CHAMPCAR/CART: Pontiac Racing Loudon practice notes

BOBBY LABONTE, NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: (ON PRACTICE) "I think the speeds are about a second slower, but I'm driving all the way down to the corner before I let off the gas, so at some point you'd have to say that going ...

(ON PRACTICE) "I think the speeds are about a second slower, but I'm driving all the way down to the corner before I let off the gas, so at some point you'd have to say that going slower is probably not the right answer. But that's what we're doing.

"We just need to get a little bit faster and we're working on that. We're trying to free the car a little bit - not much. It's not as tight as you would think it would be driving down in there like that, but we could probably be a little bit better. It's a little snug, but it's not too bad."

(HOW LONG IS HE OFF THE GAS IN THE CORNERS?) "I'm off it about three seconds where before I was off of it for about five. And now you're just flat on the gas where before you kind of rolled in and out a little bit." (HAS HE HAD TO CHANGE HIS LINE AT ALL?) "It has a little bit because usually where you're letting off, now you're driving into the corner."

(IS THE FEEL AT ALL COMPARABLE TO A BUSCH CAR?) "A little bit. It's not too far off. But the last time I drove a Busch car, it hurt. This feels a whole lot better than the last time I drove one. The last time I drove one I broke my shoulder."

(IS IT GOING TO BE HARD TO PASS ON SUNDAY?) "Oh, I think it's going to be real hard to pass. This has been a 'real hard to pass' place anyway, so it's just going to be worse, I think."

(ON PRACTICE) "It's dramatically different. I fully support that we needed to do something, by all means. I think that that was the right thing to do, probably the right way to go. But I don't believe it's where we need to be. I think that we could get back some of our horsepower. I think that would be good. I think we went probably a touch too far, but it was better to go too far and say, 'OK, we can go the other way,' than it would be to say, 'We didn't got far enough,' and then have to go that way. All in all, something had to be done, but it might have been a step too far. But we didn't know. It was an unknown coming in, so that what we needed to do to try to help out a problem."

(WILL IT BE MORE DIFFICULT TO PASS?) "It will be very difficult to pass. It's already difficult to pass, but before with the horsepower you had 'wheel spin.' There were certain things you had to deal with. Right now, what we're dealing with is something where you're basically full throttle, back into the gas full throttle in the middle of the corner. We didn't have that before, we don't have tire spin, you have a deal where you don't have to finesse the gas pedal anymore, which is something that we've always had to do here."

"Everybody's got the same thing, but it's just not something we're used to dealing with. To us, it is very sluggish coming up off the corner. It's not difficult to drive coming up off because you're full throttle and you've got all the grip that you need. It's going to be very hard to pass, but nobody knows yet."

"Everything is still an unknown. We know that we slowed the race cars down. We know some of the things that we need to do to try to pick up speed and one of the areas where you've got to pick up speed is in the corners. I don't believe we can go any faster down the straightaways because we're kind of maxed out."

(HOW MUCH DEEPER IS HE GOING INTO THE CORNER?) "Estimating, without going out and measuring it, it's probably 70 or 80 feet deeper than what we have in the past. But our speeds are slower. We expected that."

(WHAT WERE HIS IMPRESSIONS WHEN HE WENT INTO TURN THREE FOR THE FIRST TIME TODAY?) "No different than any other week. You have to feel what the car is doing. You have to feel what the limits of the race car are getting into the corner. It doesn't matter what speed you're doing it. A limit is going to be a limit and that's the edge that we're looking for every racetrack that we go to. It was no different coming into here knowing we were going to take horsepower out, knowing where you used to be able to lift the pedal was going to be a fairly safe zone to start with. Actually the first time going into the corner you went past that point, just because you have that feel and you kind of have a rough idea of what your car is going to feel like - not necessarily how fast you're going - but you have a feel of what the car feels like at that speed and what it's going to take to slow it down."

(DOES HE AGREE OR DISAGREE WITH THE RULES AFTER RUNNING A PRACTICE WITH THEM?) "If somebody could maybe come up with an answer to maybe fix the situation that we're in, it's a lot easier to make a comment about that. We had to do something. If nothing was done, it would have been very difficult to come to a track as everybody would have said, 'Nobody made an attempt. Nobody did nothing,' and that's not true. We don't know what to do. In the amount of time that everybody had to deal with, that was the thing to do. Maybe we went too far. You don't know. But it was better to go too far than to say, 'The change we did was not worth doing. It was not enough. We didn't solve anything.' I think they went to an area where we probably did go too far, but it did solve the areas that they were looking for, as far as slowing the car down into the corner and getting the car further around the corner if a situation was to happen like they've had happen in the past. We don't know what the outcome would be. That's an unknown. But it did accomplish the goals that they were looking at.

"They weren't looking for 10 miles per hour off the pole speed. They were looking for 10 miles per hour off of car entry. They were looking at entry speed slowing down 10 miles per hour. They probably accomplished that. It may only be eight or nine, but they accomplished slowing our entry speed down. Our speeds may be within three miles an hour overall, but where you're making that up is through the center of the corner."

(WAS IT DRIVING STYLE OR MECHANICAL ADVANTAGES THAT MADE HIM FASTEST IN PRACTICE?) "If it was four or five tenths (faster than anybody), I would say that it was all of the above. But when you're only talking a half a tenth, it was only a matter of hitting the lap right. He (Jeff Burton) may be a lot faster tomorrow. Who knows?"

(DID THE TEAM ACCOMPLISH A LOT IN THIS ONE PRACTICE?) "There is a lot of work to be done. We don't know what the fastest speed is around this racetrack, yet. We know that we're probably close to the limit. But somebody is going to go faster. I believe that, so we've got to work on our car to be faster. If we were back on a normal scenario, we would know about what the limit is because we're used to that horsepower, used to the tires, used to the springs and shocks. Well, it's an unknown now with the changes. So heck, they may go three-quarters of a second faster tomorrow. I don't believe they are going to. But we don't know because there are a lot of areas that haven't been touched yet in practice, as far as springs, shocks, sway bars and all of the above."

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Jeff Burton