Texas Team Monte Carlo Saturday Notes

TERRY LABONTE (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "We had a different setup for here, Charlotte and Atlanta. The three tracks look so similar, but they're definitely different. This track is probably closer to Charlotte than Atlanta, but it...

TERRY LABONTE (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet Monte Carlo)

"We had a different setup for here, Charlotte and Atlanta. The three tracks look so similar, but they're definitely different. This track is probably closer to Charlotte than Atlanta, but it is different. You go into turn one a lot different here than you do Charlotte. We have a different tire here, and that's what contributed to (increased) speeds.

"We qualify well here, and we qualify like crap at some other places. I think we've just got a good combination here, setup wise. It makes a big difference. We had a good engine yesterday.

"It could come down to anybody. You never know anymore. Look at guys starting in the back. Jeff Burton didn't qualify well, but he's going to be a contender in the race. Earnhardt has got a good team this year. They're on track. Earnhardt's DEI cars, Steve Park and Dale Jr., have been running good. There's a lot of good teams out there. Mark and Rusty and Bobby. Probably Bobby (Labonte) and Childress' team have been the most consistent."

ON RACING BOBBY LABONTE

"Really, you just treat it like any other car. I make sure I don't run into him and he doesn't run into me. We'd have to face our dad (Bob Labonte) when we got home."

ON LEAVING TEXAS FOR NORTH CAROLINA

"I had an offer to drive a car based up there. I decided to go drive for Billy Hagan. I moved to Charlotte and lived there for about six months and then I moved to High Point and I've lived up in that area ever since. I was still living at home with my parents and was racing in Corpus and Houston and San Antonio. I had won championships at every track. I was racing against a guy who was a seven-time champion at the local track. I said I could stay here and be like him or I could take a chance and go out there. I went out there. After I was there for awhile, my dad sold all our stuff. I told him he should keep it for awhile in case I decided to come back. I guess I had already run a few races with Billy Hagan in '78 when he sold the stuff. I was 21 when I left Texas. Billy Hagan offered me that deal. He wanted me to come out there and go to races with the team. We were going to run five races that year, but he wanted me to go to a bunch of them to see how everything was done. I said I'd think about it and I'd call him back. It took me about two weeks to decide. I decided I'd try it, but it was a hard decision.

"Billy Hagan is from Louisiana, but he sponsored my car in Houston and San Antonio. He was at the races in Houston as a spectator sitting in the standings. He saw us running and called the promoter and asked him who the kid was in the red 44. He came back a couple more times and watched us and contacted us through the track. We were leading the points and didn't go to a race one weekend. We had blown our engine the week before and couldn't afford to go back. The promoter called me and asked why we didn't show up. He said, 'let me call you back. I've got a guy who might can help you.' He called Hagan and he started sponsoring me. The first championship I won with Hagan at San Antonio. The first year he sponsored us we won the championship. It was a half-mile asphalt track. That's about all we ran.

"I never dreamed it would turn into something like this. Running Winston Cup was a dream. I didn't know if I could do it or not. I went out there, and it was a lot easier to get in the sport then than it is now. We went to Darlington the first race and I finished fourth. I drove for him a long time after that. I finished fourth there and went to Richmond and finished seventh. I called my dad and I said, 'I think I'm going to like this stuff.'

"I was racing in high school. When I was a senior I was racing. I was the youngest guy there. I had to race against grown men. You were cool if you played football."

ON LEARNING ABOUT RACING FROM HIS FATHER

"My dad is pretty intense. He's pretty competitive. When you're around him, you don't ever have to wonder what he's thinking. He's going to tell you. I'm like my mom, but my brother is like my dad. I'm a lot quieter than Bob. He's originally from Maine. He joined the Navy and got stationed in Corpus. That's where he met my mother. My grand dad ran this big ranch down there.

"He built the cars. He built the engines. He did the whole bit. He could do everything. He could build our Busch engines right now. He could go back there and build them. He's really smart on a lot of things. He worked all the time. He's really a hard worker. When we raced in Texas, he had a full-time job. He worked for the government. He worked in Corpus at the Naval Air Station. He actually worked for the Army. He was civil service. He worked on helicopters. He used to travel all around during the Vietnam War when they'd have helicopters go down. He was part of the team that went and looked at them and tried to figure what happened to them. He was in The States. He never went to Vietnam. I remember he took me to work with him one day. He took me to the base with him one day. They had a deal where you could take your kids to work. I'll never forget it. I was 13 or 14 and there was a helicopter sitting there that they had brought back. They'd take 'em back there and rebuild them. I'd never seen something so full of bullet holes before. They'd tell me the guys who flew in those things would sit on their bullet proof jackets so they wouldn't get shot. He worked out there for a long time.

"When I first moved to North Carolina, I called my dad. This was before I ran my first race. I went to the races with the team, so I called dad and told him I didn't think I liked it. I wanted to come home. I told him why I didn't like it. The guy who ran the team was a jerk. He said to hang in there a couple of weeks and see if it gets any better. I talked to Billy and he said things were going to get better. He told me to take off for a couple of weeks. Two weeks later he called and said to go down to the shop. Darrell Bryant and I set up the car and went to Darlington. Billy had Skip Manning running his car, and I was going to run five races in a second car. Skip got mad about that. He didn't think that was a very good deal."

COMMENT ON HOW YOUR BROTHER BROKE INTO RACING

"Bobby was still in high school. He was about 16 and came to work at our shop sweeping floors. He was working with Gary DeHart, Eddie Dickerson, Steve Hmiel -- we had a lot of good guys working on that team in '84. You can look at the pictures of our championship team and he's in 'em. When I left Hagan's at the end of 1986, and I knew this was going to happen, my dad and Bobby worked there and they fired both of them. That really started Bobby's career. We went and bought a couple of short track cars. They already had a shop behind my dad's house. They started racing and got him (Bobby) a sponsor, and that's the last time he ever had a job. I gave him a car and then we bought him another one. I went to work for Junior Johnson, so they called my dad to go to work for them building gears. He worked for them even after I left there, but he got tired of driving back and forth, so he quit.

"Bobby ran one of those Dash races at Atlanta. He was about 16 years old and he finished third. I thought that was pretty good. He knew a guy who had a car and went down there and did a good job. He ran great at Darlington the first time in a Busch car. He was really a natural. He won a bunch of Late Model races.

"Bobby and I are pretty different. He'll really get mad about stuff, and I don't get near as mad. My nickname is The Iceman. His nickname is the Axeman. It's a joke. He fired his whole Busch team one day. He hired 'em back when he cooled off. They had a new understanding after that."

WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING IF YOU WEREN'T RACING?

"I was in Corpus on Tuesday and I was driving to see my grandmother. I looked over at this oil field supply company. It was the first job I ever applied for, and I didn't get it. Good. If I wasn't doing this today, I don't know what I would be doing, but I'd still be racing for the fun of it. I never started racing down there in a plan or anything trying to get here. That never crossed my mind. I feel so lucky I'm able to make a living doing something I enjoy so much. The money is nice. It's a lot more money than I ever dreamed it would come to. When I started, if you made $100,000 a year prize money, that was a good year.

"I got a percentage of the purse -- five percent the first year. The year I won the championship, I got a pretty good percentage then, but he didn't pay me. I got the trophy."

OUTLOOK FOR SUNDAY'S RACE

"If I go out here and run about five minutes in the first practice, I could care less if it rains or not. We came with our qualifying setup and weren't very good, so we put our race setup in it. Then we baselined that and changed two shocks. We've got to change those back and take some tape off the front, but we're pretty close. You're never right, but I think we could get pretty close."

COMMENT ON FUTURE AND FINAL FOUR PREDICTION

"I can't see past Monday. I'll be home Monday, but I might go to the basketball game. I might go to the Final Four. I had an opportunity to go and I kind of put it on hold. Now I want to go if it doesn't rain. I like college basketball. I don't like pro basketball. I'd like to see Carolina win. They got in on a previous champion's provisional. It'd be pretty cool if they won it. I hope they make it. The Carolina fans have to be pretty happy about how far they got the way they struggled, but I was glad to see it for the coach. He kind of took some abuse."

ADAM PETTY (No. 45 Sprint PCS Chevrolet Monte Carlo)

NOTE: Petty, 19, will be making his first NASCAR Winston Cup start on Sunday in the DIRECTV 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. He'll start 33rd in the 43-car field. Adam's father, Kyle Petty, failed to qualify for the race.

"It kind of busts the weekend a little bit. It's still exciting that I get to run my first Winston Cup race, but I sure wish the man that has helped me so much in my career get to this point could have been in it. We'll have another chance at Charlotte. It's a big day. The Monte Carlo has run really good, and we're pretty excited about that.

"My rain dance worked last night. I did it all night long, and I continued to do it this morning. We stood, and I think we would have ended up 35th. I think two guys could have beat us. I think we would have been all right, but this is an even bigger comfort.

"This Busch car is probably the best Busch car I've ever had. I'm real excited about racing it. I think it's going to race really good. We were really good in Happy Hour.

"I want to stay on the lead lap in the Cup race and run in the top 25. I'd like to get out of here with a clean car that I could take to Charlotte and test. I'm real comfortable in the car right now. The Cup car has done nothing this week but help this Busch car run better and better. Hopefully we can come out with a top 25 finish and have a good day.

"The plan is to one day be like Jeff Gordon, and to do that, you've got to start young. He got the bugs worked out in the Busch cars when he was 19 and 20. He went to Winston Cup and by the time he was 23 or 24, he was dominating the sport. That's what we're looking for down the road."

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Steve Park , Kyle Petty , Billy Hagan