Atlanta: GM - Labonte, McSwain press conference

BOBBY LABONTE , NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: "Our car was really good all day long. It was probably better from the beginning to the mid-part of the race. Then, the track got a little tighter I suppose and we probably...

BOBBY LABONTE , NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:

"Our car was really good all day long. It was probably better from the beginning to the mid-part of the race. Then, the track got a little tighter I suppose and we probably didn't adjust for it. I didn't adjust on every stop, but it was pretty good. I've been that way before here. I've been catching up a little bit and always got better towards the end. At the end we started adjusting on it a little bit more. Fatback made all the right choices there at the end to free it up a little bit and we were able to get by the '24' car.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT THIS PLACE? "I have no idea. It's combination of a lot of things. I just don't know. I like this place. There are a lot of things, but I can't do it every time, either. We do run good a lot, but we don't run good every time. We haven't run good every time. But, it's just one of those places I like.

"I told this story this morning at hospitality, and it doesn't really mean anything, but it makes for a good story. I was like 17 years old when I ran my first race here in a 'Baby Grand' car and I finished third, and I think what helped was that the throttle got hung wide open...That was my first time here and I can't explain why I ran good then because we didn't do nothing but wax the car. The guy that I was a teammate with, he worked all week long and he ran like dog poop, so it was just one of those deals. I have no idea why. It just happens. I love going fast here. The faster you go the more I like it."

FROM THE LAST RESTART UNTIL YOU PASSED GORDON FOR THE LEAD... "He got by me and my car was pretty good. We had put a set of tires on it and we were going to the end. I had a run off turn four and I got to him down the front straightaway and got up on his outside and passed him going into one and just 'hammer down.' We ran some really fast laps. The tires stuck with me really good. I was able to run - not wide open, but pretty much wide open from there to the end of the race. But, you had to be careful because you couldn't wear your tires out. But, we didn't have that many laps to wear them out. It was just one of those situations where he got by me on the restart, which he had done that once before. He was always getting me on a restart. He got by me. We worked a couple laps to try to figure out a line. I couldn't pass him on the inside because he had that covered - that's the fast way around, so I just carried her off into three and had a good run off of four and got by him down the front stretch."

DID YOU THINK YOU WOULD LOSE YOUR MOMENTUM WHEN YOU TAPPED GORDON FROM BEHIND? "The lap before that, I caught him going into one because I had a lot of speed down the front straightaway because I got good momentum off of four. That time there I was trying to get to his outside on that little dogleg there and hoped he didn't block me. I tapped him just a little bit and I eased up. But, I didn't ease up much. We both kind of wiggled. Then, he knew I was on his right rear at that point in time, so he probably knew he didn't need to go there."

DID YOU FEEL LIKE YOU WERE DRIVING PRETTY AGGRESSIVE THERE AT THE END OF THE RACE? "I think I was driving as fast as my car was going to let me go. I think that is true in every case. If you've got a 10th place car you don't want to wreck it trying to be first, but you don't want to finish 15th either. We had a fast car. I knew we had a good chance to win and you don't get these chances very often, so I was going to do everything that I could to make sure that I didn't let that happen. I just had a fast car and tried to pass him when we got to him."

DID YOU FEEL A SENSE OF URGENCY TO GET BY AT THAT TIME - WITH 11 LAPS TO GO? "I was going to pass him whenever I got to him. I wasn't going to wait, wait, wait because you never know if he's holding back - maybe holding a little bit - because two runs before that I couldn't pass him. Heck, you don't know. You come in and pit. You make a little adjustment. He might have took off in that last 11 laps and he might have had two laps that weren't as good and maybe I couldn't have passed him, but you can't just wait. When I got to him I was like, 'I've got to take my opportunity right now' to make that pass."

MICHAEL "FATBACK" MCSWAIN , CREW CHIEF, NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:

HOW BIG IS THIS WIN TO YOU? "It means a lot to me. It means a lot to our whole organization. It means to me and Bobby. Both of us have struggled. Joe Gibbs has struggled. There are a lot of stories behind the scenes that most of you know, but we don't have to print - but, it's a good day. It's definitely a good day."

LABONTE:

WITH THE SWITCH TO CHEVY AND A CHANGE IN CREW CHIEF, ARE YOU ABLE TO USE YOUR PAST NOTES? "(Fatback) looks over all the notes we have from the past - all the way back to Dale Jarrett, so he's got opportunities to look at all those notes and make those decisions. Then, he goes and relies on his notes, of course. Then, he probably says, 'Bobby likes a car like this' - what little bit he knows me, but he knows me enough now that he knows that I trend a certain way possibly. So, he's sitting there thinking, 'OK, I need to keep him tight, I need to do this, but I need to do this...' So, we take all those notes and I think he puts them in his head and comes out with a setup. So, we come to the racetrack like that. Like I said last weekend we didn't have very good notes last year to keep because they were like - well, we weren't as competitive as we like to be. I told them, I said, 'I haven't run good in a while, so I don't have very good notes in my head, either,' so we really rely on his notes. Last year, they had good notes and he's had good notes for many years and that was with a Ford, which is probably similar to what we have now, obviously. You put them all together. If he had Tony Stewart as a driver he'd probably have to set it up a little differently. But, we've talked about it enough. We've gone through our testing. We've gone through our few races that we've been together.

"He'd gone through the last of last season together with us -- the last three races - and kind of picked around and picked around and understood, listened and observed and kind of said, 'This is what we need to start with - give us a starting point.' Then, I can go out there and run and say, 'The car is going this, this, and this' and we work on it from there with what we work together with and what he knows and what little bit I can give to him."

MCSWAIN:

ON BOBBY'S SUPPOSED 'CALM, COOL' PERSONALITY "He is pretty calm and he is pretty conservative and kind of laid back. But, I think most of you have seen the commercial with the little devil sitting on somebody's shoulder. Well, that's me in his ear going, 'This is your race if you want it. Don't take nothing off these young kids. Let's go get this race. You've got the best race car out here.' Like I told him when he made that move and he come around the next lap, I said, 'Now, that's what I call a race car driver right there, folks.'"

LABONTE:

WHEN GORDON PASSED YOU ON THE FRONT STRETCH, DID YOU THINK THAT WAS IT?) "I thought I had a chance, but making it work was going to be different. We just had to bear down and go after it - no different than him passing us earlier - he was fast. I didn't know if I could, but I was going to give it my best shot and that's all I could do. I didn't know if it was going to work. I didn't have a prepared plan of 'sorry about that' if it didn't work, but I had a prepared plan of 'it worked,' you know what I mean? I had to give it my best shot because we led too many laps and we had too fast a car to not try."

MCSWAIN:

HOW IMPORTANT WAS THE LAST PIT STOP? "I think every pit stop is really important, but especially when you're trying to build momentum and you're trying to build momentum towards the end of the race. If those guys can have a really good pit stop and make it happen on pit road, it just gives Bobby that much more momentum heading into the next restart."

LABONTE:

DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU ARE BACK ON TRACK? "We've got a lot of races to go, a long year to go. But, it does feel good that we've gotten to this point so far. Things can happen between now and then, but I just really appreciate everything that has happened so far. I'm thankful that we got (Fatback) last year. We knew this was who we wanted. We were able to move some things around. We were able to tweak some things around and start off the year. I think we started off with a lot of momentum. It's a whole lot easier to start off with momentum than it is to catch it later on throughout the year - playing catch-up.

"It does feel good after the past two years not being...you know...kind of 'winning a race, but kind of like just winning a race' and not really being competitive in a race. Being competitive today and winning the pole last week - all that stuff is just good for the stats. Top fives are great. Wins are great and you just want to keep that going if you can. (Fatback) is giving me great race cars and I want to give him the ability that I have that I can drive one for him and make us both work harder week in and week out because tomorrow morning when we wake up it is all back to square one and we've got to work hard towards Darlington."

YOU'RE NOW ONE CAREER WIN BEHIND YOUR BROTHER...HOW COMPETITIVE ARE THE TWO OF YOU? "We're really not competitive. They've struggled a lot over the past few years, too, and a lot worse than we have in a lot of ways. We're not competitive and I won't bring that up (being one win behind) if you don't. Just leave it at that. That would be cool, though.

"I've already passed him in money won, but don't tell him that, either."

WHAT LITTLE THINGS THREW YOU OFF AT ROCKINGHAM AND VEGAS? "I think we had the same confidence going to those two races that we did here today. I know Rockingham a cut-down tire threw us off there and we couldn't get caught back up. Then we needed a caution that we didn't get and we ended up 16th and that's just the way it is. We hope that is our next to worse finish of the year. But, that's what kind of caught us off there. We had a top five car most of the day and we were competitive throughout the day. That just got us behind.

"In Las Vegas we qualified on the pole and weren't very spiffy for the first 20 laps, but we were better after that. I just think some guys were better than we were. I told (Fatback) before I got there, I said, 'I can qualify better than I can race here.' It kind of showed. I can go fast there, but it seems like I can't get the thing going as fast for a long run. But, I think that was pretty good. That was my best finish there, so that was a step in the right direction.

"The same amount of confidence came into here today. We were pretty good yesterday. We tweaked on it this morning and talked about it - thought about it, talked about it, thought about it, talked about it and made the changes. Today was a little different day. We were fast on the get-go, too, so it was just one of those things."

ON THE IDEA OF ONLY HAVING ONE RACE HERE "I don't want to see it leave because it is a great racetrack - a handling racetrack - and there were a lot of people here today because the weather was great. I know they had a lot of walk-up sales today. They've changed the dates a little bit and got the second race a little earlier, so it's in a better time.

"I'd hate to see it go, of course, but I don't make those plans. But, I don't really foresee it happening. I don't think it will happen. It's a great racetrack - not just for me, but it's a great racetrack for a lot of race fans because I've seen a lot of great races here that we weren't involved in, too.

LABONTE:

"Rockingham is one of those places that needs a different date, more than it needs a race gone away from it. It needs better weather. It's somewhere where it's not going to put as many people in as this place does because it's not in a big metropolis. But, I've seen it packed there before. It's just that it's in the wrong time of the year that it's going to be really cold and really wet, probably.

"I like them both, so I hope they don't (take a date from both). I don't make those calls and until they let me make those calls..."

MCSWAIN:

DO YOU HAVE A GOOD NICKNAME FOR YOUR DRIVER YET? "Actually we do and I can't take the credit totally for it. The guys have got a little saying. When you do something and you do it really good they call you 'The Duke,' so for about three weeks now we've been calling him 'The Duke,' and I think he showed it again today."

LABONTE:

YOU WON IN YOUR FOURTH RACE IN A CHEVROLET...ARE THERE ANY PROBLEMS MAKING THAT SWITCH FROM ONE TO ANOTHER? "I don't guess so. It's more hard work on the guys in the shop than it is for me and him probably, because (Fatback) sees all the aero stuff and knows what to do to it to give something here that I might ask for or take something away that I might ask for. I just drive a car that I know is different than the past five years where we had the same car. We kind of tweaked it out of whack. We were maxxed out on it."

-gm racing-

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Jarrett , Tony Stewart