Bobby Labonte might be gone from the NASCAR Cup Series, but he’s not done making NASCAR history.
The 2000 Cup Series champion and a NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee, Labonte will become the first Cup champion to make a start in NASCAR’s Whelen Euro Series.
Labonte, 53, will compete in the June 10-11 race weekend, which includes two races, at the Brand Hatch road course in the United Kingdom.
A 21-time winner in the Cup Series, Labonte will drive the No. 1 Whelen Engineering Ford Mustang fielded by Alex Caffi Motorsport.
“I am really excited to join the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series in Brands Hatch. It is a great opportunity,” Labonte told NASCAR’s Home Tracks website. “With Jerome Galpin (NWES President / CEO) and Joe Balash (NASCAR International Liaison) we talked about it during the winter and when they called me for this race I was more than happy to jump on-board. The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series is very successful and I really love the fact that NASCAR is present in many different countries. I think the Euro Series is a really good environment both to develop a NASCAR career and race at very competitive level with low costs. It will be fun to be able to get in a Euro NASCAR car and go race at such a famous race track.”
A winner of the Brickyard 400 and the Southern 500, the race will be Labonte’s first outside the United States. Brands Hatch is a six-turn, 1.198-mile circuit.
While he’s the first Cup champion to do so, Labonte is the latest NASCAR driver to compete in Europe series. Xfinity driver Ben Kennedy won a race in 2012. Labonte also follows Jeffrey Earnhardt, Max Papis, Rick Crawford and Brandon Gdovic.
“I had a friend call me and he didn’t even know it (the series),” Labonte said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “SiriusXM Speedway. “Hopefully we can bring more recognition to the NASCAR Euro Series, what it really means over there and their races that they have.”
Labonte’s last start in the Cup series was in the October 2016 race at Talladega Superspeedway.
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Sam Hornish Jr. looks to return to Iowa Speedway and win the June event for the second consecutive year, but several others, including points leader Elliott Sadler and rookie teammate William Byron, look for their first series win of the year. Justin Allgaier and Ryan Reed seek their second victory of the season.
Here are the particulars for tonight’s Xfinity race:
(All times are Eastern)
START: Emily Skor, CEO Growth Energy, will give the command to start engines at 8:37 p.m. Green flag is set for 8:44 p.m.
DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 250 laps (218.75 miles) around the 7/8-mile oval.
STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 60. Stage 2 ends on Lap 120.
PRERACE SCHEDULE: The Xfinity garage opens at 2:30 p.m. The driver/crew chief meeting is at 7:30 p.m. Driver introductions are at 8:10 p.m.
NATIONAL ANTHEM: Specialist Michelle Monroe, Iowa National Guard 34th Army Band, will perform the Anthem at 8:31 p.m.
TV/RADIO: Fox Sports 1 will broadcast the race. Its coverage begins at 8 p.m. Motor Racing Network’s broadcast on radio and at mrn.com begins at 8 p.m. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.
FORECAST: The wunderground.com site predicts 70 degrees at race time with a 1 percent chance of rain at the start of the race.
LAST TIME: Sam Hornish Jr. led 183 of 250 laps to win this event a year ago. Ty Dillon was second. Brad Keselowski was third. Erik Jones won the most recent Iowa race last July, leading 154 of 250 laps. Ty Dillon was second. Elliott Sadler placed third.
STARTING LINEUP: Qualifying begins at 6:15 p.m.
NASCAR has been sending its Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series to Iowa Speedway since 2009, but its premier series has never held a race at the .875-mile track in Newton, Iowa.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kyle Larson would like that to change sooner rather than later.
Stenhouse and Larson spoke to the Des Moines Register ahead of this weekend’s NASCAR races at the track.
The Roush Fenway Racing driver and former Iowa winner expressed enthusiasm at Iowa someday hosting the Monster Energy All-Star Race.
“To see how much support that the Iowa Speedway gets from the fans, it’s pretty incredible,” Stenhouse said. “I’d love to get the All-Star race here.”
The exhibition has been held at Charlotte Motor Speedway every year but one since it was introduced in 1985. It was at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1986.
But with lackluster races and fan turnout in recent years for the event at the 1.5-mile track, support has been growing to possible hold the event at other tracks.
“I would like that better than Charlotte, for sure. … I’d be down for it,” Larson told the newspaper of having the event in Iowa.
Iowa Speedway opened in 2006 and was bought by NASCAR in 2013.
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Today we reach the mid-point of this weekend’s busy NASCAR schedule.
The NASCAR Cup Series will have a short day at Sonoma Raceway, with only qualifying on the agenda at 2:45 p.m. ET.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series will have the busier day at Iowa Speedway, with qualifying at 6:15 p.m. ET, followed by the American Ethanol e15 200 at 8:30 p.m. ET. Sam Hornish Jr. is the defending winner of this race, and returns to try and make it two in a row, racing this year for Team Penske.
Here’s today’s schedule (all times are Eastern):
10 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. Cup garage open
2:45 p.m. – Cup qualifying (multi-vehicle, two rounds) (FS1, Performance Racing Network)
2:30 p.m. – Xfinity garage open
6:15 p.m. – Xfinity qualifying (multi-vehicle, three rounds) (Tape delayed at 7 p.m. ET on FS1)
7:30 p.m. – Xfinity driver/crew chief meeting
8 p.m. – Xfinity driver introductions
8:30 p.m. – American Ethanol e15 200 Xfinity Series race (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR radio)
John Hunter Nemechek led the final six laps to win the Camping World Truck Series’ M&M’s 200 at Iowa Speedway.
It’s his second win in two weeks.
Nemechek beat out Johnny Sauter, Brandon Jones, Grant Engfinger and Christopher Bell.
Click here for race results.