Bobby Labonte Interview

THOUGHTS FROM BOBBY LABONTE, NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES PONTIAC GRAND PRIX (ON HIS SEASON SO FAR) "Everything so far has been great. We've had a great season. We feel like the things that happened to us at Martinsville weren't really...


(ON HIS SEASON SO FAR) "Everything so far has been great. We've had a great season. We feel like the things that happened to us at Martinsville weren't really hurting us too bad. We had a good run. We just didn't put everything together at the end of the race like we needed to and probably needed more green flag runs. At Talladega we had a problems with the oiling system during qualifying that burned up one cylinder, so we qualified on seven cylinders. We were better than that in practice. Starting back there (in 37th) wasn't that big a deal. We just didn't advance like we wanted to. We just kind of sat back and thought we would just hang around and see what else was going on. We didn't lose the draft. We just sat back there, but got involved in a wreck - kind of the wrong place at the wrong time."

(ON THE SUCCESS OF WINSTON CUP ROOKIES RECENTLY) "Dale Earnhardt, Inc., has been an established team now for two or three years. They've worked hard to get their Winston Cup program together. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., has won two Busch Grand National championship titles in a row driving for his dad. The learning curve for those guys is probably a little shorter than it might have been six or seven years ago for a rookie. I also feel like Matt Kenseth, who hooked up with Jack Roush is probably in the same position that Earnhardt is as far as their learning curve. I guess it goes back to the fact they've got a great race team and they've got some good experience and good head on their shoulders. That makes the learning curve a lot quicker for them."

(ON DRIVERS BEING ABLE TO WIN FROM FURTHER BACK IN THE STARTING GRID THIS YEAR) "I guess it just comes from the competition standpoint. The cars are so close. During the weekend, a few adjustments here and there might make you or break you. Jeff Burton qualifies back more often and finishes up at the front, which we've all reviewed that and seen that happen. Not they don't put any emphasis on qualifying, because we watch them every weekend and they do. It's just that everybody is so close in qualifying now. A little bit here or there might make your car better for the race. "We love to qualify good because we figure that is the best place to start. But last year we qualified bad at Atlanta. We just kept working on it. If you qualify bad you always keep working on it. But you can't lose sight that that is going to be the dictation for your whole weekend."

(ON THE MOOD OF THE TEAM AFTER TALLADEGA) "The mood was great. We had our game plan set. It just didn't work out for us. We were kind of hoping the race would get strung out a little bit and it never did. We really never did run except but for a few laps there. As far as how everything went with the team, the mood was still fine. We've run a lot of restrictor plate races without having problems, as far as an accident goes. I can say that I've probably been overdue for one because we've been a lot of races without being involved in one. I guess the odds were going to be against us at one point in time. Maybe we got that out of the way. Martinsville was another weekend. We actually took the lead under green when Rusty (Wallace) had a tire do down. We passed Sterling. We got passed just a couple laps later, but still felt like we had a good, top six or seven car. Last year we finished 24th there, so we felt like we were better than we have been there in a while - not quite as good last fall - but still good. "A weekend off is a weekend off. We're all going to enjoy it. But we're looking forward to getting to California (Speedway) in a couple weeks to get back to racing."

(ON THE POINTS RACE) "Being second doesn't really mean that much. Being 24 points behind is big because you don't want to give up any points. What was already done so far has been done, and we've got to proceed on to the next race. We didn't want to lose track position at Talladega, but we did. That is something we've got to live with and go on. There are a lot of guys that are still in the hunt that can win. It's not like it's down to two cars, it's not down to four cars, it's down to several cars. So being second right now is probably not all that bad."

(ON A DRIVER'S WIFE BEING VERY UNDERSTANDING OF THE DEMANDS IN THE JOB) "They are very understanding. There are a lot of benefits to the position that we're in. We get to do a lot of things that a lot of people can't do. But it goes along with a lot of time and hard work that you've got to spend away from your families. You've got to balance it out real well. Everybody has to be understanding - not only your wife, but you also. When you come home or maybe on a weekend off, if our plan is to go off on a vacation then I probably don't need to take work with me. I've got to understand that, too, from their point of it. I think it's just where you have to work at it as a relationship together whatever you do. And our sport is pretty tough to do it in, but I'm thankful that we've got a lot of good things happening to us where it helps out also."

(ON TEAM CHEMISTRY) "It's driven by several things. A lot of it is confidence. A lot of it is the right people in the right places doing the right things to help your situation out. You see it all the time with people changing rides or people changing positions. They are no different than they were last year driving-wise or whatever. It's just a fact that when you put all the pieces of the puzzle together it seems like it works better. Chemistry is just a word and it's hard to put into words. It's just somehow whenever things are going right your confidence level goes up one step. When that goes up a step, everybody on the team, their confidence level goes up or their desire goes up or their level of integrity goes up where they can go to the next level. Then it just keeps mounting, rising. Then if somebody gets pulled away, can that team keep building off of that? Yeah sure, but it's still kind of hard. At times it works quicker for others and sometimes it doesn't. "We are very fortunate at Joe Gibbs Racing that we don't have a lot of turnover there. We are set for another five years and we're just loving life right now, to be honest with you. It's good because we like what we have together. We feel like we are building strength every day and every weekend. When you do get to the racetrack there are some many things that can go wrong. If you can miss some of those things with chemistry being there for a long period of time then that will help out in the long run."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Jack Roush
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing