Bobby Labonte Preseason Thunder press conference

Bobby Labonte Daytona International Speedway January 9, 2006 Q: Former Series Champion Bobby Labonte, new team, new everything, how exciting coming in this year. Labonte: I'm real excited. Obviously, I think that it is a great opportunity for...

Bobby Labonte
Daytona International Speedway
January 9, 2006

Q: Former Series Champion Bobby Labonte, new team, new everything, how exciting coming in this year.

Labonte: I'm real excited. Obviously, I think that it is a great opportunity for me and looking forward to working with Todd and everybody in the Petty Organization. I've been in the shop probably nearly everyday since Homestead it seems like. I'm just trying to get geared up. With Robby being there, you know Greg moved over to a more over looking position I guess you might say. It's just been a treat. We'll see how performance is on the race track. We all can't wait to get there. I know that once we get on the race track we'll be excited about that too. It's kind of exciting to the point but we haven't gotten on the race track yet as far as other than Kentucky, so it's like when you get out there you got to see what you got and go from there.

Q: First question of the year. Mark DeCotis Florida Today, being a veteran of the sport, being a former champion, can you talk a little about what it means for Bobby Labonte to be driving the #43?

Labonte: You know I think it will hit me probably when we get down here next month. I mean obviously, we tested in Kentucky last month and we didn't have nothing on the car. I think we got #43 on the car this week and we'll have it obviously when we come back. It's exciting, it means a lot, it's quite an honor and we look forward to doing well in it and making sure we get back to victory lane. It's just going to be a huge deal. There have only been a few cars like that, that has been around for that many years and has that tradition behind it, and one of them is awesome feeling.

Q: George Diaz with the Orlando Sentinel.

Labonte: Before you start I like the way they trained everybody to announce and say their names like and all that stuff it's pretty cool.

Q: Do you like that?

Labonte: Yes.

Q: Should I go with an alias next time?

Labonte: No.

Q: I can go in Spanish if you want to? Anyway, earlier when the announcement was made there was a quote that said a part of what you said is signs were telling me this is what I needed to do. Can you just elaborate on that please?

Labonte: Well, I was in my office one day at my shop and I went down the hallway to the fax machine and there was a STP sticker laying there, I don't know where it came from but it was just laying there. You know what I mean? I know that sounds kind of corny but that happened. I looked at my dad and I said what does this mean, who put this here? You know what I mean? Honestly, I think it was a move I felt like in my heart that if I had to say well if I had to drive for somebody else who would it be for? And at this point in my career and this point in my life with my family and just the way that the situation was it might not have been something that would have happened five or ten years ago but at this point in time I looked at it as a great opportunity, not just an option. Because I think it's real important that you're doing the right thing from the time you start your career to the time you end your career. I think this is a great opportunity for me to drive for a great family and hopefully get the #43 car back into victory lane.

Q: ( Could Not Hear)

Labonte: No I actually talked to a lot of people, or not a lot of people but a few people and I said option A B and C, and they all kind of looked at me like well that would be really neat, you know that would be awesome right there you know what I mean if all the people in the places that are in place now so that's what, that's what I look at is the people.

(Okay we'll go with Dustin and then Claire)

Q: Dustin Long, Landmark. Bobby, you're one of a number of drivers trying to bounce back after a less than stellar season last year. So, I know that you've talked in the past kind of I think you called it the circle theory about careers being up and down. But are there certain things a driver can do in a way to get his mojo back or is it as much based on what the team does and the driver can't carry the team as much anymore?

Labonte: I think it's a combination of things. I think that you gotta be with a team that's hungry, that's on the edge of not being inside the box or sits outside the box, and confidence plays a big role as far as the driver goes. So, you gotta have, you know its not the amount I think you're gonna be with a great team but if you're not the driver that fits that team then it might not work or vice versa. So, I think you have to have it all together and that's what you try to do, you try to find that combination that chemistry to make driver crew chief team. And they have to have their, they have to be where what's taking place today and not try to race like three years ago and expect to win. You gotta be up to date on the competitiveness of the sport. So, well it's a, to go back you know when you struggle some, somewhat like we have, like I have, then you question yourself you're like man, and then you start trying harder or trying different things and that's not really working, and chances are you tried too hard and then you tried to find the right success and the right team. You look for, and it's hard to stay on top of it because things change so fast, you know, you don't, what might be good today might not be good in six weeks. So, your teams got to be on top of it, you have to be on top of it too, you gotta work real hard you cant just go somewhere and expect to just be better all of a sudden, its just not gonna be easy.

Q: Claire B. Lang from XM Satellite Radio, the fans have been debating what would be a realistic expectation for Petty Enterprises, they would love to see you win, and be in the top ten. When you went to Petty Enterprises, you said you like to roll up your sleeves and get involved, what did you find there? How good are they over there and what do they need? Where are they at right now?

Labonte: Well they're uh, they got great personnel, everything you need to go racing and I think that you just gotta, like I said the problem last year, no matter where you go you gotta work real hard at it. And that's what we're gonna do is work real hard. We got, like I said a lot of great people at that were at Petty Enterprises prior to me going and when Robby came I think that brought a lot of, or a different style and a personality fact there that you know when he left he, he's matured a lot since he left too and I think that the group and the organization is as hungry as everyone else out there and everyone is hungry don't get me wrong, we're not the only one that are hungry and ambitious but and I feel like we got things in the right place. We haven't made a lap under NASCAR's testing policy other than Kentucky, so you know we and here isn't going to really be a judge of what kind you know if the first lap isn't the fastest, or in the first day if you're not the fastest then it's not the end of the world. But I think that everybody thinks positively, and uh know that we got a lot of hard work in front of us. But know that we're all excited and think that we can all go out there and do really well. There's not an ounce or venation of "Oh God this is gonna be a struggle" because we don't think that. We're positive about that and feel like we got great race cars, been able to see them and touch them and know what they are. We talk to people; I think that we got a great positive outlook and just want to get started.

Q: Bob Pockrass, NASCAR Scene. Have you done a lot more marketing stuff in this off season than past as far as like photo shoots and have you done any commercials with Cheerios or Dodge?

Labonte: Actually just did a photo shoot in Minneapolis once, I haven't done any with Dodge yet, I think that's tonight. So, no not really. Normal. About normal stuff.

Q: Mark DeCotis, Florida Today, Bobby can you talk about on a personal level driving with and for Kyle, a good friend of yours and what your expectations are with that?

Labonte: Well, that's another thing that obviously brought me there I think that Kyle and I are similar in a lot of things we do it's kind of weird. After you know somebody for a long time and then you talk to them a little more and find out that their habits and traits and stuff like that what they do is kind of the like they do the same thing. Like, "I do that the same way too". Okay. It's strange or different. It's gonna be neat because I think its uh, that our passion for racing and a lot of things are the same and I feel like we got a lot of good things to do together and can't wait to get the year started. You know you talk to somebody, but you don't, you know when you get goin' throughout the season you talk more your teammate. So then it's uh, again its pretty neat too that obviously living a half a mile between each other at the same time; discuss things or do things like that. It's gonna be a lot of fun I think. I know Kyle, he's uh, talk about a tough individual. You know I'm excited about being a part of that; learning some of the stuff he's done or going to do, understand what he does that I don't know yet and look forward to the relationship growing strong. (I don't think so).

Q: Dustin Long, two questions. I just wanted to follow up with what you were saying you were talking about some of the traits and habits of Kyle that you weren't maybe as aware of before. What are some of the things that you share that you weren't aware of before?

Labonte: We both shop at the same grocery store. That's just one of them I guess. It's the first thing that came to my mind. He eats like the same stuff that I do. It's kind of like, "Really you do". He runs, I run a little bit. I don't run like he does, he's got longer legs. He can run longer.

Q: Also, I wanted to ask you how is has the sport changed from inside the cock pit in the last two, three, four five years from the drivers point of view? What's changed on or off the track? And what are the skills that you have to keep applying or learning as you go on even though you are experienced in the sport? What are the things that you are having to adjust to? Maybe is that caused from the newer generations of drivers over the years? How are things changing from a driver's point of view?

Labonte: Well, I think that each year it seems like you run a 500 mile race, years ago you would run every lap like qualifying, and I guess the biggest thing I noticed, one of the biggest things I've notice is that over the years that you become more every lap is more like qualifying. You know I think that just happens you know because different drivers come in and try something different and all of a sudden now its, everybody's faster, teams are faster helps everyone go faster. So what use to be lap time we always use to go out there and run your pace for 500 miles you know and push them if you had to. And now you have to push all the time. That's one of the biggest things you see different. And obviously with multi-car teams you have information flowing back and forth so if you see one team running good, one teammate, or a teammate of somebody, chances are the next guy that his teammate is going to proceed on, so they use to not happen as much but now they are communicating better. And then just obviously the things that you look for now days inside the race car, you know with lap times and even near Daytona, just as close as it would be to Martinsville say for instance something like that. Use to be able to okay I have to run high or I don't have to run high or whatever qualify. Now you gotta do everything right, its not like, it's so close, a tenth of a second could get you ten spots. So, it's just a lot more detail oriented on the race track. You really have to change your line and find something better you have to take it from the board to the extreme than you use to. It kind of progression every year gets a little more a littler bit more, it's not gonna regress back to where you use to run 500 miles. In my life, it's not gonna get back to 500 miles in Atlanta where you can take it easy after lap twenty. And pit and go and pit and go now it's you just gotta go.

Q: Well,

Labonte: You know it's like in 2000, I won the championship and I think finished all but nine laps that year. And since then, I think that's the case because you got to take more chances nowadays and so your finishes reflect on, you know you don't have those finishes like you use to or as consistently. I think when Tony won the championship in 2002, not really sure about this year, but he had like 4 or 5 DNF's you know and I think everybody has DNF's this year to an certain extent or if you don't' usually you're not gonna be up front anyway. You know your mid-pack instead of up front. It just got a lot tougher a lot more chances you have to take. If you're just off a little bit you're in twentieth and you're not fit.

Q: Bobby, I apologize if this was asked earlier, but at what point do people like you look and others in the sport sort of look to the Petty's as a team on the upswing I mean everybody up there but Kyle has got a championship, late tires anyway?

Labonte: Well I think that, if I can answer your question right, but I think that everybody at Petty Enterprises is excited you know that we're together and I think that we're going to proceed on with a great attitude and hopefully bring the #43 car back to victory lane. I believe everyone is positive around it and I don think I'm answering your question the right way but I think that everybody.... This year, last year, 2005 I'll be doing this towards the end of the year whenever I said well I could have a few options. I just thought in my heart that's where I wanted to be because the trend hasn't been going up hill. But Ned and Robby added a few other things to the program well that makes me feel like I'm gonna grab a hold of something and we're going and swinging up hill you know hwat I mean. It's not a lateral thing, you know where you're just gonna be stacked it's gonna be going up hill. Last year whenever Robby was hired, that's kind of what intrigued me a lot.

-dodge motorsports-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bobby Labonte