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Labonte will drive No. 96 for Hall of Fame in 2009

By Duane Cross, NASCAR.COM
January 14, 2009
10:49 AM EST
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Bobby Labonte will drive the No. 96 Ford with Ask.com as a sponsor in 2009. The 2000 Cup Series champion, Labonte will drive for Hall of Fame Racing, which announced an alignment with Yates Racing on Tuesday. (read more)

Labonte was released from his contract with Petty Enterprises last month. He was driver of the famed No. 43 car for three seasons.

Labonte
Labonte

Hall of Fame Racing, formed by former NFL quarterbacks Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman, made its NASCAR debut in the 2006 Daytona 500. Two-time Cup Series champion Terry Labonte finished 17th in that race. Labonte and Tony Raines shared the car in 2006, with Raines taking over full-time in '07.

Arizona Diamondbacks executives Jeff Moorad and Tom Garfinkel purchased majority interest of the team in August 2007. Moorad, formerly chief executive officer of the Diamondbacks, resigned from that position last week to spearhead an ownership bid for the San Diego Padres. Garfinkel remains the Diamondbacks' executive vice president.

Several drivers were behind the wheel of the No. 96 last year, most notably J.J. Yeley and Ken Schrader, but none have the track record of Bobby Labonte.

He has 21 wins, 113 top-five finishes and 197 top-10s in 546 starts in the Cup Series. In addition to the 2000 series championship, Labonte has finished in the top 10 in points seven times in 16 full seasons.

Labonte made his Cup Series debut on June 3, 1991, at Dover; he finished 34th. His first full season was 1993, driving for Bill Davis Racing. Labonte joined Joe Gibbs Racing in 1995 and remained with the team through 2005, posting all 21 wins and the seven top-10 point finishes during that 11-year stretch.

He was named driver of Petty Enterprises' flagship No. 43 in 2006 and remained there until what Labonte termed a "perfect storm" led to the split from the team. (read more)

Aside from the Hall of Fame Racing team connection, Labonte has another tie to Aikman. Bobby and brother Terry were inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in 2001 and the Labontes' class included Aikman, Dick "Night Train" Lane, Bruce Matthews, Mike Munchak and Norm Cash.

• Ask.com, which will be the primary sponsor for the No. 96 for 18 of the first 21 races and rights to 29 races this season, also has entered into a partnership with NASCAR as the Official Search Engine. (read more)

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Combined with its alliance with Yates Racing, does this make Labonte / the No. 96 car a bona fide contender this season?
• Your Voice: Join the discussion!external link

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