New Beginning For Labonte

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Bobby Labonte's decision to join Hall of Fame Racing took many by surprise, but the former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion believes the move gives him an opportunity to return to victory lane in 2009.

While most everyone believed Labonte would sign with the new Earnhardt Ganassi Racing team after his departure from Petty Enterprises, things didn't work out that way.

Although he was in heavy conversation with EGR about taking the wheel of the team's No. 8 ride, negotiations appeared to change late in the game.

"Nothing was sure just yet, that everybody was not 100% wrong, i mean it just wasn't 100% right," Labonte said of the process. "I figured if I stopped and said stop talking or writing it would be worse than not having it out there anyway. I did learn those lessons. For being in the sport that long I learned that because if nobody's talking about you, you're nothing.

"Even though the talk might not have been 100% accurate at least it was talk. Some press is better than no press, we all know that. I couldn't really say that it was, like a said, 100% wrong because not all of it was."

But what was wrong in Labonte's mind was the struggle for sponsorship EGR faced and the prospects of not having full funding for the No. 8 ride or others in its stable.

"I think it's a made-for-sitcom tv show, horror movie and a drama all in one," Labonte laughed at what transpired over a few week period. "It was kind of wild. Maybe over some period of time I could tell you but not right now. It was just kind of tough.

"The things that I probably learned out of this whole deal, was in talking to Chip. When I did talk to him, I just respect him way more than when I just knew him. That was good. What a neat guy. That was fun to get to know him better. But at the same time this is second-to-none the greatest opportunity that I could have. It was funny, he called it. This is all good."

So rather than spending the next phase of his career with a Chevrolet team, Labonte now finds himself behind the wheel of a Ford with Yates power, thanks to HOF's new alignment with the Yates Racing Team.

"When you chase them on Sunday's you kind of wonder what they have got," Labonte said. "Just to be hooked up with Yates Engines and the affilation they have with Jack's group as far as chassis' and stuff like that. It's going to be great for me to understand more about what goes on and what takes place.

"I drove my first Ford in my first year in the Cup Series in 1993. This is a great opportunity for me. I guess I didn't burn a bridge when that deal went down when Bill changed over to Pontiacs."

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