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TRIAD — Former NASCAR champion and High Point resident Bobby Labonte will get behind the wheel when Caraway Speedway opens for its 56th season later this month.

Labonte, 56, will compete this year in the Southern Modified Auto Race Tour’s 10-race series. The series kicks off with the SMART 99 race at Caraway on March 14.

Labonte first competed at Caraway Speedway in 1980 in a Sportsman race won by former NASCAR great Dale Earnhardt.

Labonte returned to compete at Caraway in 1987 after he left Hagan Racing and went to work for local car builder Jay Hedgecock. Using his savings, Labonte bought a car and engine to compete at Caraway, which he said became his first real “home track.”

The 1987 season saw Labonte, along with Dennis Setzer, dominate the winner’s circle, with Labonte clinching the track championship.

Labonte would go on to an illustrious career in NASCAR, winning the Busch Series title in 1991 and the Winston Cup in 2000 and becoming the 2001 IROC champion. He was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame last year.

For the SMART Tour, Labonte will be driving the No. 25 car sponsored by Cook Out.