For 37 years and 890 Sprint Cup races, Terry Labonte was the “Iceman” of NASCAR.
He earned that nickname because of his nerves of steel. But when it came to being bestowed with the highest honor in the sport – induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame – the Iceman melted.
During his acceptance speech, Labonte paused several times, as if trying to collect his thoughts amidst an overwhelming surge of emotion.
Labonte talked about how his emotions got the best of him afterward. Here are some of his comments:
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 wasn’t anticipating that at all. 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.
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.”
Labonte laughed when asked about following the induction acceptance speech of Speedway Motorsports founder and Chairman Bruton Smith.
“I knew that I was in trouble following Bruton. I thought to myself, ‘Oh, my God, he is hilarious.’ He’s got so many great stories, and of course 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?”
Turning serious, Labonte was asked that for the last 20 years, he’s often been introduced as a two-time NASCAR champion. From now on, he’ll be introduced as a NASCAR Hall of Famer.
It means an awful lot. 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. “It really makes you feel awful fortunate to be able to be in the Hall of Fame with those guys.”