Grassroots Discovery: Unexpected Track Visit Leads Bobby Labonte To Racing A Modified

In 2021 NASCAR Hall of Fame member Bobby Labonte will race a full season in a Tour Type Modified on the Southern Modified Auto Racing Teams tour (SMART). 

So just how did the former NASCAR Cup Series champion fall into driving Modifieds regularly in 2021 at 56 years old? It’s quite a story. 

Labonte said in 2019 his friend Chris Williams was driving a Modified at Bowman-Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C. Williams asked Labonte if he’d like to come out on a Saturday before the show and help the team out and maybe take some laps in the car. 

Labonte said he had never been to Bowman-Gray Stadium so he decided to take Williams up on the offer and drove the 15 miles to the track from his home. He said he paid the $5 admission to get in for practice and got to run some laps in Williams’ car. 

“I went out and ran about 20 laps and I come in and I didn’t want to say anything but I said ‘Man that was fun.’” Labonte said on the latest episode of the Unmuffled podcast. “I didn’t want to act like it was fun but it was fun.” 

Labonte said Williams invited him to come back later that night and watch the feature. Labonte said he initially didn’t think he’d return but then decided to head back to the track that night. 

“I paid $25, got in the pit gate, showed my NASCAR license and got in there,” Labonte said. “Saw some people I knew. Saw some great racing. I saw three fights. I told my dad ‘That’s the best $30 I’ve spent in one day in a long time. I saw some hell of a fights and I thought ‘That’s cool.’ I saw some great racing and I said ‘That’s even better.’ So I figured ‘How can I get involved in this?’ So I did. Two weeks later I drove one of Burt Myers’ cars. Had the time of my life. Sat around for two hours signing autographs. And I went ‘Yup, grassroots racing, I love it. This is cool. This is awesome.’ That’s how I got into it.” 

In addition to running a Tour Type Modified regularly in 2021, Labonte will also be part of the roster for the inaugural season of the SRX Series. The first SRX Series event takes place June 12 at Stafford Speedway. 

Labonte said he’s looking forward to turning every lap he can get in at Stafford. 

“I think of Stafford, I saw that we’ll have some open practice being the first race, maybe the day or two beforehand so everybody can kind of get acclimated for the first time,” Labonte said. “I see Stafford and I think ‘Ooh, I’ve obviously heard about it, man that would be great to go there.’ I’m like ‘Wow, I don’t want to miss one lap, I want to get all I can get.’ Obviously Stafford has got a unique history.” 

To hear plenty more from Labonte on his plans for Modified racing and the SRX Series subscribe to the RaceDayCT Insider program. For $5 a month you’ll have access to all of our weekly podcasts including the previous library of episodes. 


  1. Caraway this weekend
    Florence next weekend
    Modifieds starting up in the South!
    I’ll be attending both races!!!

  2. He’s a Labonte, Hall of Famer and a big deal in NASCAR…..for driving.
    You know the type of person that can assess his or her audience and craft their delivery to whom they are speaking seamlessly. Bobby Labonte is not that person.. You can literally hear the struggle going on in his head to determine if what he’s saying is appropriate and how far he should go in his halting whipsaw replies to questions.
    He gave three reasons for enjoying the racing at Bowman Gray. Two were what you’d expect. Given who he is, what he represents to NASCAR and racing at the highest level the third kind of floored me. Something that might be better thought then expressed.
    Great content especially the take on each SRX race track but painful to listen to. In fact many of our modified drivers are more polished representatives of the sport then Bobby Labonte in my view.

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