Cowboys duo lands Labonte

Associated Press
Published November 4, 2005

Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman took their time putting together a NASCAR team. They will have a champion driver behind the wheel for their first races.

Two-time NASCAR champion Terry Labonte was introduced Thursday as the first driver for the new Hall of Fame Racing team. The 1984 and 1996 Nextel Cup champion will run the 2006 season-opening Daytona 500 and four more races before journeyman driver Tony Raines takes over.

"We have in my opinion one of the finest race car drivers ever to kick off the season, and gives us some leadership all of us need," said former Trans-Am driver Bill Saunders, who joined Staubach and Aikman in 2003 to form the team.

With Labonte driving, the Hall of Fame team is assured of making the first five races. Even if the car doesn't qualify on speed, Labonte would get a provisional as a past champion.

"Being from Texas, it would certainly be hard to tell Roger and Troy no," said Labonte, a Corpus Christi native and Dallas Cowboys fan known as "Texas Terry." "It's just kind of a neat deal for me."

Raines, who has won four truck races but never in the Nextel Cup or Busch series, will drive the balance of the Hall of Fame schedule, except for two road-course races that Labonte will drive.

Since Nos. 8 and 12 were taken by two of NASCAR's most popular drivers (Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Ryan Newman), the Hall of Fame team multiplied the jersey numbers Aikman (8) and Staubach (12) wore for the Cowboys to come up with No. 96.

TRUCKS: Mike Skinner matched a pair of series qualifying records in winning the pole for the Chevrolet Silverado 350 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. Skinner, a former series champion, had an average lap of 182.593 mph to win his third consecutive pole at the 1.5-mile superspeedway. He becomes the third driver to win three straight poles, sharing the record with Jack Sprague and Canada's Ron Fellows. Skinner also is the third driver to win three consecutive poles on superspeedways measuring more than a mile. Skinner's Bill Davis Racing teammate, Bill Lester, will be on the outside of the first row for the fifth time this season. Lester turned in a fast lap of 182.550.

NHRA: Funny Car leader Gary Scelzi and second-place Ron Capps qualified, and third-place John Force was outside the top 16 for the season-ending Auto Club NHRA Finals at historic Pomona (Calif.) Raceway. The drivers will settle the tightest Funny Car points chase in NHRA history during Sunday's eliminations in the $1.7-million event. Rod Fuller (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Ryan Schnitz (Pro Stock Motorcycle) topped their divisions. Among the title contenders in Funny Car, Capps qualified third in his Dodge Stratus, and Scelzi drove his Stratus to a sixth-place effort. Force was 19th overall, outside the 16-car starting order, after his Ford Mustang lost traction at the start of his run.