Atlanta: Pontiac Racing post-race notes

BOBBY LABONTE, NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: (WHAT IS YOUR PERSPECTIVE ON THE PIT ROAD INCIDENT WITH JIMMY SPENCER? "I knew he was going to come out of his pits, but I thought he'd be behind us. I thought we were going at...

BOBBY LABONTE, NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:

(WHAT IS YOUR PERSPECTIVE ON THE PIT ROAD INCIDENT WITH JIMMY SPENCER? "I knew he was going to come out of his pits, but I thought he'd be behind us. I thought we were going at speed, but obviously that wasn't that case, so we got bumped there. I got turned around. Then I over-revved the motor getting back around to the pits and it just blew up."

JIMMY MAKAR, CREW CHIEF,
NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:

ON WARNING HIS CREW PRIOR TO THE PIT ROAD INCIDENT WITH SPENCER "When I looked up and saw where they were in their pit stop, I thought about saying something then. But I figured they (Spencer's team) would see him (Bobby Labonte) coming in and they could avoid each other. But, when I saw Jimmy come out as hard as he did and the way that he did, I knew we were going to get clipped there. It was just fortunate that none of our guys had gone over the wall, yet, or started that way. We were just real fortunate that nobody got hurt."

MARK CRONQUIST, ENGINE BUILDER, ENO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:

WHAT DID YOU TRY TO DO IN THE GARAGE AREA AFTER YOUR CAR DROPPED A CYLINDER? "We broke a valve spring. Originally we talked about trying to come in, fix it and go back out on eight cylinders. Then, Bobby had the idea of just trying seven cylinders because seven might run fast enough to stay above the minimum speed [requirement]. So, we just pulled the rocker arms and everything off of it and put a new valve spring in it to hold the valve open and it ran fast enough to stay above their speed limit. "Now that we know to do it, I think we can do it even quicker if we have to do it again. We're all kind of kicking ourselves in the butt now for not thinking of it soon enough and quick enough. Maybe we'll be even quicker to get back out there next time."

TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT PONTIAC GRAND PRIX
COMMENTS FROM VICTORY LANE

"It feels great. I think it's my first 500-mile win, too, so it even makes it that much more special. We came down here in the fall and tested for two days. We didn't spend any time working on qualifying setups. We just worked strictly on race setups. We ran good here in the fall and just came back and tried a couple more things that we didn't get to try in the fall, and the car picked up a little bit."

WHAT WERE YOU THINKING ON THE LAST RESTART? "To get by the '22' as fast as I could. I knew he was good out front and I thought if we could ever get by him and get in clean air -- that was the biggest thing. This Pontiac does not like to be in traffic, so if we could get back by him quickly and get in clean air that we'd have a shot at this."

ON GETTING HIS FIRST WIN HERE IN A JOE GIBBS OWNED-CAR "Finally -- it's a long time coming. Bobby has always had really good luck here at Atlanta. I'm sorry he didn't have a very good day today, but I'm just really proud of all the guys on this Home Depot team."

YOU'RE STARTING STRONG THIS YEAR...HOW DO YOU THINK THE FINISH WILL BE? "I don't know. Let's wait and see."

ON IMPROVING SO MUCH RECENTLY AT ATLANTA "The biggest key was last fall - we came here and tested before the fall race last year. When we did that, we didn't do any qualifying runs. We just did strictly race runs. When we started the race in the fall we ran really well. We just had a miscommunication on one of the changes on the last pit stop and it backed us up in the finish. But, we basically just started the race practice yesterday with the same thing we finished up with here. We just kept refining off of that and fine-tuning, and really got the car to where we thought we needed it to be to start the race. It wasn't fast at the time, but we thought that was where we needed to be to be good late in the day today."

WERE YOU CONSIDERED WITH WHAT DALE EARNHARDT, JR., WAS TRYING BEHIND YOU AT THE END OF THE RACE? "He was good all day. He was really strong on stickers at the beginning of a run and could run by us and pull away. Then, he'd come back to us toward the end. I thought maybe he would fall off a little more than he did at the end and he didn't. We were getting through one and two really good at the end of the race. We were struggling a little bit in three and four, but we could never get down all the way to the line and be fast down there. We were having to slow down too much, so I just kept moving around. I wasn't going to run the real high line there at the end of the day. But, I thought if could find a spot in the middle of the track or lower portion there that might pick us up a little bit of grip, that we might be able to stay in front of him."

WERE YOU WATCHING WHAT JUNIOR WAS DOING? "I didn't really watch him. I just noticed that I was slowing down. Fresh tires were big, but they would only last a short amount of time until you'd start losing a little bit of speed. But, this place is such a big momentum track that if you have to break your momentum at all, you really notice it inside the car, and on the stopwatch you notice it quite a bit, too. When we did get into that situation I tried running really high and noticed he gained a lot of ground. I thought, 'Well, I'll see if I can split the difference and move down a little bit and see what I can find.' I actually felt like I ran a pretty good line through there. Even the last 10 laps, it was getting harder and harder to stay in that groove, too. "He was good all day down there. He was the only car I noticed that could stay down on the bottom for a long period of time, lap after lap."

YOU PICKED UP YOUR FIRST 500-MILE WIN AND FIRST WIN AT ATLANTA IN YOUR 13TH VICTORY... "I can honestly say I didn't think about that.

-pontiac-

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Series NASCAR Cup