Labonte Uncertain About His Future
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on November 9, 2013 | 12:19 P.M. EST
Bobby Labonte says he would be open to driving in the Camping World Truck Series next year after 22 seasons in Sprint Cup. (Photo: Getty Images)
AVONDALE, Ariz. - Former champion Bobby Labonte doesn’t know where or if he’ll race next season, but as he prepares for his final Sprint Cup race of the season Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway, he says he still wants to drive.
Labonte will not compete for JTG Daugherty next week at Homestead-Miami Speedway, making Sunday his final race of the season. AJ Allmendinger, who will take over the ride next season, will drive the car at Homestead.
Labonte would like to remain in Cup but finds the idea of racing in the Camping World Truck Series intriguing.
“That would be something I probably wouldn’t have thought of three or four years ago,’’ said the 49-year-old Labonte, who is finishing his 22nd year in Cup.
Should Labonte go to the Truck series, it could give him the opportunity to become the first driver to win a championship in each of NASCAR’s top three series. He won the Cup title in 2000 and a Nationwide crown in 1991.
“It would be cool to win a truck championship,’’ Labonte said. “If you get with the right team and right attitude toward it, I think anything is possible.’’
Trucks would be just an option for Labonte, who also would consider a Nationwide ride if there wasn’t something suitable in Cup.
Labonte, who has 21 Cup wins and 203 top-10 finishes in 717 starts, admits he’d be willing to go with a smaller team to help it. With being a former champion, he could be inviting to some teams because of the past champion’s provisional.
“If its an opportunity that you can make a difference for somebody else, I like that challenge,’’ he said.
If he doesn’t find something worthwhile and this is the end for Labonte, could he be satisfied?
“I’m not going to sit here and say it’s all good and don’t worry about it because you worry about it,’’ Labonte said of his 2014 plans. “You want to to do it. You don’t want to say if that’s it, it’s OK. It’s not OK, but it might be reality. I don’t know. You’d be disappointed for a while. I’m sure, just like everybody else has told me, you’ll get over it. You just don’t know.’’
With Labonte’s status for next season uncertain, Mark Martin all but saying he won’t race in 2014 and Jeff Burton possibly only running a part-time schedule next season, fans could see less of these favorites.
Those three drivers have combined to win 82 Cup races and make 2,286 Cup starts.
Burton joked that they won’t be out of the spotlight even if they stop driving.
“We are going to go film a movie about three old guys in (Las) Vegas,’’ he said, laughing.
He admits there’s a place for all three in the sport after their driving career ends.
“I find it hard to believe that we won’t still be around in some form or fashion,’’ Burton said. “Now the chances that any of us are going to be running for a Cup championship next year are obviously next to nothing. But Mark Martin has a tremendous amount of value of being able to have a positive impact on this sport in some form or fashion. So does Bobby Labonte, and I feel that about myself as well.’’
Motor Racing Network – "The Voice of NASCAR" – will have live coverage of Sunday’s AdvoCare 500 from Phoenix International Raceway at 2 p.m. (ET), with live streaming at MRN.com.
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