The 2000 Sprint Cup Champion brings a wealth of NASCAR experience to TRG Motorsports. Labonte will keep his streak of 568 NASCAR Sprint Cup starts intact, the first of which dates back to the 1993 Daytona 500. Labonte has a lot of respect for his new team.
"This whole thing came together over the last 24 hours," Labonte said. "Slugger (Richard "Slugger" Labbe, TRG Motorsports crew chief) called me yesterday morning and had an idea and wondered if I would be interested or not. I had some openings I wasn't planning on, so it just kind of worked out. I am just trying to go to the rest of the races full-tilt. I talked to Kevin (Buckler TRG Motorsports team principal) a couple of times yesterday and he seems very committed and I think it will work out for both of us."
"I have run the Daytona Prototypes in the Grand-Am Series a couple of times. I have seen the TRG group at the race track. I have seen Kevin and his crowd of Porsches sitting there, which is really impressive. I know he came into the truck series last year. This year they moved up to the Sprint Cup Series. They have done well with the resources they have. The people that I have talked with have a lot of respect for Kevin and the team, because they are doing the most with the limited amount of resources they have. I have seen a lot of guys come into the sport and spend a lot of money, but they don't last long. Kevin and his group are taking the right approach. There is no waste of money and they plan to be here a while, which is healthy for the team and a smart way to do things."
"Slugger worked with my brother Terry years ago when we had our Busch team. Terry and I had a team and Slugger worked on Terry's car. He worked at our shop in High Point, so I have known him for a long time."
Labonte has a rich history at Atlanta Motor Speedway where he has posted six wins, the last in 2003.
"I love going fast. I love Atlanta. It is a driver's track. I love that part about it. You have to handle so well there. If your car doesn't handle well you are in for a long day. You can move around, there is more than one groove."
TRG Motorsports team principal Kevin Buckler was pleased that the opportunity became available.
"When we heard that Bobby would be available we got in touch with him to explore the scenarios," Buckler said. "Bobby is such an icon in the sport and has so much experience to lend to a new team like ours. We have a strong nucleus of guys with good chemistry and I think Bobby will fit right in. We will put him in good equipment with a committed and super competitive team of guys and we'll see what happens. I think he will shine. One of the things we have learned in our first year in the Sprint Cup Series is that sponsors and fans have very strong connections to the series' most popular drivers. Bobby brings an impressive resume of performance on the track and off. We are looking forward to our first race together in Atlanta and to seeing what the remainder of the season will bring."
Buckler has a lot of respect for what David Gilliland has done for TRG Motorsports this year.
"I have the utmost respect and appreciation for what David Gilliland and TRG Motorsports has done together this year. He performed behind the wheel and was the consummate professional and a great guy. I know he has some terrific opportunities coming up with several top teams. We maintain our relationship with David and he will be in our car again before the season is over."
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pep Boys Auto 500 from Atlanta Motor Speedway Sunday, September 6th will be broadcast on ESPN starting at 7:00 p.m. ET.