Labonte To Leave Gibbs

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Bobby Labonte and Joe Gibbs Racing will conclude an 11-year relationship at the end of the 2005 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season, Labonte and officials from JGR announced Nov. 7.

Labonte’s future plans, as well as a replacement driver for the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet, will be announced at a later date.

“I regret to say that this is the final year that I will be at Joe Gibbs Racing,” Labonte said. “One of the things that made this decision so difficult was thinking of all the fans that have supported me at JGR throughout the past 11 years. This relationship has lasted a long time, and I hate that it has to end. Joe Gibbs and his family gave me the opportunity of a lifetime, and I want to thank them, and all the employees at JGR, for 11 years of hard work. I will always cherish the times at JGR, and the only thing that I regret is that we didn’t win more races and or championships.

“I wish everyone at JGR continued success in the future and I want to thank J.D. (Gibbs, president of JGR) for giving me the chance to be released from my contract early and letting me pursue other opportunities.”

JGR was formed in 1991 and Dale Jarrett drove the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet from 1992-94, while Labonte has driven the car since the beginning of the 1995 season.

“My dad and I have both enjoyed a great relationship with Bobby over the past 11 years,” J.D. Gibbs said. “Without his leadership and class, Joe Gibbs Racing would not be what it is today. Bobby, Donna and the whole Labonte family will always be a very special part of JGR. We all wish him the best in the future.”

Labonte won the 2000 Winston Cup Championship and scored all 21 of his Cup victories driving for JGR in the famous green Interstate Batteries car.

“Interstate Batteries is a sponsor second to none and Norm (Chairman of Interstate) and Tommy Miller (retired president of Interstate) are a class act, and I will miss working for them,” Labonte said. “But, our friendship will continue.”

Labonte drove the Interstate Batteries car to victory lane in some of the most prestigious races on the schedule, including the Brickyard 400 and Southern 500 in 2000 and the Coca-Cola 600 in 1995.

“We have been fortunate to have Bobby represent Interstate Batteries for the past 11 years,” Norm Miller said. “He is truly a class act and made us very, very proud, not only for his success on the track, but also the tremendous way he carried himself off the track. We will certainly miss working with him, but will forever cherish the friendship with him and his family. He will always be part of the Interstate Batteries family, and will continue to be in our prayers. We wish him continued great success”

While Labonte has enjoyed an 11-year relationship with JGR and Interstate Batteries, he has also spent seven years as a teammate to 2002 Winston Cup Champion Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet for JGR.

“Tony Stewart has been a great teammate and friend for the past several years and is one of the best drivers that has come along in a long time,” Labonte said. “I wish him continued success and will always cherish our friendship.”

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