Atlanta: Bobby Labonte preview

GOLDEN CORRAL 500 PRE-RACE NOTES: Labonte will attempt to start his 25th NEXTEL CUP race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He has won at Atlanta six times in his career: (Fall 1996, Fall 1997, Spring 1998, Fall 1999, Fall 2001, Spring 2003). Labonte...

GOLDEN CORRAL 500 PRE-RACE NOTES:

Labonte will attempt to start his 25th NEXTEL CUP race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He has won at Atlanta six times in his career: (Fall 1996, Fall 1997, Spring 1998, Fall 1999, Fall 2001, Spring 2003).

Labonte has 12 top-five finishes and has won the Bud pole twice at Atlanta Motor Speedway (Fall 1996, Spring 1999).

In 2004 at Atlanta, Labonte started 10th and finished 18th in the spring and started 19th and finished 20th in the fall.

Labonte is 37th in NEXTEL Cup points after finishing 43rd at Daytona (engine), 13th and California and 41st at Las Vegas (accident). He completed all 250 laps at California, but completed only 14 at Daytona and only 15 at Las Vegas.

The primary chassis for the Golden Corral 500 will be chassis No. 99, a new car that Labonte tested earlier this month at Atlanta Motor Speedway. That is the only time the car has been on track thus far.

The back-up car will be chassis No. 91, a new car that has not been tested or raced previously.

WORLD FINANCIAL 200 PRE-RACE NOTES:

Labonte will attempt to start his first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event at Atlanta Motor Speedway. It will be his fourth career start in the series.

In 2004, Labonte drove in two Craftsman Truck Series events for Morgan-Dollar Motorsports as part of Chevy's All-Star Program. He finished third at Martinsville (fall) and started fifth and finished 29th at Homestead-Miami after engine problems ended his day after 87 of 134 laps.

Labonte's NCTS debut was Oct. 26, 1996 at Phoenix International Raceway. He started 24th and finished 34th in the No. 77 Rotary Lift Chevrolet after completing only 31 of the 186 laps after a valve problem ended his day.

Labonte will drive as a teammate to Truck Series veteran Dennis Setzer. Labonte and Setzer competed against each other several times in late-models at Caraway Speedway in Ashboro, N.C. Labonte won the track championship in 1987, while Setzer won three consecutive championship from 1988-90.

ATLANTA PRE-RACE QUOTES:

BOBBY LABONTE (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet; 2000 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Champion):

(About going to Atlanta this week): "Well, it's definitely more comforting there than maybe some other places I would go to. But really, I mean, you know, it's just been a weird start to the season. But, you know, whether it was Atlanta or somewhere else, I mean, after the past couple -- two of the past three races for the start of the season, I'm looking forward just to the next race to hopefully rebound from what we've been through so far. Whether it's Atlanta or not, I do like Atlanta, so that just makes it that much better. I think what you have to do, you know, we need to go out there and obviously be cautiously aggressive on every race. I mean, we thought we were doing that -- you know, we thought we'd be doing that the whole time. You know, we don't want to get too crazy on anything. But at the same time, I mean, I think you just go in the back of your mind, every weekend you want to go win the race, and that's what you try to do, you just do don't anything stupid to jeopardize yourself from not winning the race. You don't want to finish 35th. You want to finish second if you can't win it. We have to keep that in mind. Luckily for us we're going on race four, it's not race 24. As we can look at it right now, without looking into the future, we've got a lot of races to go yet before race 26. You know, that's a good, positive note. Obviously the other positive note is that everybody on our race team's like, 'I can't believe what's happening, but we're excited about going to the next race.' Everybody has been upbeat about it even though we've had terrible problems happen to us. But everybody's been upbeat about the way we feel like we're going to be competitive as far as we go."

(About the new tire and spoiler package at Atlanta): "Well, we had a test down there the other day, a one-day test. People tested two days. We were there for one day. It seemed like it was -- it didn't seem as bad as I anticipated it being. Like Vegas the tires fell off quite a bit. Atlanta they always fall off, but they didn't fall off any more than they did last year, you know. Again, we didn't run in traffic. We ran by ourselves. The multiple-lap runs that we did, you know, we've gained on it all day. I have struggled there the last two races so I kind of feel better than I did then for those two. I don't feel quite so bad about it as I did before. I mean, I'm kind of looking forward to getting down there and starting off because you still have a lot of grooves down there to work with. Even Vegas, I watched on top of the truck after we fell out, and Vegas even got better than I anticipated. So I don't think it's going to be as bad as maybe I thought if I hadn't gone to test. So I feel pretty good about it. I think that the short spoiler is going to cause the cars to get loose in traffic. But, you know, as far as everything else goes, I think it will be okay."

(About driving in the Truck race): "Well, I'm looking forward to it. We tested down there the other day. I thought we were pretty good. It's kind of hard to tell. There was only a couple other trucks there at the time we were testing. You know, just looking forward to it. The Morgan-Dollar team, I was able to drive that truck last year at Martinsville, Homestead. Randy Goss (No. 47 crew chief), the guys, they did a great job. We had a lot of fun. We were competitive in both races. Finished third at Martinsville, running second at Homestead, then spun up and the engine blew up. Look forward to getting back in that truck and running good at Atlanta."

(About teaming with Dennis Setzer): Well, Dennis, he's a neat individual. He's a great guy. We used to race against each other at Caraway, finished first and second in points with him. You know, we're a lot alike in a lot of ways, I think. We ran that truck last year at Martinsville to Caraway to test the two trucks. His didn't drive as good. Mine drove good. His was a little bit faster, mine was a little slower, okay. But he got in mine. He run the same speed I did. I got in his, ran about the same speedy did. I said, You need to take this truck because if you feel more comfortable in it, you're going for a championship. He said, Well, we got another one at home. I said, it would be funny, if people that were here a long time ago that used to see us race, if they saw us here today, they would probably think we were crazy. Everybody thought we hated each other, but we didn't. We were just competitors. I don't think we've ever laid a fender on each other the whole time we were there racing for a year every Saturday night. We didn't touch each other. But we always would kid with each other about, you know, good race, good race, whatever. We talked to each other about good racing. You know, I think the world of Dennis. He's a really neat guy. I hope he can go out there and win a bunch of races and the championship.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup , NASCAR Truck
Drivers Bobby Labonte , Dennis Setzer