DETROIT (March 28, 2000) - Car owner A.J. Foyt and driver Bobby Labonte both migrated to NASCAR's Winston Cup Series from the state of Texas and would like nothing more than to find success when they return home this week. Foyt has a storied ...
DETROIT (March 28, 2000) - Car owner A.J. Foyt and driver Bobby Labonte both migrated to NASCAR's Winston Cup Series from the state of Texas and would like nothing more than to find success when they return home this week.
Foyt has a storied history racing in his home state that began as a driver in NASCAR's early trips to Texas World Speedway and has continued as an IRL car owner at Texas Motor Speedway. Now the Houston, Texas, native takes his first-year Winston Cup operation home after searching for success through the first six races of the 2000 season.
Labonte, who hails from Corpus Christi, Texas, has been atop the Winston Cup point standings the majority of the 2000 season and could very well reinforce his strong start at the 1.5-mile quad-oval. Labonte is arguably the series master at that style of facility and has been equally strong at Texas. In three trips there he owns three top-10 finishes, including two third-place finishes in 1997 and 1999.
THOUGHTS FROM A.J. FOYT, CAR OWNER, NO. 14 CONSECO PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
* How special will it be to race in Texas? "It's going to be great. I love Texas. We've always run quite well in Texas. Even when NASCAR came there years ago I drove for the Wood Brothers, set a track record and got beat by about a foot at the finish line. I tried to get by Buddy Baker, but they had that big, ol' Hemi. It ran pretty good. I almost got by him, but he made that car of his a little wider on that last lap than normal. I didn't back off, but he got me up pretty high. I've won there with my Camaros, I' ve won with my Indy cars and also I've won with other drivers. I always want to run good in Texas and we're going to do whatever it takes to run good there."
* How frustrating has the 2000 season been so far? "When I raced I never worried about making races. But I'm in a little different position today. I'm not behind the wheel. Not that I wouldn't have missed a race, but I was always worried about trying to sit on the pole. I used to get mad if we didn't get in the front row or right up front. I knew this was going to be bumpy. I knew it was going to be hard and my partners at Conseco knew the same thing.
"I wasn't worried about our car. I wasn't worried about our equipment. But I didn't know how Mike (Bliss) would adapt to the deal. You've got to want to really pick up and hustle. When I drove a race car, my biggest thing was that I hung it all out to qualify. Plus I did the same for the race. But some guys just don't hang it that far out to qualify. Today, to be competitive, you've got to let it all dangle at the last minute because you've got a lot of young kids coming up. They are going to let it all hang out.
"I had to make some changes that I didn't want to make. But I felt before the season went much further, I had to because I didn't care to go home early on the weekends. That is not my style of racing. I just felt like I had to look and evaluate the team. So I said, 'Let's make one change and just see what we've got.' We're building our own motors, and I felt like with Waddell (Wilson) we're not going to have motors that we don't think will run. We've got dynos. We know how to read and we kind of know what other people are doing.
"I've just started evaluating it. It's still a long season and we'll go from here. Since we made the change, so far everything has been going good. But we missed the three races and I was kind of upset."
* How tempting has it been to drive the car yourself? "It's funny because when we were struggling to qualify in Atlanta I was talking to Waddell about different things. We had gone down there and tested very fast, and then we couldn't back it up. For some reason the car wasn't handling properly and one thing was leading to another. So Waddell went up and asked Mike Helton if we could have someone else drive the car in second-round qualifying, which was eventually rained out. I guess Mike told him, 'Anybody but A.J.' I guess Mike thought I was going to get in. But I'll tell you what, it has been tempting a couple times. Not that I could have done any better. But I haven't been out of them very long and it's tempting. Believe me. If I didn't have this weight on me that I've gained - about an extra 30 or 35 pounds - it's very likely I would have crawled through that window. But I'm going to keep the weight on me so I can't be tempted."
* Have you adjusted your expectations for this season? "I've re-adjusted. This is the first year and this is so tough over here. We had to put a crew together, and a lot of people don't realize that we didn't get the electricity turned on in our new shop that we built in Charlotte until January. So when you take everything that the team has put together - we've got 11 brand new race cars, we're building our own motors, we qualified pretty good at Daytona and we've run pretty good in the races - all in all I think the team has done a hell of a job."
THOUGHTS FROM BOBBY LABONTE, NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
* Can you apply to Texas what you've learned at Charlotte or Atlanta? "Well, we didn't go test, but it's a race track we like to go to. A track like that does kind of have the same characteristics as Atlanta and Charlotte, but it's different. But you do have the same mindset going into it."
* Is your routine like normal when you race in Texas, or is it more hectic? "Yeah, it's the same thing, but it is a little crazy. I am going out a little earlier. They do have me running around quite a bit. So it is busier, but it's not bad."