Bobby Labonte, champion for a week

BOBBY LABONTE, NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: DO YOU PLAN ON TRYING SOME DIFFERENT THINGS THIS WEEKEND SINCE THE TITLE IS LOCKED UP? "Up until last weekend we were going by our notes and not really trying different things...

BOBBY LABONTE, NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
DO YOU PLAN ON TRYING SOME DIFFERENT THINGS THIS WEEKEND SINCE THE TITLE IS LOCKED UP?
"Up until last weekend we were going by our notes and not really trying different things because we wanted to stay consistent with what was working, where maybe this weekend we can get off on a different path and see if something works better than what we've been trying. Our engine combination is probably a little different just for the fact of the longevity of them before and that might change some. But that's about all. We might find something that will be better. We might find out that what we were doing was better than anything else we can find, also." DID YOU DO ANYTHING SPECIAL TO CELEBRATE THIS WEEKEND OR ARE YOU HOLDING OFF?
"I'm just holding off. It could be big when it does blow. I actually didn't do a whole lot this week, except busy, normal stuff - well, not normal - a lot busier than normal, I should say. But I didn't really do a whole lot. My wife and I, I think the biggest thing we did was we just went out to eat dinner by ourselves. We didn't ask for it, but we ended up with a room at J Noble's in High Point. That's kind of our favorite restaurant. We went in there and they gave us a room that we weren't expecting to have and we didn't really want, and we just ended up sitting by ourselves and talking and reminiscing from the year and from times like, 'Can you believe we came from when you were 17 years old sleeping on the couch, working on race cars at night,' -- just reminiscing about stuff like that. To me that was the most fun that I've had, as far as personal things this past week." HAS IT SUNK IN YET?
"It's sinking. It's definitely sinking in. It hasn't sunk all the way in. I had a lot of advice from other guys that said, 'Oh it won't sink in until probably when you get to New York, anyway.'" ARE YOU GOING TO ALLOW YOURSELF TO ENJOY THIS?
"You better believe it. I better enjoy it. I'm going to kick myself in the butt if I don't. I think we'll have to divide up work time to play time. When you enjoy it, you'll have that on play time, but when it comes time to go back to work we've also got to do a job again." ON WOO DAVES
"I've fished a couple times at his tournament that he has close to Richmond, Virginia. I heard that he was being honored and I think that's great. When they were at Richmond he showed me his ring that he got for winning the Bass Masters Tournament and his wife had a pendant. The first thing he told me was, 'Alright, I've got mine. Now you've got to get yours.' I think that's great. Woo is a great person. When we went to his tournament to fish, it was just like a competitive bass tournament with weigh-ins and stuff like that, and I cheated, so I got in there. I stole a fish out of another boat, but it seemed like it was the thing to do. I know his whole deal was to help underprivileged kids in the area, too, and we raised money for that. It was a great deal."

HAVE YOU GOTTEN ANY REACTION TO YOUR CHAMPIONSHIP FROM THE GUYS IN THE GARAGE AREA?
"Yeah, in a lot of ways. I was here yesterday afternoon and we had a Coke appearance last night. I got in here this morning and really haven't seen a lot of people, but have seen enough to where it's definitely a good feeling. I knew Friday morning was going to be neat coming in here. I'm just really, really excited about it. It might take a lot to knock the smile off my face this weekend, that's for sure." HAS DALE EARNHARDT SAID ANYTHING TO YOU YET?
"I talked to him yesterday at the Coke appearance, so we talked." WHAT DID HE SAY TO YOU?
"'Hey champ.' That was pretty cool."
WILL JOE GIBBS RACING BENEFIT FROM PONTIAC FIELDING FEWER TEAMS NEXT YEAR?
"I think in a lot of ways, that could happen. I don't know all the details behind what is allocated out, but I know I'll be kept up to date with it when it happens. "I know that Pontiac is excited about this championship that they won. I know, obviously, the Joe Gibbs teams are excited to have Pontiac. I'm sure that if something is going to come in any form or fashion, that we'll be on the top of the list to get it, I hope." HAVE YOU TALKED TO TERRY YET ABOUT WHAT TO EXPECT NOW?
"He told me Sunday night at Homestead, 'You won't feel like you've done anything tomorrow,' and he was right. It was like the normal day. In fact, I realized how much pressure I might have put on myself because Monday was like a big relief. I was like, 'Well, what am I going to do now?' It's weird, because for 34 weekends you're always thinking about the next weekend. So he was right about that. It just didn't feel much different. There were a lot of phone calls, but other than that it just didn't feel much different. It's just not sunk in, yet. "Then, he advised me that in New York (at the banquet) it will sink in a lot. I'm just really looking forward to that. He's been able to direct me in a lot of ways, but I think that is probably the two big things he told me. I think the biggest thing he said was, 'Just make sure you enjoy it.'" HAVE YOU LOCKED IN JIMMY BUFFET FOR YOUR PARTY IN NEW YORK AND ARE YOU GOING TO SING WITH HIM?
"I haven't signed the contract, but I've got the contract. I don't sing, but I might sing. I'm not going to say 'no.' I always sing them, but I'm not going to sing in front of a lot of people. But we're excited about that. Hopefully that will all work out." ON BEING A GOOD CHAMPION
"I've got some big shoes to fill in previous champions, so hopefully I can keep up with them.

"My banker told me this week, 'You've come a long way from trying to pay for those tire bills at Caraway (Speedway).' I said, 'Yes we have, haven't we.'"

WAS THE CHAMPIONSHIP CHASE AS MUCH FUN AS YOU THOUGHT IT WAS GOING TO BE?
"I think so, just to be a part of it. Last year I got a great taste of what could happen and this year, it was such a great honor to be a part of it. All you can ask for is to be competitive week in and week out, and I'm definitely sitting in a place where a lot of guys want to be. I know I had a lot fun with it. It's definitely a lot of hard work on the team's part. It's a great job by them to go to 34 races, 36 weekends a year, just to be competitive because you can't be 100 percent all the time. But I guess we were closer to 100 percent than everybody else. Even though it's a lot of work and sometimes struggles and everything you go through, it's still well worth it. Still we're going to have fun. You've probably seen our guys. We enjoy ourselves and we're going to make sure that we're having fun while we're working real hard, too." WAS MONDAY A BIG RELIEF?
"I think so. I think at the finish line it was one, but Monday morning was one more, too. You just don't realize how hard it is until you do it. It's just difficult to be 100 percent week in and week out, so whenever you can breather a sigh of relief it's definitely a welcome sigh of relief." WHAT WILL IT BE LIKE HEADING TO DAYTONA NEXT FEBRUARY?
"I know that we'll get to park in the elite parking spot (in the garage) all year long next year. As funny as it might seem, that is real important to us because that is something that goes with what the team works for all year long. Going into Daytona, I just can't wait to get there because I just know that we're going to be excited about getting there to race. We're going to be excited about trying to defend a championship, which I suppose will be twice as hard as winning one. I'm sure we'll be walking on the clouds when we get there. But Mike Helton informed me, he said, 'Until you get to Daytona you're our champion. You're our champion after that, but you're just like everybody else when you get back there. Now don't forget, you've got to get back to racing.' We know that when we get there we've got to get back to racing. But it's going to be exciting throughout the off-season. It's going to be exciting next year to go week in and week out, and to have that name that we accomplished last year being the championship team. I think that's all going to be worthwhile. "I was able to meet Cody Unser in Phoenix last year. She had written me a letter. She had come down with Transverse Myelitis in February of that year, so we went through a long year keeping up with her. She wrote this letter. Now here is the nine, 10, 11-year-old girl that has Transverse Myelitis, is paralyzed from the waist down - an athletic kid that can't walk anymore. She writes this little letter to me and at the very end of the letter she says, 'And don't forget: it's all good.' That just stuck with us. Of course my wife and I just couldn't believe what this little girl wrote, so that was kind of like our motto that we took from then on. Sometimes when you go out there and you don't qualify well or you do something bad or you screw up or whatever, we're all talking about, 'Hey, don't forget: it's all good.' And it really is, when you look at it. We're all good right now."

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bobby Labonte , Mike Helton