Bobby Labonte Ready To Return To His Roots At Caraway Speedway In Modified

(Press Release from Caraway Speedway)

Former Track Champion Will Compete in the 56th Season Opener in a SMART Modified

When Caraway Speedway opens for it’s 56th season on March 14th, the speedway’s 1987 Late Model Stock Car Champion, Bobby Labonte, will compete in the Southern Modified Auto Race Tour’s “SMART 99” on the .455 mile asphalt track located near Asheboro, NC. 

Labonte first competed at Caraway Speedway in 1980 in a Sportsman race won by another guy race fans might remember, Dale Earnhardt.  When asked what he remembered about that race, “Labonte said he remembered starting beside Gene Glover”.  Funny he remembered drivers like Glover, Monk Tate and others but had to be reminded Earnhardt won the race.

Six years would slip by before Labonte would return to Caraway to compete.  His brother Terry left Hagan Racing eliminating Bobby’s position there.  He went to work for car builder, Jay Hedgecock and bought a car and engine with his savings to compete at Caraway Speedway in 1987.  “Caraway was the logical choice since it was only a few minutes from home and the race shop”, said Labonte.

“I learned a lot competing at Caraway in “87”.  It became my first real “home track” and the experience I gained there was immeasurable.  Competing against Dennis Setzer and other Caraway regulars like Herbie Poole, on a track like Caraway helped steer my career in the right direction” said Labonte.

That 1987 season saw Labonte and Setzer dominate the winners circle.  The duo entered the final race of the season and to win the track title, Bobby needed to win the event.  Not only did he take the win, his 13 checkered flags, edged Setzer by one win and the tie-breaker gave Labonte the title. His winnings for the season totaled $14,270.00.

On his way back to Caraway Speedway, Bobby represented his “roots” well with 21 wins and 26 Pole Awards in the “Cup” series to go with the Winston Cup title in 2000, the Busch Series crown in 1991 and the IROC Championship in 2001.

I asked Bobby what moved him towards the Modifieds.  “My friend, Chris Williams was driving some in a Modified at Bowman Gray Stadium and he asked if I would help him out one Saturday morning.  I hesitated a bit but decided to take him up on his offer.  He told me to bring my uniform and I might get a few laps as a bonus.  I did get some laps in that Saturday and got to run a race for Burt Myers at the end of the 2019 season”, Labonte said.  When a positive COVID-19 test sidelined John Smith last year at Florence, SC, Terry Hall asked if I would drive their car there.  We qualified on the pole and finished fourth and the rest is history”, said Labonte.

During the off season, Labonte put together sponsorship from the Cook Out chain of restaurants.   With 250 locations and growing, Cook Out is the first “major” company to invest in some of the most exciting and entertaining racing in the southeast.

“We hope to represent Cook Out well in 2021.  We are looking forward to being competitive wherever we go and maybe earn a win or two.  Who knows, maybe the exposure from a “regional” sponsor like Cook Out could start the “domino effect” for sponsors for the division”.

Caraway Speedway hosts the Bobby Labonte’s return to the speedway with the “SMART 99” on Sunday March 14thalong with racing for the tracks Late Models, Challengers, Mini Stocks and 602 Modifieds. 


  1. I do wish SMART the best of luck. But given the history of southern fans not embracing Modified racing, this could be an exercise in futility and insanity. Getting celebrity drivers could help.

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  3. Wasnt Jeremy Mayfield running a modified down south? It was a small mod series based mostly in the Carolinas. I wonder if he is still running modifieds. Having former Nascar drivers can certainly help bring more attention to the division and series. This press release is certainly proof of that. Anyone know if Boman Gray is opening up this year? I dont think they ever opened up last season.

  4. Csg, according to his facebook postings Mayfield raced at Bristol last October in a dirt Late Model. Also, maybe a year or so ago Speedway Illustrated ran an article featuring Sterling Marlin still racing an asphalt Late Model occasionally. Great to see.

  5. David Fisher says

    “Southern fans not embracing modified racing” is a poor description, and totally untrue. Now, had you said “not embracing modified racing outside of Winston-Salem, NC” then you would have been totally correct. At BGS, 15,000 fans weekly, when operating of course, would say they support it very well.

  6. David Fisher, on another similar thread, I mentioned the anomalous BGS. I maintain that southern fans do not embrace Modified racing. BGS is a spectacle, not necessarily the Modifieds. If Mods were that popular, they would be all over the south, not just BGS.

    Southern fans do not embrace Modified racing. Folks around BGS probably don’t. They just love the spectacle of BGS. Why don’t those people attend races at other tracks?

  7. David Fisher says

    I’ll just agree that you disagree. Lots of them are there for the mods and the spectacle. Take away either one, and they aren’t interested. Lots don’t go if the mods aren’t racing, which only happens on occassion, as the promoters understand. Regardless or your or my perspective, lots of folks go to BGS, and the highlight is the mods. Good enough for me. My opinion: BGS stinks. And I still go several times a year.
    Why don’t they go to other tracks? Lots of them did last year when there was no BGS. Franklin County and Ace ran Stadium nights, and drew record numbers of fans. I can’t tell you why they don’t, but I would say part of it is the entertainment value at BGS is the best available, bar none. Racing there is terrible, entertainment is of a high level.

  8. I really have to get to Bowman Gray Stadium. The racing looks absolutely terrible but the spectacle of seeing that many people in one place for an auto race would be something. I think I will wait until I get the vaccine though.

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