By Toby Christie, NASCAR Editor
We already knew that Kyle Busch had elected to skip all NASCAR XFINITY Series events at restrictor plate tracks in 2016, but Wednesday Joe Gibbs Racing announced a surprise driver who would step into the No. 18 NOS Energy Toyota Camry during the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway — Bobby Labonte.
Labonte is the 2000 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, and his rise to fame in the sport came during his days running the No. 18 car, that Kyle Busch currently drives, for Joe Gibbs Racing.
“We’ve always sought out the most determined, fearless and committed athletes to represent our company and brands,” said NOS Energy’s Vice President of Sports Marketing, Mitch Covington. He commented further, “With Kyle (Busch) in the seat most of the year and a strong Daytona start with Bobby (Labonte), we have every reason to believe our program will win.”
In addition to being a past Sprint Cup Series champion, Labonte did also capture the 1991 NASCAR XFINITY Series crown, and in all he has 32 wins between NASCAR’s three national series (Sprint Cup, XFINITY, Camping World Trucks). The addition of Labonte to the Joe Gibbs Racing stable of drivers in 2016 perfectly aligns with the team’s 25th anniversary campaign.
No word yet on whether Labonte will be behind the wheel of the No. 18 Camry during the other three restrictor plate races in the XFINITY Series, that may be contingent on a good run at Daytona, as the No. 18 team will be competing for the owner’s championship.
Labonte will also drive at least the four restrictor plate events in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this season in the No. 32 Ford Fusion for Go FAS Racing.
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