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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Erik Jones added yet another notable page to his budding NASCAR career, winning the first heat race in Xfinity Series history Saturday afternoon at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The Michigan native started from the pole and led all 50 laps of the event, which was the first of two heat races s that will precede the main event later this afternoon, the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300.
Jones lapped 11 of the 20 drivers entered in the event.
“We did everything we needed to do there,” Jones told Fox Sports 1. “It was good, actually a little better than I thought it would be.”
Kyle Larson finished second, followed by Kyle Busch, Justin Allgaier and Brandon Jones in the top-5.
Sixth through 10th were Brendan Gaughan, Darrell Wallace Jr., Elliott Sadler, Ryan Reed and Brennan Poole.
Finishing 11th through 20th were Ross Chastain, Jeff Green, Matt Tifft, Brandon Gdovic, Harrison Rhodes, Dakoda Armstrong, Joey Gase, Mike Harmon, Timmy Hill and Matt DiBenedetto, who bowed out after just three laps in the event.
Jones and Allgaier become eligible for the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash contest that will be part of the main event. The top two Xfinity Series regulars and finishers in the second heat race will also be eligible for the Dash 4 Cash.
After conquering the world of Lamborghinis, Brandon Gdovic is focused on returning to the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
Gdovic, the reigning Lamborghini North American Amateur Champion and Lamborghini Super Trofeo Series Gallardo World Champion, will drive the No. 46 Chevrolet Camaro April 16 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Pitt Ohio will sponsor the Precision Performance Motorsports ride.
“I am looking forward to going back to my favorite circle track, this time in the Xfinity Series,” Gdovic said in a media release. “I am hoping we pick up right where we left off in my last Xfinity race at Watkins Glen and have another good run.”
The 24-year-old Yorktown, Virginia, native seeks to make his fourth career Xfinity Series start. His previous three starts came in 2015 with finishes of 26th (Texas), 30th (Richmond) and a career-best 13th (Watkins Glen).
He has 49 starts in NASCAR K&N Pro Series East competition, earning one win, nine top-five and 21 top 10 finishes.
The Bristol Xfinity race will only add to Gdovic’s busy dance card for 2016. He competed in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona in January, coached NASCAR Whelen Euro Series drivers Anthony Kumpen and Ulysse Delsaux, and finished 16th in the inaugural NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race at Mobile (Alabama) Speedway.
Mark Setzer will continue in his role as Gdovic’s crew chief.
“We had such a successful run in our last Xfinity race together (Watkins Glen) and I am looking to continue building on our experience and have another strong showing,” Setzer said.