NASCAR & Auto Racing

Former NASCAR champion Bobby Labonte set to join NASCAR’s elite 500 club

Bobby Labonte will reach a career milestone Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway, where he is scheduled to start his 500th race in NASCAR’s top stock car series.

Labonte will join active drivers Ricky Rudd, Bill Elliott, Dale Jarrett, Mark Martin, Kyle Petty and Michael Waltrip in reaching the mark. The 43-year-old Labonte, the 2000 series champion, is the youngest active driver to hit 500 starts.

With Rudd sitting out the Richmond race with a separated shoulder, Labonte will also become the only driver in the elite group to start every race this season.

“I guess I started to think about being able to make 500 starts when I saw Terry do it,” Bobby said, referring to his brother. “He did it, and I began thinking that was something that was very possible.

“I’ve been fortunate in my career, and it’s pretty special to have this opportunity this weekend. Terry has over 800 starts and Kyle has over 800, too. I’m going to try to catch them.”

Labonte, driving for Petty Enterprises, has scored three consecutive top-15 finishes since Doug Rudolph replaced Paul Andrews as his crew chief.

“Our confidence is pretty high after the past few weeks,” Labonte said. “Doug has come in and raised the bar. The team is pretty strong right now. We have momentum and we’re still riding that going into this weekend. There are a lot of good things happening that we need to continue.”