Bill Elliott and Terry Labonte are future Hall-of-Famers, that is obvious to anyone who has followed NASCAR over the past three and a half decades. They are widley recognized as champions for their on-track accomplishments. However, Elliott and Labonte were more than just phenomenal wheelmen, they were, they are considered the good guys. While Dale Earnhardt, Rusty Wallace, and Darrell Waltrip were attracting press by ruffling feathers, Elliott and Labonte were quietly winning races, as well as the hearts of thousands of fans.
Labonte captured the 1984 and 2006 Winston Cup championships while Elliott earned the 1988 championship, as well as the 1985 and 1987 Daytona 500 trophies. These two drivers should be reminiscing their on-track success as they await their NASCAR Hall of Fame enshrinement.
Instead, their good guy qualities is shining through as they are determined to help the little guys. Labonte and Elliott are champions, meaning they own the champion's provisional, all but guaranteeing a spot in the Daytona 500. Labonte, who began competing part-time in 2005, will allow the #32 FASLane Racing team owned by former crew chief Frank Stoddard.
The upstart team debuted in NASCAR in 2011 with a host of drivers, and failed to crack the all-important top 35, which would guarantee a spot in the race. Labonte's champions provision will likely place them in the Great American Race.
Elliott stepped away from full-time competition in 2003 when he was a perennial frontrunner. Many felt that he would ease into full-time retirement after a couple of years of part-time activity. Instead, Elliott has spent several years assisting backmarker teams qualify for races by virtue of his champion's provisional.
This time, he will help guide Joe Nemechek's operation enter the Daytona 500. Nemechek spends most of his race weekends starting and parking, but occasionally he will go for the checkers. He also will field two cars every once in awhile. He was able to recruit Elliott to pilot the No. 97 Toyota for the 2012 Daytona 500. I am assuming by the NEMCO Motorsports report that Elliott is not planning on starting and parking...thank God!
I worry that these two drivers are blemishing their legacy by helping these teams. I mean, I cannot blame Elliott and Labonte for wanting to help the little guys, you got to wonder about their perception when it is time for the voters to consider inducting them into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Personally, I do not think they will be passed up, but their enshrinement is being delayed due to their good-nature.