During his long NASCAR career, Bobby Labonte was known for his on-track abilities and his off-track reluctance to talk about them. Or much of anything else, for that matter.
But the Hall of Famer recently opened up about a very personal and potentially life-threatening situation: Kidney cancer.
In an interview on the NASCAR Race Hub program, the 58-year-old Labonte detailed a health scare that began in 2019, when sluggish health led to a doctor visit that in turn led to the discovery of a small spot on a kidney.
"So I go to my local doctor, and he said, 'I found this little spot on your kidney. We really need to keep an eye on this,'" Labonte said.
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They did keep an eye on it, and two years later it had tripled in size. The mass was surgically removed last October, and a couple of weeks later, Labonte said, he got the good news/bad news phone call from the surgeon.
"He said, 'We got everything, everything looks great.' He said, 'But it was cancer.' And he said, 'It was very aggressive.'"
Labonte said he was hit with a range of emotions, especially upon learning that one-third of patients with his type of kidney cancer don't survive. He was fortunate to catch his early and has gone public – despite his long-time preference for keeping things inside – to hopefully help others take early action with health concerns.
"Usually, I’m not the 'share' type of guy and you won’t know a lot of things about me," he said. "But it didn’t take me long to figure out if we could help one person, just help one person, man. …. There’s a ton of cancers out there that can be treatable for sure and this was one if you catch it early, like we did, we were fortunate enough to be able to take care of it."
Labonte drove full time in NASCAR's Cup Series from 1993-2013. He won the 2000 Cup Series championship and finished his career with 21 victories. Prior to his Cup career, he won the 1991 championship in the Busch Series, now known as the Xfinity Series.
He's returned to racing recently, competing in modified cars last year, and this summer he drove in the made-for-TV Superstar Racing Experience, where he returned to Victory Lane with a win at Nashville.
This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Labonte reveals recent kidney cancer scare