CORNELIUS, N.C. (AP) _ Terry Labonte will come out of retirement long enough to replace team owner and driver Michael Waltrip behind the wheel for the two NASCAR Nextel Cup road races this season.
Labonte retired from Cup races near the end of last season, but Michael Waltrip Racing announced Tuesday he will drive the team's No. 55 Toyota Camry at Infineon Raceway on June 24 and at Watkins Glen International at Aug. 12.
``It's not an easy decision for me to remove myself from the car, but I know it is for the betterment of our whole program,'' said Waltrip, who has struggled through a terrible season, qualifying for only two of 14 races. ``I know Terry's experience and road race savvy will breathe a breath of fresh air into my young NAPA team.''
The 2007 season has been mostly a nightmare for Waltrip in his first season as a Cup team owner, beginning with Daytona, where his team was fined and docked points for using a foreign substance in the fuel and two of his employees were suspended until being reinstated in May.
The two-time Daytona 500 winner and younger brother of three-time Cup champion Darrell Waltrip also had an embarrassing off-track incident in which he fell asleep at the wheel of his SUV, hit a telephone pole and turned over. He was not injured but was charged by police with reckless driving and failing to report an accident.
Meanwhile, his other two drivers, former Cup champion Dale Jarrett and rookie David Reutimann have struggled in their new Toyotas.
Jarrett, who had to use up all six of his allowable former champion's provisionals to make races, has driven in 11 of the 14 events but has not finished better than 22nd since Daytona.
Reutimann has driven in nine races this year with a best finish of 29th.
The 50-year-old Labonte drove in 17 races last season, ending with the race in his native Texas in November. He did, however, finish third last season at Infineon and has six top 10 finishes at Watkins Glen.
``To put Terry in the car is a reflection of the big picture we are trying to establish with this NAPA Racing team and I know this will be a spark this team needs,'' Waltrip said. ``I look forward to watching the team compete and learning more about all the MWR cars from a different perspective, exclusively as an owner.''
Waltrip plans to attempt to qualify for the rest of the Cup races this season.