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.