Racing, boating safety make for a wonderful combination

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 4, 2004

Last week’s column described the new Coast Guard sponsored &uot;Shield of Freedom&uot; #44 car driven by Justin Labonte, son of NASCAR legend Terry Labonte and nephew of Bobby Labonte. The car, which debuted yesterday, is running in NASCAR’s Busch series. The debut race occurred at the Texas Motor Speedway’s O’Reilly 300 in which Justin started in 37th place. He clocked a qualifying speed of 183.387 mph. (Because of the deadline time for this column the results of the race were not available.)

Besides the obvious benefits to recruiting, the partnership between Labonte racing family and the Coast Guard took on another dimension when the Coast Guard announced that the three driving Labonte’s would serve as national spokesman for the service’s &uot;You’re in Command&uot; boating safety awareness initiative. The Coast Guard introduced the Labontes at the Infield Media Center at the Daytona International Speedway two months ago.

From a prepared statement, the Labontes reinforced how serious they were about boating safety. &uot;My brother Bobby, and my son, Justin, and I are all avid boaters,&uot; said Terry. &uot;When we’re not racing you can often find us in our boats hunting or fishing. As outdoorsmen and as professional racecar drivers, we understand the importance of doing what we need to do to make ourselves as safe as possible.&uot;

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Continued Labonte, &uot;Too many people are dying or getting injured in boating accidents, because they didn’t take some simple safety precautions. I wouldn’t dream of going out in my car without my helmet and fireproof gear. Likewise, I wouldn’t set foot in my boat without wearing my life jacket.&uot;

Getting the Labontes involved is important step in the Coast Guard’s continuing effort to teach the boating public about safety awareness. The need for this important emphasis is greater now than ever. According to the latest Coast Guard statistics a total of 750 boaters died in 2002, which is actually an increase from the 2001 statistics. By teaming them with the &uot;You’re In Command&uot; national program the service has three very recognizable names, even if you are not a diehard NASCAR fan.

For more information on the &uot;Your In Command&uot; program please visit: For more information on the Coast Guard Racing team please visit: Until next week….Boat Safe….Boat Smart!