Labonte Named Top Driver Surprise

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Bobby Labonte’s first NASCAR Winston Cup championship has earned the consistent veteran the Driver of the Year Award.

Labonte’s championship was fueled by four wins, 18 top-five finishes and 23 top-10 finishes. He also captured three poles and a win in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in August. Labonte finished the year with almost $4 million in winnings.

Along with his NASCAR success, Labonte won his first International Race of Champions race at Talladega Superspeedway in April.

Seven members of a 16-member panel of motorsports writers and broadcasters from across the United States voted named Labonte as the top driver. World of Outlaws champion Steve Kinser received three votes, as did NHRA funny champion John Force, the 1996 driver of the year.

Labonte won the Driver of the Year award despite not winning any of the quarterly titles by the panel. Those went to NASCAR drivers Mark Martin and Rusty Wallace, Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Montoya and Labonte's teammate, Tony Stewart.

Labonte drives the No. 18 Interstate Pontiac for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Other vote-getters were Montoya, who got two votes, and CART FedEx Championship Series titleholder Gil de Ferran, who received one vote.

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