By admin | February 2, 2009
By Jayson D. Henry
It’s up to each person to live his or her own life. That includes Bill Elliott and Terry Labonte. What I wonder is, are these two great drivers ruining their legacies by continuing to race so far past their primes?
Elliott is planning another go of it with Wood Brothers Racing in 2009. He drove in 20 races for that team in 2008. His highest finish was a 12th in the season’s last race in Homestead, Florida. He also had 11 finishes of 30th or worse.
The Wood Brothers are only planning to run a partial schedule this year and it seems unlikely that their performance will improve very much. So, it looks like more of the same type of finishes for Elliott in 2009.
Since I am barely old enough to remember Elliott’s run of the mid 1980s I run the risk replacing those limited memories with the more recent memories of his 30th place runs in recent times. And, so do many other fans of my generation.
The driver once known as “Awesome Bill” has not won a race since 2003. Younger fans may be asking the question, “Why do they call him ‘Awesome Bill’?” For that matter, I was surprised when looking up his information to write this and found out he had won 53 Sprint Cup races. I knew he had won quite a few races and had won the 1988 championship but did not realize he had won that many times.
Terry Labonte is going through much the same career ending dilemma as Elliott. He also seems to be having a difficult time walking away for good.
Labonte is a two time champion(1984 & 1996) who has won 22 races throughout his career.
This year, the older of the Labonte brothers will attempt to make the Daytona 500 driving for a team called Prism Motorsports, which is partially owned by Phil Parsons. The cars will be Toyotas and will be #66.
Since the team is new and will have no owner points going into the race, hiring Labonte is a good move in that he will be assured of making the race provided Tony Stewart doesn’t have to use the champion’s provisional.
Like Elliott, it has been some time since Labonte was actually competitive in a Sprint Cup car. He competed in 10 races last season with a best finish of 16th in the July race at Daytona driving car #45 in place of Kyle Petty.
If Elliott at age 52 and Labonte at age 51 enjoy going out and driving, even though they are not really contending for wins like they once did then more power to them. However, I worry that a few years from now when someone brings up the name Bill Elliott or Terry Labonte some might only remember two drivers who used a technicality in the rule book to draw out racing careers longer than they should have been drawn out.
Both Elliott and Labonte have a past champion’s provisional to lean on in case they are not fast enough to qualify on speed. Labonte is second in line behind Stewart to get the use of that provisional and Elliott is third in line. That could be the only reason they continue to get rides.
It could be that they are doing a favor for their teams by assuring them of making races. Whatever the case, it is up to them to decide how they want to end their careers. Unfortunately, there are some who will only remember them as guys who used provisionals to get into races and then rode around near the back of the pack. That’s not exactly “Awesome”.
Jayson D. Henry is a guest blogger for RacingWithRich.com.
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