Fontana: Labonte - Friday Dodge interview

BOBBY LABONTE (No. 43 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Dodge): CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE YEAR SO FAR? "For the most part, we're all real excited at Petty Enterprises - through the transition that we've had- to get to the point we are at today. We feel...

BOBBY LABONTE (No. 43 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Dodge):

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE YEAR SO FAR? "For the most part, we're all real excited at Petty Enterprises - through the transition that we've had- to get to the point we are at today. We feel like we've got a lot of good things happening in the off-season and hope that it translates on to bigger and better things on the race track.

IS THIS THE MOST HAPPY YOUR'VE BEEN SINCE BEING AT PETTY ENTERPRISES? "I think so. When I first went there (Petty Enterprises) it was a change, it was new and that was really good. Throughout the last couple years we'd have spurts of 'hey we made a couple changes and it's looking good'. As far as total pattern, we may not be good here (at certain race tracks), but as far as the longevity of it, we're getting better. Before, it was a 'happen right now this week, but we have to get to next week'. Now we're thinking a little bit further ahead- things are happening a little bit further down the road- so that's encouraging knowing you've got some stability built into things to progress week-in-and-week-out and try to improve week-in-and-week-out instead going good one week and going 'oh my god, we've have to race next week.'"

DO YOU THINK THAT THIS IS GOING TO BE A BREAKOUT YEAR FOR PETTY ENTERPRISES THIS YEAR? "Me and about 50 other guys are optimistic about the same type of thing. But as far as the approach this year, I'm really optimistic about that. There's a lot of excitement going through the shop as far as a pattern of how they way we're going to do things and they way its going to be done that is different than it's been in the past. That's what we're looking for to make the difference."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE TRACK AND HOW THE WEATHER (POTENTIAL RAIN) CONDITIONS MAY BE A FACTOR THIS WEEKEND? "I'm surprised that it's not dry yet. I know that they're calling for some more rain throughout the weekend -- I wasn't sure it was ever suppose to rain here (California) but I guess it can. We'll just have to play it by ear and see what happens. You never know what's going to happen -- first things first -- get on the track and get some practice in."

HOW IMPROTANT ARE THE FIRST FIVE RACES TO YOU AND THE TEAM? "I know that they're real important. We definitely want to see some positive racing to get us started for the year. I know that the top-35 rule is always a challenge, but if you can get yourself in pretty good place in the first-five races, you can kind of control your year as far as the pattern you're going to take and the chances that you'll have to take later in the year to make changes or not make changes. After the first five races, you've kind of set your pattern for what you did in the off-season to get yourself going for the year."

SO IN A SENSE, YOU KIND OF CONTROL YOUR OWN DESTINY FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR? "A lot of times it does -- anything can happen and that's the beautiful part of the sport. You're obviously trying to establish a great good base and hopefully get yourself in a position after race 26 and a better position after race 36."

-credit: dodge motorsports

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Series NASCAR Sprint Cup