Atlanta: Bobby Labonte preview

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C., Tuesday, March 9, 2004 -- The following are Golden Corral 500 pre-race notes and quotes for Bobby Labonte, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing. GOLDEN CORRAL 500 PRE-RACE NOTES: * ...

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C., Tuesday, March 9, 2004 -- The following are Golden Corral 500 pre-race notes and quotes for Bobby Labonte, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing.

GOLDEN CORRAL 500 PRE-RACE NOTES:

* Labonte will attempt to start his 23rd race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He has won at Atlanta six times in his career, including last year's spring race.

* Labonte has 12 top-five finishes and has won the Bud pole twice at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

* In addition to winning the spring race at Atlanta in 2003, Labonte started second and finished fifth in the fall race.

* The primary car for the Golden Corral 500 is No. 78, the car Labonte used March 7 at Las Vegas, where he started seventh and finished eighth. In 2003, the car was used the in the second Atlanta race where Labonte finished fifth. Car No. 78 was also used at both Michigan races and the Kansas race. Labonte won the pole at both Michigan races and finished second in the car in the first Michigan race. He started fourth in the car at Kansas.

* The back-up car is No. 74, the car Labonte used to win the pole and finish fourth with in 2003 at Las Vegas. Labonte also drove the car at California, where he finished second and at the second Pocono race, where he finished 30th after an engine problem ended his day early.

* Labonte is 11th in points, coming off an eighth-place finish at Las Vegas, his first top-10 finish of the season. Despite finishing in the top 10 in points in seven of the last nine years, Labonte has only been in the top 10 in points after the first three races of the season twice, in 1999 and 2000.

GOLDEN CORRAL 500 PRE-RACE QUOTE:

BOBBY LABONTE (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet; 2000 NASCAR Champion):

"It's going to be interesting when we get down there. We didn't test down there, but I think I've only tested there like once or twice in my whole life. When we get down there with the aero package and the tires -- it'll be a concern for everybody in the first half of the season as we go to these tracks. Once you start figuring things out for the second go-around, you'll have a better feel for it. I'm looking forward to Atlanta. It's always been a good track for us. I don't think we should lose anything, but if we do lose something, maybe everybody else will too. If we lose grip or time or something like that, like I said, maybe everybody else will too."

(About Atlanta Motor Speedway): "It's just something I've grown accustom to and I like it a lot. I have no secrets about it. Nothing that, when we go down there, tells me we're going to be competitive. Obviously, it's good when you have confidence in your race car and your race team, and you go to a racetrack that you like and that you've excelled at before. I do get a good feel for going through the race. It's a flat-out, fast, fast racetrack, and I do like those types of racetracks. That one there just maybe suits our style a little bit better."

(About his success at Atlanta): "I try not to let that get too far in front of me because I know what you do is you go out there and you make a mistake. We've gone out there before and walked in there with our heads up high and qualified 39th or 40th. It doesn't mean you're always going to be good and don't have to worry about everything. You still have to work hard. I think the confidence that we have in the race team is that if we don't start off good, we can get better, and if we start off good, we can stay there."

(Is there a question about Atlanta that the media has not asked you?): "Ask me, 'What would you like to have done there?' and I would answer, 'You could put a really nice quarter midget track somewhere in the facility for the kids to run at. You've got all the parking problems figured out, there's plenty of parking, you just need an acre and a half or two acres to put a track on, that way kids in the area have a place to run."

(Is it too early in the season to determine where teams stand in the 2004 season?): "I think you've got to wait a little bit longer. You might have some guys trying some things early on. Just because they're not quite as good right now, doesn't mean they're not trying things. They may want to give up a couple of races in the first 26 rather than in the last part of the 26. It's hard to tell. Obviously, you can see some guys laying a pretty good foundation. I think there are some guys who might be good that haven't been good so far. You see some teams with a good foundation, though."

-jgr-

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bobby Labonte
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing