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NASCAR's Ironman Terry Labonte Continues The Streak

15 February 1999

Daytona Beach, FL-February 14, 1999-- Terry Labonte will start his 603rd consecutive NASCAR race when the green flag drops at today's Daytona 500. The "ironman" and two-time Winston Cup Champion has not missed a Busch (Grand National)/Winston Cup start since becoming a full-time driver in 1979. Another word to describe Labonte's racing career, aside from the endurance record, would be consistent. Maybe that explains why Labonte surpassed the $18 million dollar career earning's mark last summer at Indianapolis. That achievement places Labonte fourth on the all-time earnings list. The drivers ahead of Labonte in career earning's are Earnhardt, Gordon and Elliott.

The obvious mission for 1999 is to once again compete for the driver's championship. In order to gather points in the fight for the Winston Cup, one has to find a rhythm for consistency. With 34 races in the 1999 season the demands for good finishes become ever greater. At Daytona, Labonte has been running at the finish in 14 straight races. The old cliche about "To finish first, first you must finish" explains Labonte's current streak of five straight Top-10 finishes that he carries into the 1999 season. Today, Labonte will start from the 19th spot. The wily veteran will find a way to work his way through the pack. The great unknown about "restrictor plate racing" is finding the right dance partner. Labonte has suggested that there are certain driver's he prefers to run with and other's that he avoids at all cost. In restrictor plate racing, one small bobble for one second and you can go from the front to back in the blink of an eye.

Labonte will once again carry the familiar #5 emblazoned with the backing of Kellogg's Corn Flakes on his Rick Hendrick owned Chevrolet. Labonte's association with Kellogg's Corn Flakes is beginning it's seventh year. The partnership between Labonte and Kellogg's is not the longest in sport but is certainly one of the most universally recognized.

Labonte is a perfect representative for Kellogg's. The polite, soft-spoken Texan is great with kids at public relations events. Labonte has that laid-back, approachable charm that advertising people die for. When a question is asked, even if it's for the 1000th time he treats it with the respect. Like any athlete, Labonte has that drive to win. It may not show on the surface but the desire to be the best burns like a dormant volcano.

So for 1999, watch for Labonte. A third Winston Cup might just be in the making.

David Treffer -- The Auto Channel