Bobby Labonte made a guest appearance in the FOX Sports booth during Throwback Weekend at Darlington Raceway. It was a new challenge, but the NASCAR Hall of Famer embraced it and decided that he would like more opportunities in the future.
Labonte revealed to Heavy in early June that he was a little surprised to receive the news that FOX Sports wanted to put him in the booth for the Goodyear 400 on May 8. He hadn’t even planned to make the trip to Darlington Raceway for the Cup Series. However, he ended up changing his plans and taking part in something that he really enjoyed.
“So I got down there — and I’ll tell you what — I really didn’t know what to expect,” Labonte told Heavy. “You know, I wasn’t sure. Obviously, [I’ve] been around this all my life, but I didn’t know what to expect. And I just thought that it was so much fun. I just felt like I was less nervous than I thought I’d be. And it’s obviously just kind of talking about what you’re seeing.
“And so I thoroughly enjoyed it way more than I anticipated going into it because I wasn’t sure of all the dynamics. And I got to know kind of like what’s going on and when we feel comfortable here and there. I love the opportunity that it presented itself. And whether it leads to another one, more, half a stage, or whatever. Who knows? But I felt more comfortable doing that than I anticipated. It was a lot of fun. It was a great opportunity.”
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Labonte Split Time in the Booth With Multiple People
The Hall of Famer did not join Mike Joy and Clint Bowyer for the entire Cup Series race. Instead, he was only in the booth for one of the three stages. He actually split the time with two other former Cup Series champions.
Richard Petty took over the guest seat first. He was the honorary starter for the Cup Series race, but he headed up to the booth shortly after waving the green flag. He provided analysis as Team Penske’s Joey Logano captured the opening stage.
Labonte took over the guest seat for the second stage, which Ross Chastain won in the No. 1 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet. Bill Elliott then rounded out the group and provided analysis during the third and final stage, which featured Logano knocking Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron out of the way to capture the win.
Will Labonte Have Another Opportunity?
The 2022 Cup Series season was unique for FOX Sports. The booth saw the departure of Jeff Gordon, which left an open third chair next to Joy and Bowyer. Instead of going with one specific replacement, the broadcaster opted for a variety of special guests.
The first 16 races of the Cup Series schedule featured appearances by Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, Danica Patrick, Chad Knaus, Gordon, Labonte, Petty, Elliott, Jamie McMurray, Michael Waltrip, Kenny Wallace, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Darrell Waltrip, and Larry McReynolds. There were a wide variety of viewpoints, which only created more conversations during the races.
FOX Sports has not revealed whether it will go with a similar approach in 2023. If so, will Labonte be on the short list of potential guests? There is no clear answer, but the Hall of Famer has his “fingers crossed” for future opportunities.