First things first: Terry Labonte is the nicest person I’ve ever interviewed.
Somehow, during a phoner, he managed to outdo then-MetroStars goalie and current English Premier League star Tim Howard (who walked across the locker room, grabbed a chair and brought it back to me so we’d both have a place to sit while we chatted).
When I answered the phone for the two-time Cup champion, all I heard, in a slow Texas drawl, was, “My name is Terry Labonte.” He sounded like an entry-level salesperson who was about to sheepishly ask me if he could come over and show me laminate siding. It was the most unpretentious introduction I’ve ever received from an athlete, and my only regret is that I didn’t keep the recording.
It’s hard to criticize Terry. But I have to, not as much to berate him but to stick up for everyone else who comes down to Daytona Beach in February sans a guaranteed starting spot.
It’s sheer hell. And it can’t be any easier when a guy with a past champions provisional makes ze...