The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Auto Racing

November 1, 2006

Terry Labonte: The Ice Man goeth

By MIKE HARRIS

AP Auto Racing Writer

First, he was Texas Terry, the smooth, young driver from Corpus Christi with all the potential in the world.

Then he became the Ice Man, known for his cool demeanor and unflappable personality.

A little further down the NASCAR road, Labonte became the Iron Man, setting a record with 655 consecutive NASCAR starts, a mark later broken by Ricky Rudd.

In the end, though, the two-time series champion wants to be remembered simply as Terry Labonte, a guy who got to live his dream for nearly three decades.

“None of those names meant much to me,” said Labonte, who will make the 848th and final start of his 29-year Cup career Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. “I was just doing my job and enjoying myself.”

Labonte will be feted this week in Texas with a dinner, gifts, a special paint job on his car and a prerace ride around the 1.5-mile TMS oval, allowing the 200,000 fans expected Sunday to show their love and appreciation for his contributions to the sport.

All of it likely will be more embarrassing than thrilling to the quiet man. But it is only appropriate that Labonte, a member of the Texas Hall of Fame since 2001, will end his distinguished career in the Lone Star State.

And Labonte, who cut back to a limited schedule in 2005 to spend more time with his family and to enjoy the fruits of his long, successful career, said there are no second thoughts or regrets about calling it quits nine days before his 50th birthday.

“I still feel the same way about my decision,” he said in an interview last week. “I think my wife asks me about that every other week. But I still feel good about it and I’m still looking forward to going to Texas and running that race.

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