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January 23, 2016

Terry Labonte

Charlotte, North Carolina

THE MODERATOR: You've always been introduced as a two‑time NASCAR champion. Now you can be introduced as a NASCAR Hall of Famer. What does that mean to you?
TERRY LABONTE: Well, it means an awful lot, and I'll tell you what, to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame is certainly something I never anticipated or something I certainly never expected. It's really quite an honor.
When I look around in there and I see all the guys that are in the Hall of Fame, it's just an amazing group of guys that have done so much for our sport and accomplished so much, and it really makes you feel awful fortunate to be able to be in the Hall of Fame with those guys.

Q. Terry, you said you did some short‑circuit stuff and then went over to Hendrick. How was the technology at that time in Sprint Cup when you raced for Hendrick? Nowadays you have engineers for everything. Was it a more down to earth team or already you had the resources which you have nowadays, engineers, wind tunnel testing and so on?
TERRY LABONTE: Well, you know, it's a fantastic team, an incredible operation. You know, going to drive for them, they had a lot more tools to work with than some of the other teams that I'd been with, and they were always kind of on the cutting edge as far as technology goes and things like that. Of course they had a lot of support from Chevrolet, so they had a lot of wind tunnel time and different ways to test things.
It was a real eye opener, I think, when I went over there and got to see their facility and see everything that they had, and of course it's nothing like it is today. It just has continued to grow and advance, and they always stay right on the edge of the new technology.

Q. I don't ever remember seeing you get very emotional unless you were mad at somebody on the racetrack, but it seemed like you were pretty emotional in there during your speech. What was that like?
TERRY LABONTE: Well, if I ever have to give another speech or anything like that, I'm not going to let my wife sit on the front row because I looked at her and she was crying, and I looked at my mother and she was crying, and I thought, oh, God, I'm going to cry, too. I can't look at them no more. I don't know, I wasn't anticipating that at all. I was like‑‑ but you know, my family is very excited about it, and it's quite an honor to be in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Of course my parents really sacrificed an awful lot for what they did for me growing up.
You know, my wife and I have been to a lot of races together, and I think I ran 890 races, and I think she's been to 800 of them. It was a big deal for us, really, to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Q. Did you think you were in trouble when you saw that you were following Bruton?
TERRY LABONTE: I knew that I was in trouble following Bruton. I thought to myself, oh, my God, he is hilarious. But yeah, and he's got so many great stories, and of course he had‑‑ he's done so much for our sport, and it's just amazing to see the facilities that he's built and everything. He's always been a character if you've ever been to any of his press events at any of his speedways. But yeah, I was like, how could you possibly follow this guy?

Q. Could you talk a little bit more about the AJ Foyt story? Were you really that close to quitting?
TERRY LABONTE: Yeah, I wouldn't really say I was close to quitting, but I was going to have a conversation with my parents or with my dad because I overheard him telling my mom that he went and borrowed some money to get my engine back together. I guess to him it wasn't that big a deal, but I thought to myself, both my parents worked, it was‑‑ naturally we just did this for a hobby, just for a sport, just for the fun of it. I knew it was a financial burden on them because we were starting to race at different places‑‑ the places we went to race at, you had to buy eight new tires a night to be competitive at. We'd buy eight new tires a night. I was going to have a conversation with my dad, and I was like, hey, maybe we need to start doing something else that doesn't maybe cost as much, and even thought about that possibility of having to get a job.
But it just so happened that was Memorial Day weekend, and it was a true story. AJ won the 500, and he had‑‑ was on the news, all the sports news that night, and I don't remember the question, you know, that the reporter asked him, but I remember the answer, and it was almost like sitting there and you go to church some day and you think the preacher is talking about you, and I was sitting there, and I thought, man, he's talking to me, and I just took it all in, and I said, well‑‑ and I never had that conversation with my dad, and it is so bizarre that‑‑ I don't know if it was Tuesday or Wednesday that same week when I got the call from the track promoter at Houston, and the next Saturday night we met Billy Hagan and he started sponsoring our car. So it was just really, really incredible.
Just one of those deals. I often wondered what would have happened if we would have gone to the race and if we wouldn't have had engine problems. Would I ever have got the chance to meet him or have this opportunity.

Q. Terry, you mentioned your rowdy fans are here. I'm wondering do you know how many fans made it here from Corpus, and how is the honor being received back there in Texas?
TERRY LABONTE: Well, I've got a lot of fans down there, and I think about 25 of them came out here for this event. They were all excited. I've had the reservations for I don't know how long. Just, gosh, for‑‑ whenever it was announced that I was going to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. They got their rooms and reservations about a week after that. It was really pretty cool that they all came out here for that. Just thank goodness they all came a day early because of the weather.

Q. (Inaudible).
TERRY LABONTE: Oh, it's incredible. The Corpus Christi paper just did an incredible article down there. And it was very well‑done and some friends of mine sent me some copies of it, and they did a very nice job on it. I've got a lot of fans in Corpus, down there, of course, and we go down there once a year and do a big charity event, so we've got a lot of friends and fans down there.
Anyways, it's pretty exciting because those people are really excited.

Q. The picture of you sitting in Bristol wrecked is one of the iconic pictures as far as that track goes. I wonder if you could talk about that and any other races that stick out over the course of your career.
TERRY LABONTE: Well, there's‑‑ I think there's a lot of races that kind of stand out over your career. Definitely probably two of them at Bristol do, where I came down to pretty exciting finishes there, one of them I came out on top and one of them I didn't. But I think the race that really means the most to me is the fact that‑‑ actually my brother won at Atlanta and I won the championship that weekend, and that really is probably one of my most memorable weekends, I guess.

Q. Terry, you finished by saying being a two‑time champion is great, but it's going to be a whole lot better being introduced as a NASCAR Hall of Famer. I'm sure it's somewhat simplicity, but why does this honor mean so much?
TERRY LABONTE: Man, it's just an honor to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. When you look at all the guys that have been in there and the accomplishments that they've had and the things that they've done, it's really quite a class to be with when you think about guys like Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough and Bruton Smith. Not all of them are drivers, but it's really pretty special being in the Hall of Fame.
You know, I don't think‑‑ it doesn't matter what career you're in or what sport you're in or whatever, your goal is to never be in the Hall of Fame. You don't start out saying I want to be in the Hall of Fame someday. It's something that, you know, when you look back and you kind of race from week to week and season to season and you win some races and win some championships and when it's all over and said and done with and you're selected to be in the Hall of Fame, then that's quite an accomplishment. But it's something that you never‑‑ it's never a goal of yours, but it's something to be awful proud of.
THE MODERATOR: Terry, thank you so much. Congratulations on just a wonderful career in NASCAR and this honor is much deserving. We wish you all the best.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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