NASCAR is a melting pot. Most drivers and team members come from all over the country to reside in North Carolina for their jobs and some come from around the globe. With a 36-race schedule, sometimes it’s tough for them to return to their roots. For some, there is the good fortune of a race or two falling in the town near where they grew up.
For instance, this weekend the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visits Kentucky Speedway and the Quaker State 400 hits close to home for Owensboro, Kentucky-native David Green. Green, who currently spots for Bobby Labonte in the No. 47 SCOTT Products Toyota and assists JTG Daugherty Racing in other areas, had an illustrious career in the NASCAR Nationwide Series thanks in part to his driver.
“Bobby and I raced against each other in a division called the Slim Jim All Pro Series, which was one of NASCAR's touring divisions,” Green said. “Also, I worked for Wayne Day and we built NASCAR Nationwide Series (formerly NASCAR Busch Series) cars. As Bobby and I raced against each other, they ended up getting some cars from us. So, we were competitors and I was in business there with him as far as building cars for his team. When he won the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship, they had used some of our cars. We had built some for both Terry (Labonte) and Bobby.
“I got to run the Nationwide Series in 1991 and he was my mentor,” Green continued. “I ended up winning a race that year and he was a big influence with that. At the end, the team I was driving for lost the sponsor and Bobby was the first to call me.”
When Green hit a road block, Labonte helped him take a detour. Green went on to drive for the Labontes, which led to him clenching the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship in 1994. He came close again with runner-up finishes racing for other teams in 1996 and 2003. Along his journey in Nationwide, he scored nine wins, 72 top-five finishes, 144 top-10 finishes, 22 pole awards and he also has 78 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts to his credit.
“Bobby said, ‘I heard the news and I know you should be out there driving, but why don’t you come to North Carolina and help me in the shop, go to the track and if something would come up, you wouldn’t be out of sight out of mind,” Green said. “I was so close to saying I’m not cut out for this and he changed my mind. I drove to North Carolina not knowing if I would be there two days, two weeks or two months. I worked for him all of 1992. When he went Cup racing the next year we simply pulled his name off of the Nationwide car and put my name on it. We almost won the championship with me driving that year, but we fell to third at the end. In 1994, we did win the championship.”
For everything Labonte did to assist Green in his endeavors, he enjoys returning the favor.
“I followed Bobby forever and when I saw the opportunity come about at JTG Daugherty Racing I asked if he needed a spotter,” Green said. “Also, I had a good relationship with Tad Geschickter (co-owner) and I always wanted to work together.”
It seemed like a good fit. Ironically, Kimberly-Clark Corporation’s Kleenex brand was Green’s sponsor when he won his last NASCAR Nationwide Series race. Their SCOTT Products brand will be front in center this weekend.
“Kleenex was my sponsor when I won my last Nationwide race at Pikes Peak,” Green said. “So, I had a great relationship with the sponsor and it’s neat that they now sponsor Bobby at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series level with Tad, Jodi (Geschickter) and Brad’s (Daugherty) operation.
“I never really officially retired as a driver,” continued Green. “Being a spotter, is as close to being a driver you can be. For everything Bobby did for me, it’s a small part of a payback.”
Now that Green is out of the driver’s seat, he’s passed the torch to his son.
“Austin is 11 and he’s running a Bandolero at Charlotte Motor Speedway,” Green said. “At age five, he started racing competitively in a go-kart. Because of my travel, he doesn’t get to race as much. He’s racing the Summer Shootout and the Winter Heat at Charlotte. He loves soccer too, but it’s very interesting to watch how he handles himself on the race track. To me, it’s the spitting image of a Bobby or Terry Labonte. I patterned my driving style like their driving style. Terry and Bobby and Bob (Labonte) taught me the right and wrong way. Whether my son chases a career in driving is yet to be seen, but he understands it and is doing it the right way. The right way is the Labonte way.”
Green’s looking forward to this weekend at what he considers his home track where he has seven Nationwide Series starts. This time around Labonte may be seeking advice from Green since he has more laps at the place. In the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series first visit to the 1.5-mile tri-oval, Labonte started 24th and finished 26th last year.
“Believe it or not in all my years racing, I had not raced at Kentucky until last year,” Labonte said. “I had only tested there up until that point. I’m looking forward to going back and I’m sure David is glad to be in his home state too. We’ve been working together and friends for a long time.
“We’re also glad to have SCOTT Products with us this weekend supporting us,” continued Labonte. “It’s going to be a good race for us.”