Getting to know NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Bobby Labonte

 

Getting to know NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Bobby Labonte

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Published in Sprint Cup Series News
Thursday, 02 February 2012 16:45
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Getting to know NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Bobby Labonte Getty Images

Sure he’s won 21 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races and not to mention the 2000 championship, but who is Bobby Labonte?

From a brand perspective, we do know he drinks Coca-Cola, drives a Toyota Tundra, races a Toyota Camry, uses Kingsford Charcoal to cook his BUBBA burger with Bush’s Baked Beans on the side, uses SCOTT paper towels, cleans up with Clorox cleaning products, has a REESE Towpower hitch and Highland SportWing bike rack, but what else?

For starters, he’s a family man. He married the love of his life Donna on March 29, 1991. Together they have a daughter named Madison who is 14 years old. Occasionally, Madison follows her dad around the circuit, but during the off season the shoe was on the other foot. Labonte was traveling to see her compete in volleyball tournaments. The Labontes also have a son. Tyler is 17 years old and towers over his father. His interests are politics and he’s in the process of obtaining his pilot’s license while determining which college he will attend.

“Family is super important to me,” Labonte said. “I make sure I do the best job I can and at the same time wish I can do better. It’s not easy with the travel schedules, but it’s something you have to work really hard at doing. We make sure we take 45 minutes at the table for dinner and we get caught up during that time. Right now, Madison is busy with her volleyball games and Tyler has his political views that are a hot topic we talk about a lot. Tyler’s also interested in getting his pilot’s license and he has already soloed. We also talk about colleges he is interested in at the moment.

“Donna and I try to spend as much time with the kids as possible,” Labonte continued. “Each night, we have a ping pong tournament at the house right now and the four of us have been to the racquet ball court in Thomasville, N.C. Also, Tyler and I fly remote control planes, race remote control cars and work out together in our gym at home some. It’s a hard balance and sometimes it’s hard for all of us to sit down and have a family dinner.”

Labonte is also an avid cyclist and a philanthropist. Each year Labonte holds an event called Share the Road Memorial Ride and this time it will take place on May 20th. It came from members of the local cycling community who had a desire to honor and remember area cyclists who lost their lives while riding. The idea is to pay tribute to their lives by making the community a better place to live by helping provide housing to those in need and promoting cycling safety for adults and children. Last year, they started the ride at Bobby Labonte Enterprises in Archdale, N.C. They held two rides through Randolph County. One 30 mile ride and a 50 mile ride. Hundreds showed up and they expect more this year.

“My brother-in-laws introduced me to the sport,” Labonte said. “I watched it on television and then started riding bikes. I enjoyed the challenge, the enjoyment of the road, the enjoyment of seeing things and going to different places and it’s a neat activity that is good for exercise. It’s fun and clears your heart and soul at times if need be.

“We held a memorial ride last year for David Sherman that also benefited the Bikes Belong Foundation and Habitat for Humanity of High Point, Archdale and Trinity (N.C.),” Labonte continued. “This year we are stepping up the program in our community. It was nice to meet everyone that participated last year and I enjoy being a part of that culture.”

Heavily involved in the community, Labonte formed The Bobby Labonte Foundation in 2003, which is responsible for the ride. His foundation is dedicated to providing aid for a variety of charities throughout North Carolina. In addition, Bobby has a great love for children and focuses on philanthropies that cater to children with special needs. Another event the foundation will host this year is a Celebrity Golf Classic benefiting Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) at TPC Piper Glen in Charlotte, N.C. on May 8. The Celebrity Golf Classic benefits the Charlotte Chapter of the JDRF.

“We formed the Bobby Labonte Foundation because my family wanted to help people in the community,” Labonte said. “If we can make any impact at all, that’s what is really important to my family.”

Another interesting fact about Labonte is that he is an owner of a yogurt and smoothie business operation. Labonte recently opened a Red Mango in High Point, N.C. Red Mango boasts the best smoothies and frozen yogurt in town. There are over 150 locations nationwide with the first being opened over five years ago. Labonte loved Red Mango so much that he decided to open one in his community and he’s a regular.

“I have a passion for trying to eat healthy and be healthy and I had a passion for the Red Mango brand,” Labonte said. “There was a local Greensboro business man, Steve Mosh, that owned a Red Mango and I was a frequent customer. Fortunately, I was able to meet Steve and we became partners on a store in High Point together. First and foremost, I was a fan of the product and then figured out how to be involved in it. I’m looking at opening another location in the future.”

Labonte also owns his own Late Model team called Bobby Labonte Racing (BLR). His driver hails from Jacksonville, Fla. Earl Pearson Jr. (aka Hurricane) has driven to five national dirt late model championships and three of them occurred with Bobby Labonte Racing in 2007, 2008 and 2009. Pearson returns to BLR for another season.

“I always wanted to give back to grassroots racing because it’s where we all came from,” Labonte said. “It’s been good having the team. Earl and the guys have won a lot of races, a few championships and we’ve been able to have a fun time with the team. We had an off year last year, but we reorganized and got back to basics. We were building our own chassis and got off base. We’re looking forward to a better season.”

If owning a yogurt business and a Late Model team was not enough, Labonte has a marketing agency he is very passionate about called Breaking Limits. Founded in 2007, Breaking Limits is a sports and entertainment marketing agency that works with top brands to build and implement exceptional sponsorship programs with a focus on reaching defined business objectives. Breaking Limits is a full-service entity with a focus on communications, consulting and events.

“I had an inkling to start a marketing agency and it’s something I want to do for years to come,” Labonte said. “I see firsthand what we do for sponsors and the work that goes into public relations and marketing to make the program successful. We have a good group of people formed that make it happen. I’m a very small percentage of it. As time goes on, I plan to be a bigger part of it. It’s a natural fit for me and having an agency was going to come about at some point in time anyway. So, I figured I’d do it now and let it grow and have a strong business as years go on.”

When Labonte has downtime, he travels the country for hunting. One of his most recent hunts took him to Douglas, Wyoming at Wagonhound Outfitters that offers elite, trophy outfitted hunts for elk and more in the heart of the Laramie Mountain range.

“At the end of last season, we went to Douglas, Wyoming to hunt for elk,” Labonte said. “I got one and it was awesome to be able to do that from 610 yards. We went twice this past year and look forward to going back. Bill Jordan has been gracious to let me be on his show during some of these hunts. It’s always a great time.

“Then right before Christmas, Chris Williams, my son Tyler and I went up to Virginia and did some pheasant hunting,” Labonte said. “It was nice to get away and do that for a few days with Tyler.”

Out of the woods, Labonte is a techy. He follows the latest trends with social media and has the latest gadgets to stay connected. He even has his own application and is a huge fan of Mac, iPhone and iPad.

“I literally just left the Apple store after spending three hours in the place,” Labonte said. “That might sum it up right there. I’ve always been a gadget guy and tech person. The Apple product is a great product and so many people use it. For me, it’s easy to use, so vibrant, colorful and just endless on what you can do. I’ve always been on the cutting edge of something new it seems like.”

To unwind, Labonte normally puts on his flip flops and finds his way to the nearest beach. However, Labonte’s next beach trip will entail a lot of work as he enters Daytona Beach, Fla. for Speedweeks. Labonte was in the hunt last season down to the final lap of the Daytona 500 in his No. 47 Kroger Toyota Camry and ended up with a fourth-place finish. He hopes this year, he’s in position to snatch the coveted Harley J. Earl trophy.

“It’s our Super Bowl, it’s the race everyone wants to win,” Labonte said. “We were in the hunt last year and would like to be in a similar position this year to have a shot at winning. It’s the one trophy that’s missing that I would like more than anything to have and man, were we close last year.”

JTG

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