CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Terry Labonte wasn’t supposed to be the man who would induct his little brother into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Friday night.
Bobby Labonte had given that honor to their father, Bob, the man who helped start both their racing careers in their home state of Texas and eventually owned Bobby’s Xfinity Series car when he won the 1991 championship.
But when the time came for the 2000 Cup Series champion to be inducted as part of the Hall of Fame’s 11th class – with Tony Stewart, Waddell Wilson, Buddy Baker and his former team owner Joe Gibbs – it was Terry, his older brother by eight years and a fellow Hall of Famer who welcomed him into NASCAR’s elite fraternity.
“My dad was going to and when we got down here today he didn’t feel like he could, he didn’t feel comfortable doing it,” Terry Labonte told NBC Sports. “I was happy to. (Bobby) turned to me and said, ‘You wanna do it?’ I said. ‘Ok.'”
It was the latest memorable moment the brothers have shared in their NASCAR careers.
When Bobby claimed his first of 21 Cup Series wins in the 1995 Coca-Cola 600, his older brother finished second.
A year later, when Terry won his second Cup championship in the season finale at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Bobby won the race. Afterward, the brothers shared a victory lap around the track.
When Terry handed his brother his Hall of Fame ring Friday night, Bobbly quietly slipped him a $20 bill before telling the audience, “You didn’t see that.”
The purpose of that transaction?
One brother paying off another for not embarrassing him.
“I told him, ‘Alright, I’m going to tell stories on you here unless you pay me,” Terry told NBC Sports. “I’ll stick to the script (if) you pay me,’ so he paid me.”
The brotherly moments didn’t end there. In the middle of his speech, Bobby surprised Terry by informing the audience that he was wearing the same red tie his brother wore during his induction into the Hall of Fame in 2016.
“I knew nothing about it,” Terry said. “My wife (Kimberly) brought it down for him. So he wore the tie. He can’t tie ties, so it was still tied from last year I guess.”
Bobby joked that he chose the tie because it was “cheap,” before revealing the real sentimental reason behind the wardrobe choice.
“The way that I structured my speech and because, my brother like I said, there’s a picture (from 1966) I posted on social media, I’m 2 years old, he’s winning a race, my dad’s sitting behind us wrenching the car. I’ve always wanted to be like my brother. I’ve always admired him and what he’s done. I just thought it was kind of funny to do the tie thing. So I asked Kim to bring it and she it brought it down here. Of course he looked at it and I (asked) him, ‘Did you know this was your tie?’
“He said ‘I had no idea.’
“He leaves stuff at my house all the time and he just leaves it and I give it back to him as a gift. It’s really cool. I just did it because I thought it was fun. But it meant a lot to me just for the fact that it seemed like that was a fitting thing for me as a little brother.”
Says it all, from 1966 to now. My dad, my brother and me! 😊 pic.twitter.com/5eaVZ191K2
— Bobby Labonte (@Bobby_Labonte) January 30, 2020