TERRY LABONTE No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet Monte Carlo You will be making your 700th start here this weekend - how does it feel "It really doesn't seem like it's been that long. I can remember when Bill (Elliott) and I first started and to me,...
TERRY LABONTE No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet Monte Carlo You will be making your 700th start here this weekend - how does it feel "It really doesn't seem like it's been that long. I can remember when Bill (Elliott) and I first started and to me, anyway, it doesn't seem like that many years ago. Looking back on it that is a pretty big number. It's a lotta races and a lotta years. I still enjoy doing it and I still enjoy going to the races every weekend. So I guess the time has gone by pretty fast.
Terry's going to have a busy week this week. He and his brother (Bobby) are going back home to have a park dedicated in their name "We're going back Sunday night, they are renaming a park in Corpus Christi after Bobby and me. It will still be a big week for us. The people of Corpus Christi are excited about it and Bobby and are excited about it. The folks in Corpus Christi, the leaders there, have decidedto do this and have been working on it for a while. We've got a lot of fans down there in Corpus and I think the people really just got tired of reading "letters to the editor" about doing something for... they had talked about renaming expressways and this and that and they came up with the park idea. I think that's great idea and we're really honored.
Talk about the young drivers. Looking at the top ten in points, there are seven who are over thirty-five... is that experience, is that the key factor? "Experience plays a big part in it. I know that when I first started going to these race tracks that I had not seen before, I know it was four or five times, in maybe twenty years or however long I've been doing this, and I know there are a couple of them that I still haven't figured out, I don't think.. You know, it takes you, you don't just go in there every weekend and have the track figured out and figure out what you need and what your car for your car needs. That's pretty hard to figure out. You know they might be able to go out there and run fast when they just go to a place... but to get your car set up for a 500 mile race, knowing what to expect and knowing how that car needs to feel in practice. That takes a little time to get that experience. You know some of the young guys that have come in really got good equipment and they do an awesome job. And they are a lot of fun to race against. On the other hand, experienced guys a lot of them like Bill (Elliott) said, have good equipment and a lot of them have really good teams that have been around a long time and have good experience.
"We're pretty fortunate in our sport like for the older guys... It's not like you have to be really strong to drive these cars they've got power steering. You don't have to run a foot race with them, so I think the experience outweighs the age thing, you know. Experience is very important in our sport.
You have been with very few car owners over the years...what do you attribute that too. "From my standpoint, I've always just felt that was better. The longer you could stay with one team that means there's more car owners you could drive for later. The guys that move around a lot they can run out of owners before long. Seriously really, when I started drove for guy named Billy Hagen, and he sponsored my short track car when I lived in Texas. He gave me the opportunity to drive in Winston Cup. I drove for him for eight years or so, I guess. It was a good relationship and we won a championship, won some races and had a good time. Then I drove for Junior Johnson for a few years and Richard Jackson for a year then Rick Hendrick. When I got started, you now you're always really loyal to the guy who gave you the opportunity like Billy did me. I wish things could have been different and I could have stayed there for a lot longer because he was a lot of fun to drive for.
You are known as "the Iceman"- you pace yourself - have a race strategy until the final fifty laps then move into the top five or ten with a chance to win. How do you explan that? "I wish I could 'cause it hasn't really been working that way this year. I don't know how I got that name and everything but you know, you work the whole race to try to get your car right to be in a position at the end. You know as long as these races are, the tracks change and your car might not be like you want it. You work all day on the pit stops making adjustments trying to get your car right. If you can stay on the lead lap and make the right adjustments, you know a lot of times you can be in the top five or top ten and have a shot at it.
The Iceman, does that give you an advantage at New Hampshire in November? "I don't know it might. We'll just have to wait and see, I guess. I guess we're going to run the Friday after Thanksgiving. My grandmother is 96 years old and I've had Thanksgiving dinner with her for I don't know how many years, so that'll be more important to me than going up there.
Coming up on the fifth anniversary of final race at North Wilkesboro what are your thoughts about that track. "I drove there for Junior a couple of times, too. That was like our Daytona. We put more effort into Wilkesboro than we did Daytona. You know it was just, for me it was a good race track and we won some races there but our sport has definitely passed it by. The facility was not like a lot of the ones we go to now. Then it went on the auction block there and the two dates went other places. I like the short tracks and that was a fun track for me to race at, and it was close to home, too. I kind of miss it but I understand why we don't go there.
What's it like racing each other over 600 events and relate that to the new drivers. These guys, Ricky Rudd and Bill and the guys you mentioned, you know what they are going to do and you don't have to worry about them. It's fun to race against them. All of those guys got lot of respect for each other and their fellow competitors. We all did come from different parts of the country and wound up in Winston Cup racing. I can remember when I was about 18 years old, I guess, and this track promoter called us, we lived in south Texas, and he wanted me to come up to someplace in Arkansas and do a match race against with this kid up there. So my dad was talking to this guy and the rules were too different and our cars just wouldn't compete against each other because of the rules were a little different. It was Mark Martin, and he was like 16 and I was 18 and it's funny how we both ended over here. It is kind of neat to race against these guys that you've raced against for so many years, you feel good when you see one of those guys win when it's not you and hey, we're all the same age we can do it.
The issues raised about New Hampshire last year, how do you feel about going there after Thanksgiving and cold tires? "I probably shouldn't say this but the races up there seem more like demolition derbies anyway. With the cold temperature and the hard tires it's going to be a bigger problem... on restarts especially. It is kind of a one-groove race track anyway. There's not much room for error. Hopefully it will be a sunny day... maybe it'll be a record high for them up there. That could really present a problem if it is really cold.