BOBBY LABONTE, No.47 Clorox Toyota Camry, JTG-Daugherty Racing
What was it like at the race shop following your fourth-place finish in the Daytona 500? "Obviously, first of all it was a little bit of disappointment that we didn't win because we were this close -- that close. But, as the sun was starting to set I said, `Alright, it's not going to change.' Obviously, for our race team it was really exciting. Tad and Jodi (Geschickter, co-owners) and Brad (Daugherty) obviously. It was a great thing for the organization and great finish for the team -- myself and everybody included. No doubt that it was a great way to start our year off with them. One race out of 36 is a small amount, but still at the same time it was definitely, for them, I think it was one of the best finishes to date -- they were second at the Glen behind Juan (Pablo Montoya). To come back on an oval track and go through the Shootout, the twin race and then the 500 -- to come home with a top-five I know was a good day for them. A little disappointment obviously at the end, no doubt about it. You get that close you better have a little bit of disappointment for a little bit at least, but then you've got to get over it. We got over it and now we're like, that was a great weekend for all of our associates."
What does your top-five finish at Daytona mean for your own confidence going into this season? "It does a lot. I knew going into the season prior to testing, after some testing that we did in October, November and December of last year -- we haven't seen the second track yet again -- but still for both of us, for myself and all of us, it was a confidence booster. For myself, I haven't had a top-five for about a year and a half or maybe two years. To get hooked up with a great organization gives you confidence right away. That whole weekend we all had a little -- I had a high step because of that situation. I'm really just thankful that we got the opportunity. Whatever position you're in you always give your best effort anyway and when you have people around you that are working with you hand in hand and letting everybody do good together it is just a good feeling and a good team atmosphere."
What do you think your team can accomplish this year? "Well, if it rained for the next 26 weeks we would be in the top-12 in points. I think there will be other problems if it does rain for 26 weeks in a row. We set out some goals that were we've got to finish top-10 in points, we've got to win a race, we've got to win a pole -- we've got to do this and that. Our goal is obviously to have less DNFs than they had last year as a team. Perform a little bit better on the race track as a team and get better as the race goes on. If you start 36th on Sunday don't finish 38th. If you start 20th don't finish 25th. If you start 10th don't finish 12th. I think realistically we've got two races coming up -- obviously Phoenix here is a short track thing and then we go to Vegas next weekend. So, after the next two or three weeks we'll kind of have three different race tracks that we've been to -- three or four different race tracks that we've been to so we'll find our faults. We'll find our difficulties. We'll find our weaknesses and what we can work on. Because it is a new team and it's good for me to get to know these guys more. It's just going to be a little different. We might gel right away, we might find there's things that make me feel good -- who knows. But, I think realistically we'd love to be in the top-12 in points after race 26, like a lot of guys are wanting to be the same way. We've got a lot of great resources like you mentioned -- they are with MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing). It's a single-car operation, but it's not treated that way. We have meetings with our teammates, we have resources that are the same as that. So, the object is to just go out there and do the best we can with the group that we have and have those great moments and have races that will have us in the top-12 at the end of 26 races."
How have you adjusted to fewer cautions per race? "If you just have a 22 gallon fuel cell, then maybe it would last longer. They shortened the fuel cell up for all the races, so you have to pit more and you have shorter runs. I do believe, in my mind, that longer runs for me personally are better than short, burst ones. I would love to see less cautions as races go on. You have less chances to make adjustments, obviously, but if you have an adjustment that is right then other guys can't change theirs as fast. That's what your goal is on a Friday and Saturday, to get your car just right and if it does go longer, hopefully that will be the right way for you. I kind of like that trend, I hope it stays that way personally."
What are your goals for the weekend? "This weekend is the second race with our team. We want to have a good finish. We're tied for second in points right now as the points stand. We want to be able to come out of here with a good finish, a safety that solidifies our opportunities that we made last weekend. We are going to race, that's the first thing and if you don't believe in that you don't need to be here. Also, realistically with a new team and all things new for me with these guys, I've touched the car but not on the race tracks that we run at. That's going to be a tight task for this team that's been together for a while."
Can you reflect on any memories at PIR before the surface is repaved? "I know that the race track is going to get repaved after this race. I love coming here -- it's a great race track to race on and a lot of fun. Nothing in particular, I won a pole here I guess and I finished in the top-five a couple times and had good runs in the past. It seems like it's one of my favorite tracks to come to. Nothing memorable but nothing bad, either."
-source: toyota motorsports