Could Sunday at Talladega be ‘Texas Terry’ Labonte’s final career Sprint Cup race?

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With his 58th birthday a month away (Nov. 16), Terry Labonte will compete in the 890th and potentially final race of his long and storied Sprint Cup career in Sunday’s Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

For the fourth time this season, the two-time Cup champ (1984, 1996) will drive the No. 32 Go FAS Ford owned by veteran NASCAR crew chief and NBC Sports TV analyst Frank Stoddard.

The car, sponsored by C&J Energy Services, will have a decidedly retro look to it, reminiscent of the way Labonte’s race car looked in his first career Cup start back in 1978 (at Darlington), nearly 37 years ago, as well as commemorating the look of his first and second Cup championship cars.

Check out the video below of the unique paint scheme:

While Labonte won’t officially utter the “R” word (“retire”), C&J Energy Services founder/CEO Josh Comstock gave an indication of Labonte’s future in a team media release.

“Even in the early days in Corpus Christi, Terry was already a legend,” Comstock said. “His career has been truly phenomenal and C&J is honored to have been part of Terry’s team the last few years.

“From a company standpoint, it was a great association. On a personal level, I am proud to know him. We thank him for giving C&J employees, customers and race fans many thrilling memories. We wish him the best in the future in whatever he decides to do.”

Stoddard also hinted that this may be Labonte’s final Cup race as well.

“Terry was an integral part of FAS Lane Racing for the past several years,” Stoddard said. “He helped the team secure sponsorship with C&J Energy Services in 2010 and it continues today.

“He is an extraordinarily honest man, who has always given 110 percent of himself to this race team. When he gives his word, he honors every commitment he has made.

“He has had a storied career, that has included championships and numerous victories and I am honored to have been a small part of it. I am proud to call him a friend.”

Labonte announced prior to this year’s Daytona 500 that it would be his last start in the Great American Race. And while there are no official ceremonies planned for what may potentially be Labonte’s 61st and last career start at Talladega and potentially in NASCAR racing as a whole, it’s as good of a time as any to commemorate the man and his legend.

Known by the colorful nicknames of “Iceman” and “Texas Terry” (like younger brother Bobby, he hails from Corpus Christi, Texas), the elder Labonte brother gave late Cup team owner Billy Hagan his only championship in 1984.

Labonte then earned the second Cup crown for team owner Rick Hendrick in 1996, one year after Jeff Gordon won his first of four Cup titles in 1995.

Labonte has earned 22 wins, 182 top-five and 361 top-10 finishes in his illustrious career.

He was nominated for the 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame class but did not receive enough votes. But rest assured that Texas Terry’s spot in the Hall is coming in due time, perhaps for the 2016 class.

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Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023; leaves open possibility of returning at Ganassi

Jimmie Johnson race 2023
Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images
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Though he remains uncertain of his plans for next year, Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023, scaling back his schedule after running a full 17-race NTT IndyCar Series season.

“This was a difficult choice for me, but in my heart, I know it’s the right one,” Johnson said in a statement Monday morning. “I’m not exactly sure what the next chapter holds, but if an opportunity comes along that makes sense, I will consider it. I still have a bucket list of racing events I would like to take part in. Competing at this level in IndyCar has been such a great experience.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better team to race for than Chip Ganassi and Chip Ganassi Racing. Everyone worked extremely hard for the last two seasons, pushing to get the best performances out of me every single week. The support from my crew and teammates Dario (Franchitti), Scott (Dixon), Tony (Kanaan), Marcus (Ericsson) and Alex (Palou) went above and beyond anything I could have ever asked for.”

WHAT’S NEXT FOR JIMMIE JOHNSON: An analysis of his racing options for the 2023 season

Driving the No. 48 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing, Johnson ranked 21st in the 2022 points standings with a career-best fifth place July 24 at Iowa Speedway.

After running only road and street courses for Ganassi in 2021, the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion added ovals this year. In his Indy 500 debut, he qualified 12th and finished 28th after a late crash.

“I do have a desire to go back (to IndyCar), it’s just at this point, I know what’s required to do a full schedule, and I don’t have that in me,” Johnson told AP. “I don’t have that passion that I need for myself to commit myself to a full season.”

That leaves open the concept of Johnson returning part time with Ganassi, perhaps exclusively on ovals.

“We are fully supportive of Jimmie,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a statement. “He has been a valued member of our team and if we can find a way to continue working together, we would like to do so.”

During IndyCar’s season finale race weekend, Johnson told reporters Sept. 9 that he planned to explore his options with wife Chandra and daughters Evie and Lydia. Johnson told the Associated Press that his family is considering living abroad for a year or two, and he has toyed with the idea of running in the World Endurance Championship sports car series because of its international locales.

Johnson hasn’t ruled out IndyCar, IMSA sports cars or even a cameo in NASCAR next year. Since retiring from full-time NASCAR after the 2020 season, he has entered the endurance races of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac (including Saturday’s Petit Le Mans season finale). Johnson also wants to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and is a prime candidate for the Garage 56 entry (a joint project of NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports).

Johnson told the AP he is interested in becoming the latest driver to try “The Double” and run both the Coca-Cola 600 and Indy 500 on the same day (the most recent was Kurt Busch in 2014).

“You know me and endurance sports, and ‘The Double’ sounds awesome,” Johnson, a four-time Coke 600 winner, told AP. “I’ve always had this respect for the guys who have done ‘The Double.’ I would say it is more of a respect thing than a bucket-list item, and I’d love to put some energy into that idea and see if I can pull it off.”

It is less likely that he would return to IMSA’s endurance events because its top prototype series is being overhauled, limiting the amount of inventory available for the new LMDh cars in the rebranded GTP division.

Johnson has confirmed that he would retain primary sponsor Carvana, which has backed him in IndyCar the past two years. He revealed his decision Monday during the last episode of “Reinventing the Wheel,” Carvana Racing’s eight-part docuseries about his 2023 season.

“I’m thankful for the partnership with a company like Carvana for allowing me to take this journey in IndyCar, for seeing the value in our partnership and being open to future opportunities together,” Johnson said. “They have truly showed me that there are no finish lines in life. Along with Carvana, The American Legion, Ally, cbdMD and Frank August were there every step of the way, and I couldn’t have done it without all of them. Most importantly — and the true rockstars in all of this –my family, Chani, Evie and Lydia. They have always allowed me to chase my dreams, and we are all just really excited about what the future holds for all of us. I have enjoyed every minute of these last two years.”

Said Carvana co-founder Ryan Keeton: “During the past two years, Jimmie Johnson has been so amazing to collaborate with. Our team admires his passion, hard work and commitment to continuous improvement while also having fun, and we look forward to continuing to support him next year in this new chapter.”