BOBBY LABONTE, NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: Qualified 2nd: HOW WAS YOUR QUALIFYING LAP? "I thought it was off a little bit, but not a whole lot. We ran just about the same speed we ran in practice. We didn't make any ...
BOBBY LABONTE, NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
HOW WAS YOUR QUALIFYING LAP?
"I thought it was off a little bit, but not a whole lot. We ran just about the same speed we ran in practice. We didn't make any changes to the car after practice because I thought it was just about right. And I didn't want to make too many changes because I didn't get to run yesterday and I didn't know how the track would change for my car. We basically left it alone. We practiced real good on Wednesday in race set-up. This morning we had a qualifying type of program just like we do on a normal weekend. We started out mid-pack and kept getting better and making changes. At the end of the day, we were at out best. So that was encouraging that we made all the steps we could make to go the right direction for qualifying."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE NEW CHANGES TO THE TRACK?
"It has a lot of positives to it. They did a great job. I think all eyes will be on the Truck race today and the Busch race tomorrow. I think it's going to be a two-groove race track easily - if not more. But when they get out there and do it and see how much speed they lose racing side by side and making the passes and seeing how much your car will push in the longer runs and what you've got to do to adjust for it. Those are things we don't know yet. We're going to have to figure that out tomorrow. I'll know more Sunday night than I do right now of course. It's kind of hard to predict what the track is going to be like. But they've done a job and this is a great facility. Not many people have gotten to race on every single track that they've had here. We've been coming here for six year and they've had four different race tracks. It's all looking good. It's looking smaller. I think it'll be just like Bristol in another eight years."
PEOPLE HAVE CALLED THIS TRACK AN 'OLD ATLANTA'. WHAT ARE YOUR IMPRESSIONS OF THAT?
"To a certain extent it is. As good as everybody is, I don't think they can build two tracks the same. It's just not going to happen. But it does compare to the older Atlanta in a lot of ways. I always liked it. But there are always going to be some differences to it."
WHERE IS THE BEST PLACE TO PASS?
"Well, let's see. The pits have usually been the best place to pass for the past three years now so I don't see where that's any different. Track position, fuel mileage and all that stuff will still play into it again. I ran a little bit around Kenny Schrader on Wednesday. That's the only person I ran around. I thought the best place to pass was up off the corner. It's no different than anywhere else. You're not going to pass them getting into the groove because it's kind of narrow. As it goes out, the groove gets a little wider and you might be able to hook the bottom and go underneath the guy and get him by the time you go into Turn 1 if you don't clear the pass. Mid-corner exit is going to be the place to pass."
WITH THIS BEING THE LAST RACE OF THE SEASON, HAS YOUR APPROACH OR STRATEGY CHANGED?
"Mine hasn't. We're not in a position where we haven't won a race yet so we have to win or we haven't won a pole yet so we have to win a pole. We do want to finish in the top 10 in points. We don't want to screw that up. Every weekend you go to every track you try to do the best you can."
WITH THIS BEING THE LAST WINSTON RACE, HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT THAT, OR WHAT THE TRACKS WILL LOOK LIKE IN THE FUTURE? AND WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE WINSTON MEMORY?
"This track doesn't look red and white to me. It looks like Sea World or something. It's different colors than anywhere else we go. But it is going to be different with Winston going out. They're probably going to throw a heck of a party with Winston going out. The biggest thing is to thank them for everything they've done to this point. Nextel is going to come in and they're going to take us to the next level because they have the resources and desire and ability to do that. We've got a great sponsor going out and a great sponsor coming in.
"A great moment in my life was the banquet in 2000. That was obviously special. But I was at the banquet in 1984 when they handed out $100,000 dollars to Terry (Labonte). They made you feel like family then just like they do now."
HAVE YOU SEEN ANY DIFFERENCE IN THE NEW GOODYEAR TIRE?
"Since we're on a new race track, it's kind of hard for me to tell. We've got a lot of grip and more banking now than ever. But it looks like we've had some falloff in the speeds after a few laps. Looking at a few guys on TV this morning, it looks like they mostly got tighter as they went. If you run the first lap the fastest, that's good. But what I don't really care to do anymore is run 50 laps at the same speed and then come in and get two tires and run 50 laps faster than you ran the first 50 laps. That isn't racing in my vocabulary. I made 10 lap runs and fell off almost half a second. It might level off somewhere but at least it feel off some to start with. That might be a good thing if it happens everywhere. I hope so."
ARE YOU GLAD TO SEE THE SEASON END AND WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO IN THE OFF-SEASON?
"It doesn't matter. I'm going somewhere next weekend and the weekend after and then the week after. And then we go to Daytona. My wife is going with me because we're going racing with Tyler during these weekends off. It doesn't matter because I'll be doing the same thing but on a different scale. I'll be traveling the same on Thursday afternoons."