Bobby Labonte joins TRG Motorsports
Bobby Labonte has signed a seven-race deal to drive the TRG Motorsports No. 71 TaxSlayer.com Chevrolet Impala SS, starting with this weekend's Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The 2000 Sprint Cup champion aims to keep his streak of 568 NASCAR Sprint Cup starts, dating back to the 1993 Daytona 500, intact following his departure earlier this week from Yates Racing, where he gave way to Erik Darnell.
"This whole thing came together over the last 24 hours," Labonte said. "Slugger (Richard "Slugger" Labbe, TRG Motorsports crew chief) called me yesterday morning and had an idea and wondered if I would be interested or not. I had some openings I wasn't planning on, so it just kind of worked out. I am just trying to go to the rest of the races full-tilt. I talked to Kevin (Buckler TRG Motorsports team principal) a couple of times yesterday and he seems very committed and I think it will work out for both of us."
"I have run the Daytona Prototypes in the Grand-Am Series a couple of times. I have seen the TRG group at the racetrack. I have seen Kevin and his crowd of Porsches sitting there, which is really impressive. I know he came into the truck series last year. This year they moved up to the Sprint Cup Series. They have done well with the resources they have. The people that I have talked with have a lot of respect for Kevin and the team, because they are doing the most with the limited amount of resources they have.
"I have seen a lot of guys come into the sport and spend a lot of money, but they don't last long. Kevin and his group are taking the right approach. There is no waste of money and they plan to be here a while, which is healthy for the team and a smart way to do things."
"Slugger worked with my brother Terry years ago when we had our Busch team," Labonte added. "Terry and I had a team and Slugger worked on Terry's car. He worked at our shop in High Point, so I have known him for a long time."
Buckler said that he jumped at the chance to land a driver of Labonte's stature.
"When we heard that Bobby would be available we got in touch with him to explore the scenarios," Buckler said. "Bobby is such an icon in the sport and has so much experience to lend to a new team like ours. We have a strong nucleus of guys with good chemistry and I think Bobby will fit right in. We will put him in good equipment with a committed and super competitive team of guys and we'll see what happens. I think he will shine.
"One of the things we have learned in our first year in the Sprint Cup Series is that sponsors and fans have very strong connections to the series' most popular drivers," Buckler added. "Bobby brings an impressive resume of performance on the track and off. We are looking forward to our first race together in Atlanta and to seeing what the remainder of the season will bring."
Buckler indicated that the benching of Gilliland was temporary.
"I have the utmost respect and appreciation for what David Gilliland and TRG Motorsports has done together this year," Buckler said. "He performed behind the wheel and was the consummate professional and a great guy. I know he has some terrific opportunities coming up with several top teams. We maintain our relationship with David and he will be in our car again before the season is over."