NASCAR legend Bobby Labonte, winner of the top-level Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2000, will race at Brands Hatch's American SpeedFest V with an appearance in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series (NWES) on 10-11 June.
Labonte will race in two NWES races within the confines of the Brands Hatch Indy circuit across the SpeedFest weekend, making his European racing debut at 53 years of age. Labonte follows in the footsteps of Jeffrey Earnhardt, who crossed the Atlantic to race at SpeedFest in 2015, with his participation in the event reaffirming the close ties between the NWES, American SpeedFest, and the US-based NASCAR organisation.
Texas-born Labonte was one of the sport's most well-known figures throughout the '90s and early-'00s, a period in which he won no fewer than 21 races at the top level, culminating with a title success in 2000. Labonte won NASCAR's top level Monster Energy Cup Series during a period of peak popularity, in which he was regularly competing against men who were household names on both sides of the Atlantic such as Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, and Tony Stewart.
Labonte planted himself firmly within the sport's record books as the first man to win titles in both NASCAR's top and second tiers, whilst allowing him to emulate elder brother Terry, champion in 1996 and 1984. In joining his brother as a champion, Labonte became one half of the first fraternal pairing to win the championship - a feat only recently matched by Kurt and Kyle Busch.
Despite competing in NASCAR full-time for the last time in 2012, Labonte remained an active member of the NASCAR community, continuing to compete in the superspeedway races at Daytona and Talladega, with his most recent appearances coming only last season.
Throughout his career, the majority of Labonte's success came on the high-speed oval courses, but he doesn't head to the Kent circuit without some pedigree in the area of road racing. Indeed, he achieved pole positions at Watkins Glen circuit in upstate New York, with front-running performances at Sonoma in California.
Away from NASCAR, Labonte was victorious in the 2001 Race of Champions, a one-make series for Pontiac Trans Ams, in which he faced-off against IndyCar drivers, whilst he demonstrated his versatility with several starts in the Daytona 24 Hours sports car race.
The NWES races in which Labonte will compete offer authentic, thrill-a-minute racing in the NASCAR style, with genuine V8 stock cars, based on designs from Ford and Chevrolet. It is the only championship of its kind operating in Europe, and the SpeedFest weekend at Brands Hatch will offer the UK public its only glimpse of officially-endorsed NASCAR racing this year.
In addition to the headline NASCAR action, there will be a massive programme of non-racing activities, including demonstrations from US racing cars. Among these will be the number 18 Pontiac Grand Prix driven to five victories, and second place in the NASCAR standings by Labonte in 1999.
Labonte said: "I am really excited to join the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series in Brands Hatch. It is a great opportunity. With Jerome Galpin (NWES President / CEO) and Joe Balash (NASCAR International Liaison) we talked about it during the winter and when they called me for this race I was more than happy to jump onboard. The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series is very successful and I really love the fact that NASCAR is present in many different countries. I think the Euro Series is a really good environment both to develop a NASCAR career and race at very competitive level with low costs. It will be fun to be able to get in a Euro NASCAR car and go race at such a famous race track."
Tickets for American SpeedFest V at Brands Hatch are available online in advance for just £24 with free entry for under-13s. For more information, please call 0843 453 9000 or visit www.speedfest.co.uk.