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2000:

Bobby Labonte Wins for JGR

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By Ben White

Bobby Labonte, driving the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Pontiac, earned four victories, 24 top-10 finishes and two poles en route to his lone NASCAR Cup Series championship and the first series title for JGR.

Labonte, a native of Corpus Christi, Texas, followed his older brother, Terry, into the Cup Series. The younger Labonte won the Xfinity Series title in 1991 driving a Chevrolet fielded by his father, Bob. He drove in the two Cup Series races for his father that season as well.

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Eventually, Labonte joined team owner Bill Davis for the 1993 season and won Cup Series rookie-of-the-year honors. The rising star remained with Davis’ team until joining team owner Joe Gibbs in 1995. Over the next five seasons, Labonte posted 12 victories with the help of crew chief Jimmy Makar. 

During the 2000 season, the No. 18 team only logged wins at Rockingham Speedway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Darlington Raceway and Charlotte Motor Speedway throughout the 34-race schedule. It was their work in the shop and consistency at the tracks that made up for the lack of winning. 

Their closest rival, Dale Earnhardt, was back on his championship game with two wins and 24 top-10 finishes in the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. Even though neither diver came close to dominating the win column, their up-front finishes continuously placed them within striking distance of the ultimate prize. 

Labonte finished the season 265 points ahead of Earnhardt. Labonte finished fifth behind race winner Jerry Nadeau in the season finale at Atlanta while Earnhardt was second.

Still, Labonte’s season was of championship caliber from start to finish.

2000

PRESIDENT: BILL CLINTON

NO. 1 AT THE BOX OFFICE: HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS

MOVIES TO WATCH: SCARY MOVIE AND GLADIATOR

NO. 1 SONG: “BREATHE” BY FAITH HILL

GALLON OF GAS: $1.51

POP CULTURE: SONY ENTERTAINMENT LAUNCHED THE SECOND VERSION OF ITS PLAYSTATION GAMING CONSOLE, WITH MASSIVE UPGRADES IN GRAPHICS, GAMING EXPERIENCE AND THE ABILITY TO RUN ITS PREDECESSOR’S GAMES.

BEST DRIVER

Bobby Labonte, driving the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Pontiac, recorded four NASCAR Cup Series victories with 24 top-10 finishes. His best results came at his favorite tracks, the 1.5-mile ovals, along with Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which is 2.5 miles per lap. Jeff Burton and Rusty Wallace also won four races each, but Labonte notched more top-five efforts, translating into additional championship points and the lone Cup Series title of his career.

BEST RACE

On Oct. 15 at Talladega Superspeedway, Dale Earnhardt came from 22nd to first in the final 10 laps to win the Winston 500. Earnhardt used the draft and his spectacular driving ability to snake between cars. With six laps to go he was 16th, and by the time the checkered flag waved, he had scored his 10th Cup Series victory at the 2.66-mile Alabama track. It was the final victory for the seven-time Cup Series champion.

TOP CARS

Bobby Labonte’s No. 18 Interstate Batteries Pontiac had four wins, 24 top-10 finishes and two pole positions in 34 starts.

Dale Earnhardt’s GM Goodwrench Chevrolet went to Victory Lane twice and had 24 top-10 results in the 34-race season.

2000 Season Recap

DATE | LOCATION | WINNER

Feb. 20 | Daytona International Speedway | Dale Jarrett

Feb. 27 | Rockingham Speedway | Bobby Labonte

March 5 | Las Vegas Motor Speedway | Jeff Burton

March 12 | Atlanta Motor Speedway | Dale Earnhardt

March 19 | Darlington Raceway | Ward Burton

March. 26 | Bristol Motor Speedway | Rusty Wallace

April 2 | Texas Motor Speedway | Dale Earnhardt Jr.

April 9 | Martinsville Speedway | Mark Martin

April 16 | Talladega Superspeedway | Jeff Gordon 

April 30 | Auto Club Speedway | Jeremy Mayfield

May 6 | Richmond Raceway | Dale Earnhardt Jr. 

May 28 | Charlotte Motor Speedway | Matt Kenseth

June 4 | Dover Motor Speedway | Tony Stewart 

June 11 | Michigan International Speedway | Tony Stewart

June 19 | Pocono Raceway | Jeremy Mayfield 

June 25 | Sonoma Raceway | Jeff Gordon

July 1 | Daytona International Speedway | Jeff Burton

July 9 | New Hampshire Motor Speedway | Tony Stewart

July 23 | Pocono Raceway | Rusty Wallace

Aug. 5 | Indianapolis Motor Speedway | Bobby Labonte

Aug. 13 | Watkins Glen International | Steve Park

Aug. 20 | Michigan International Speedway | Rusty Wallace

Aug. 26 | Bristol Motor Speedway | Rusty Wallace 

Sept. 3 | Darlington Raceway | Bobby Labonte

Sept. 9 | Richmond Raceway | Jeff Gordon

Sept.17 | New Hampshire Motor Speedway | Jeff Burton

Sept.24 | Dover Motor Speedway | Tony Stewart

Oct. 1 | Martinsville Speedway | Tony Stewart

Oct. 8 | Charlotte Motor Speedway | Bobby Labonte

Oct. 15 | Talladega Superspeedway | Dale Earnhardt

Oct. 22 | Rockingham Speedway | Dale Jarrett

Nov. 5 | Phoenix Raceway | Jeff Burton 

Nov. 12 | Homestead-Miami Speedway | Tony Stewart

Nov. 20 | Atlanta Motor Speedway | Jerry Nadeau

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