Bobby Labonte officially began his racing career at the tender age of five. He was racing quarter midgets in his home town of Corpus Christi, Texas, while most five year old boys were learning to throw a baseball. In 1978 Bobby moved up to go-karts but it was a short career. In 1979 the Labonte family headed to be with brother Terry whose NASCAR career was taking off.
In 1982, at the age of 19, Bobby Labonte got a job with Hagan Racing, his brother Terry’s team, sweeping the shop floors. He had worked his way up and was a team member in 1984 when Terry won the Winston Cup Championship. When Terry left the Hagan team Bobby was fired. By 1987 Bobby landed a job with car builder Jay Hedgecock and also began racing again. He won the track championship at Caraway.
Bobby was doing what he loved and in 1990 he ran a full Busch Grand National schedule. He took his first checkered flag in the Busch series at Bristol in 1991 and went on to finish the season with the Busch Grand National Championship title. He also made his first Winston Cup start of his career in Dover in 1991.
In 1992 the points race in the Busch series was a tight one. Joe Nemechek ended up with the title, beating Labonte by three points. It is still the closest Busch points race in history.
Bobby Labonte ran his first full Winston Cup schedule in 1993 for owner Bill Davis. Bobby got his first pole win in September at Richmond and was runner up to Jeff Gordon for Rookie of the Year.
In 1995 Bobby Labonte got a ride with Joe Gibbs racing. It proved to be a big career move. He won his first Winston Cup Race at the Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte and went on the win both the June and August races at Michigan. He finished the season tenth in points. He had wins in Atlanta in both ’96 and ’97, and in 1998 took home a checkered flag in Atlanta as well as Talladega. The 1999 season was even more successful with five wins including one a Dover, two at Pocono, and Michigan and Atlanta. The season ended with Bobby Labonte just 201 points shy of Dale Jarrett who took the Championship title.
The 2000 season gave Bobby Labonte two NASCAR firsts. He became the first driver to ever win both a Busch Grand National Championship title (1991) and a Winston Cup Championship title. He also became, along with brother Terry, the first brother duo to win a Championship title. In 34 starts in the 2000 season Bobby had four wins, 19 top-fives, and 24 top-tens.
Bobby’s 2001 season landed him in victory lane two more times and ended with a sixth place finish in the points standing. 2002 was a less impressive with only one win and a 16th place show in points, a career low since hooking up with Joe Gibbs Racing. The 2003 season was a definite improvement with new Crew Chief Michael McSwain. Labonte won two races and finished 8th in overall points.