CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Bobby Labonte’s consecutive start streak will come to an end at 704 races.
Labonte is not entered to race Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway, which will bring an end to the second-longest active starts streak in NASCAR behind Jeff Gordon’s 705 starts.
Labonte confirmed his status on a chat with fans on the JTG Daugherty Racing website.
“I will not be racing this week,” he wrote. “It is disappointing the way it is happening. I have had a couple of offers this morning, but I have declined them because I don’t want anybody else that has an opportunity to do what I do, what they love, to have to sit on the sideline for my sake.”
JTG will use A.J. Allmendinger in the No. 47 Toyota at Kentucky. Allmendinger drove for the team two weeks ago at Michigan, while Labonte drove the No. 51 for Phoenix Racing.
Phoenix Racing will use Austin Dillon this weekend, which left Labonte without a seat after two consecutive rough races. His spin in the No. 51 at Michigan six laps into the race wrecked Jeff Gordon’s car, and an oil line broke before the start of Sunday’s race at Sonoma in the No. 47. Although the team got the problem fixed and Labonte made it onto the track in time for the start of the race, his engine failed on the first lap.
“It blew up, dude,” Labonte said on his radio. “Something in the bottom engine because it had no oil pressure.”
Labonte has not missed a start since he began racing full-time in the Cup Series in 1993. He’s won 21 races and the 2000 championship while driving for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Kentucky will mark the first Cup race without a Labonte in the field since the 1978 season finale at Ontario. Older brother Terry Labonte has 884 starts.
Ricky Rudd holds the NASCAR record of 788 consecutive starts.