NASCAR legend and Hall of Fame Class of 2020 inductee Bobby Labonte made his debut in front of a standing-room only crowd at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C. on Saturday, competing in his first-ever modified race. Thousands of cheering fans turned out to watch Labonte race in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, driving the No. 36 Alliance Insurance Services open-wheeled modified car.
The Twin 50-lap race at Bowman Gray Stadium’s short track marked Labonte’s return to competition in the U.S. since becoming the first American NASCAR champion to join the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series in 2017. He raced full-time in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series in 2018, finishing 14th in points with 1 top-5 and 4 top-10s. At Tours in France, in what was his first outing on a European short track, the Corpus Christi, Texas native grabbed his first NWES podium finish under the checkered flag at the end of a breathtaking bumper-to-bumper battle for the win.
On Saturday, Labonte started in eighth place in the first 50-lap race of the night, and came back to finish in the top ten after getting spun out. After starting seventh in the second race, Labonte was forced to drop out after a mechanical issue with the left front A frame.
“I really enjoyed going to Bowman Gray Stadium, what a tough race track and fierce competition,” said Labonte. “For my first time there, getting a feel for the Alliance Insurance Services modified and the race track was my priority, and I think we accomplished that. Qualifying went well and we ran a pretty good lap, so I felt good since I haven’t done that in a while. We had good speed in the race, I learned a lot and I loved racing at such a legendary place.”
Labonte, as the first-ever NASCAR driver to win a championship in both the NASCAR Cup Series and in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, won 21 races at the highest level of NASCAR in the United States, conquering some of NASCAR’s crown jewels like the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, the Southern 500 at Darlington and the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis. Labonte is set to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in January 2020.
“I really appreciate the thousands of fans who came out to support me at Bowman Gray Stadium, and stayed late,” said Labonte. “They were great and made it an incredible evening.”
Breaking Limits PR