday in the penultimate round of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. The 2000 series champion will make his final start with the team at Phoenix International Raceway, after he joined JTG prior to the 2011 season.
In 27 races, Labonte does not have a top-10 finish. A 15th-place result at the Daytona 500, the season opener, is his best result of the year and one of only four top-20 finishes.
He ranks 35th in the points standings, and if he fails to score a top-10 this Sunday in Phoenix, it will mark the second year of his 20-plus year NASCAR career where he’ll have failed to crack the top-10 (2010, and finished 31st in points).
“The last two years the team went out on their own,” Labonte said in a statement. “It was without support from being a part of a big organization and that has been tough. The choice they made to go out on their own I supported. They needed to go in that direction. The battle was still to get the team in position to go forward. We went through the trenches together to get there. At the end of the day, I was a part of the puzzle where I got to help put the pieces together where the puzzle did not fall apart. I always woke up everyday and put my best foot forward.”
The team’s 2014 driver, AJ Allmendinger, will take the reins of the No. 47 at Homestead for the season finale.
Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.
Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.