NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Bobby Labonte will be making his first start at Franklin County Speedway since 1984 when the SMART Modified Tour invades the 3/8-mile bullring in Callaway, Virginia on Saturday evening.
Labonte, 56, from Corpus Christi, Texas, has been competing full-time in the SMART Modified Tour where he sits fourth in points heading into the Hannabass & Rowe Collision Center Kenny Minter Classic 110. His best finish so far this season is a runner-up, which was recorded in a thrilling race at South Carolina’s Florence Motor Speedway earlier this season.
“I think I raced at Franklin County maybe twice in the mid-80s,” Labonte said. “There was a picture on Twitter the other day. I don’t remember the exact year and haven’t been there since. We’ll be back in a few days. I haven’t seen anything about the track other than pictures. It’s a fast little short track.”
Labonte expects tire management to be the biggest factor in Saturday night’s race at the gritty, high-banked short track nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Callaway, Virginia.
“Obviously, raced there many years ago, I know the Modified series went there last year with a different tire package,” Labonte stated. “3/8-mile short track, banking, you know, I just think it’s going to be pretty cool. Tires will wear out so you have to manage your tires. That’s what’s going to make it fun, where you actually have to manage your car and tires more than anything else. That’s going to be a key ingredient.”
Labonte’s races at Franklin County Speedway in 1984 came in the early stages of his illustrious racing career which earned him a spot in the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2020. He won the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship in 1991 and moved up to the NASCAR Cup Series in 1993. In 1995, he scored his first career NASCAR Cup Series win in the Coca-Cola 600 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, and went on to win the series championship in 2000 driving for Joe Gibbs Racing. In all, Labonte’s career includes 21 NASCAR Cup Series victories, 10 wins in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, a victory in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, and three IROC wins.
He’s hoping to add a SMART Modified Tour victory to that list of accolades and believes he can.
“We’ve been competitive every race we’ve been to,” Labonte said. “We’ve been in the top-three, top-five, at some point every race. I feel like we can hopefully get up there, do the same, be competitive, and have a shot to win. I don’t know who is coming but I think it’s going to be a pretty good field. I did not grow up racing Modifieds, so to be able to race against these guys and be competitive has been really cool.”
Labonte has enjoyed his time in the SMART Modified Tour so far.
“I think it’s really good, positive,” Labonte remarked. “People are getting more excited about it. I know we’ll take a little break when Bowman Gray Stadium runs. It’s great racing, the cars are fun, fun, fun to drive and I believe we’ve got a good group of competitors and hopefully adding people as the year goes on.”
Labonte will drive the no. 25 Cookout car in the SMART Modified Tour race. Along with the 110 lap Modified race, Saturday’s Kenny Minter Classic 110 will also feature twin-20 lap races for the Stock 4 division and a 50 lap Any Car race. Feature racing will go green at 5:30 p.m. and tickets are available at the gate on race day for $20 for adults, kids 10 and under get in free.
For more information on the SMART Modified Tour visit their website at southernmodified.com or their Facebook page. For more information on Franklin County Speedway visit their website at www.FCSpeedway.com or follow them on Facebook or call 276.613.4208.