RON GREEN: Joining us in the press conference room is your 2001 True Value IROC champion, Bobby Labonte. Congratulations, Bobby. BOBBY LABONTE: Thank you. GREEN: You had to go straight from Victory Lane to your car for happy hour. Now you've...
RON GREEN: Joining us in the press conference room is your 2001 True Value IROC champion, Bobby Labonte. Congratulations, Bobby.
BOBBY LABONTE: Thank you.
GREEN: You had to go straight from Victory Lane to your car for happy hour. Now you've had some time. Has it really sunk in? You're joining an elite club this afternoon.
<B>LABONTE</B>: It really hasn't sunk in yet. I was thinking a while ago, though, during practice when we had a break, I was watching something, I guess it was on ESPN last night or night before last, about Roger Penske had the idea, came up with it, I think, had all the Porsches out at Riverside. I've been to Riverside a few times. That shows you how old I am. So I've been to Riverside and I don't think I saw the Porsches race, not that, but I did see them on TV. So it was kind of cool to see those guys that raced in it and they listed some names. I don't recall all of them because I think I was getting dressed to go eat dinner last night, but I do remember seeing them, seeing the faces and who had won and who won races and championships. So today between one of the runs that we had after the race was over, I was thinking -- I thought 25 years, that's quite a while; and to be a part of not just a modern era of Dale Earnhardt, Mark Martin, Al Unser, Jr., my brother won, I think in --
GREEN: Your brother Terry in '89.
<B>LABONTE</B>: '89? I watched him at Watkins Glen with Scott Pruett. Again, that goes back to my age. Anyway, it's pretty cool to be part of not just that crowd but the crowd before that. I think Bobby Allison won it a few times and I'm not going to mention the names because I don't want to get them wrong. But guys that, you know, you grew up admiring when you're very young. I know A.J. won it more than once. So thinking about it, you know, not just -- the difference between this and the Winston Cup series I think is, you know, the -- it's a different crowd of drivers. It's not just Winston Cup drivers winning a Winston Cup championship, you have from different leagues and different divisions, different accents, different all kinds of stuff winning. So, you know, that's really like all of a sudden -- I thought about that and it was like, wow, didn't think about that beforehand, I guess.
GREEN: We are transcribing this press conference, so when we open it up for questions, I want you to say your question in this microphone.
Bobby, in the late going there you seemed to have it, really have it locked up running second. You had really nothing to gain seemingly by passing your teammate and everything to lose. If you spin out, you know, maybe Tony wins the series title, maybe Rudd or Brack. Was that a big calculated risk on your part?
<B>LABONTE</B>: Well, now that I know that I didn't have -- could have taken it easy, it would have been pretty good. But at the time, you know, the points system I don't really understand and knew what it was and didn't pay attention to it to know. Mathematically there's bonus points for leading laps, leading the most laps, next laps, and then points for winning, second, I don't really know what those are off the top of my head. In Winston Cup I kind of have a better idea since you do it every week. So I did not know. I thought about that. I was thinking if I sat here, this would be great if Tony won and I won the championship, that would be cool, that would be the best thing. But I did not know if that was the case because how many laps he led compared to the second most laps, third most laps, there's five points here, there's this and that. I had no idea to be honest with you. So I mean I was thinking that but I had no way to ask the crew because you can't talk to nobody. I waved a couple times but nobody answered. So I mean, I was like, heck, I don't know. Tony, we talked a while ago and it was like who knew. All I know is that he was fourth in points and before the race started didn't really even look at the paper other than where you start dead last, next, next, next. I knew that those were pretty close to points-wise. So that's all I knew. I wish I did know that, it would have saved me a lot of trouble.
GREEN: Actually, George Signore just pointed out that you would not have won if you had finished second to Tony Stewart if he had continued to lead all the laps. That was the right move.
<B>LABONTE</B>: Let me take another drink of water because I wasted my breath. You're bad. You're bad. Restrict that, take that off of the -- (Laughter)
GREEN: Next question for Bobby.
<B>LABONTE</B>: We're going to start over, first question. (Laughter)
You mentioned you talked to Tony, what did you discuss about the incident late in the race?
<B>LABONTE</B>: I just told him I crashed. I mean, I just got in the corner real hard and -- not really that hard but got down in there and it kind of broke loose a little bit and then the front end took off. I had the wheel turned and I was on the brakes and I thought, well, let's see, I'm going to hit real hard and he's going to hit even harder. You know, I mean, because I thought we would both wreck because it just slid up. The lap before that or the two laps before that when we were running side by side, it wasn't like that. I went down in there and just lost grip, lost grip, lost grip; and I took my feet off the gas and off the brake -- hit the brake and then off the brake hoping it would cut. At that point in time I was just trying to figure out where I'm going to land, you know, because I figured it was going to be major. You know, it wasn't for me; it was for him, I guess. But I don't know where he was at in the center of the corner but I probably nosed him a little bit and then we went up and then he went up; and I don't know if it carried me up the racetrack or what when he went up a little bit. So I haven't seen it. I wrecked and used him for the wall.
GREEN: This is Bobby's second win this season. He also won the IROC round in Talladega and his third overall IROC win. Next question.
I might be mistaken on this, Bobby, but you are the only driver to win a feature event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in two major divisions here. Of course, last year was your Brickyard 400 and here in IROC. That's something that Jacques Villeneuve couldn't do last year. What do you think about that?
<B>LABONTE</B>: I don't beg to differ. Sounds pretty good to me. I mean that is a great accomplishment winning both race and championship today and after I won the race last year. I mean, it's not like they run five times a year up here. So, you know, it's pretty hard to do and goes back to the history of this racetrack. You know, kind of like the IROC championship, all the drivers that have won here, the Indianapolis 500 and I guess there's a trophy over there or something that's going to have my name on that for this today. So it will be part of that. Gee, I never thought about that going to IRP several years ago and being over here. So that's pretty neat. To win last year that, and this year win the race and this, too, it was -- that will be something that will sink in further because I didn't really think about that.
GREEN: More questions for Bobby?
<B>LABONTE</B>: Do they race motorcycles here? I don't want to try that. I rode in on one this morning, but I don't believe I want to race one.
GREEN: You did race a midget here in Indianapolis at one time, also.
<B>LABONTE</B>: Ooh, don't mention that one. I wrecked there, too. I didn't wreck nobody else, I just wrecked myself.
GREEN: More questions for Bobby.
You guys were able to run side by side in the IROC race. Is that something you can do tomorrow or will you not be able to do that? In the corners I'm talking about.
<B>LABONTE</B>: I don't know. It's still pretty hard. I didn't do it today in practice, we weren't that good. But I didn't see that much happening, you know. Obviously, you saw today we ran side by side for one lap, how close Kenny caught up to us. You know, it seemed like he was a little mosquito on the windshield and then he became a big butterfly. You know, just here he comes real fast because we lost so much speed. So I guess I can't really say. It would be good racing side by side; but you might see some side-by-side racing but it won't be for very long probably because you'll need to get back in line or what will happen is that notorious -- somebody in the third car back will get a run on both of you and pass you both. So it's still pretty hard to do. And the tire -- I really haven't figured it out yet. It's not very comfortable for me right now. Kind of like the IROC car, I don't think anybody wants to run side by side with me yet. I'm using up more than one groove right now.
GREEN: On the TV interview after the race, you shared some comments about you felt like there was an omen or some karma with you today because of the black car.
<B>LABONTE</B>: Yeah, probably one of the most special things is last year Senior won this and, you know, at Talladega, being he started the season off with us and he's not here, you know, it's kind of like it's all fun and good but it's not as much fun as it would be if he was here. Everybody misses Dale Earnhardt like we all do, but you've also got to think about -- nobody thinks enough about his family and what Junior goes through. I mean, I still have trouble talking to him because I wouldn't know what to say to a person like that. Kerry and Kelly and Teresa especially, I mean the family was so down to earth and they are down to earth; and without Dale, you know, today's definitely missing a big part of the puzzle. I feel pretty -- I drove the black car today and I got in it. I drew it the other day and thought, well, a black car, that's cool; I like black cars. You think about Dale Earnhardt, you always think about a black car. And you think about -- you know, things like that go through your mind and, you know, it's just kind of a special feeling, I guess, knowing that he stood up there last year and did the same thing and I did this year and how much we really do miss him. Even though it's been several months now, it's still not the same.
GREEN: Before this year Bobby's best finish in IROC points was third. Obviously, he topped that today. More questions? Well, Bobby, congratulations. Thank you very much for taking the time to come over. Enjoy it.
<B>LABONTE</B>: Thank you. Appreciate that. Thanks a lot.