Darlington: GM - Terry Labonte interview

Terry Labonte, driver of the No. 5 Kellogg'S Chevrolet Monte Carlo, was the gguest In Today'S Nextel Wake-Up Call. Labonte Won Last Year'S Southern 500 On Labor Day Weekend, Posting His 22ND Career Win. He Is Bidding To Become The First Driver In...

Terry Labonte, driver of the No. 5 Kellogg'S Chevrolet Monte Carlo, was the gguest In Today'S Nextel Wake-Up Call. Labonte Won Last Year'S Southern 500 On Labor Day Weekend, Posting His 22ND Career Win. He Is Bidding To Become The First Driver In Five Years To Win Back-To-Back Races On The 1.366-Mile Oval.

Q&A'S WITH TERRY LABONTE:

ON HIS MEMORY OF HIS WIN LAST LABOR DAY:

"It was just one of those days where everything went your way. They don't come along very often. We came down here and practiced well, qualified well, and practiced good in Happy Hour. During the race we were up in the top 10 probably all day long. We had great pit stops. We got out front there at the end and held them off. It was just one of those days that we had everything together. It's hard to do that for the entire race a lot of times. It was a great weekend for us. And without a doubt, it was the biggest win of my career."

ON THE SAFER BARRIERS:

"First of all, I think every track we run should have SAFER barriers. I think that's a great thing they've put in down here at Darlington. Of all the tracks we go to, this is the track we run closest to the wall at and so it has taken away a little bit of the racing groove. But I don't think that's a bad trade-off for having the SAFER barriers installed. So it's probably going to take a little bit of getting used to and today in practice will be a good indication of how it's going to play out. When you go out there and run several laps, your tires get worn and things like that so you're not going to have quite as much room to slide around as you've had in the past.

ON THE SEASON SO FAR AND THE EXPECTATIONS HE HAS FOR THE TEAM:

"Overall, we're not very pleased with what we've accomplished. At time we've run better than we've finished. Sometimes that happens. We don't have the new tire and the new rules dialed in yet. We're gaining on it. I don't think that's really uncommon for our team. We've done that in the past. I think we're getting closer to it. We've learned some things in the past week or so. Hopefully this race here is going to be a good one. Next week we're going to go test, which will really be about the first opportunity we've had to test and try a lot of different things. We're looking forward to doing that."

ON STARTING 26TH IN SUNDAY'S RACE AND HOW THAT AFFECTS HIS RACE STRATEGY:

"You have to be a little bit more cautious back there. That's right in the middle of the pack. It's always interesting getting into Turn 1 here on the start of a race here at Darlington especially. But this is a race track where you can pass if your car is working good. If you run 10 or 15 laps and your tires start wearing out a little bit and your car is working good you can pass people.

"It's not a terrible thing to start back there. I wish we were starting a little bit closer to the front. But we're just going to have to deal with it. That's what we've got."

HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO GET ONTO PIT ROAD HERE?

"Of all the places we go to, it's probably one of the most difficult. What happens down there between the grass and the racing surface it gets covered with sand and grit and things like that so it gets awful slippery there. Plus, there's not much grip on the asphalt and it's flat on top of that. So it is a little trickier here to get onto pit road than a lot of places. We've seen people his the wall down there during the race trying to make a green flag pit stop. And we've seen people spin out down there trying to come in. So, you have to come in a little slower than you think because of the sand and grit and whatnot on the apron there."

HAVE YOU HAD TO CHANGE YOUR MARKS DUE TO THE SAFER BARRIERS, OR IS IT JUST A MATTER OF FEEL?

"It's a matter of feel a little bit. But I've never had marks on race tracks that I've judged to let off the gas or whatever. But evidently I've used the wall to judge off of because every time I've gone into Turn 1 I've been too low going in the corner. I've had to really make myself stay out a little bit farther because when I first went out every lap I was on the apron with my left front getting into the corner because I guess I was so used to judging off the wall. It's been a little bit different. Probably a lot of people have noticed that.

HAS IT BEEN CROWDED?

"Not really. But then I've been out there by myself (laughs). I probably need to get back with you here in a little bit (after Happy Hour)."

ON THE FAST START THAT KASEY KAHNE HAS HAD AND HOW GOOD SOME OF THE YOUNG DRIVERS ARE:

"Kasey is doing an unbelievable job. That team really started getting their act together last year. Bill (Elliott) was running good at every track they went to. They've been able to take that whole team to the next level. They've added some more good people to it and have really gotten off to a great start. It's been a little bit surprising. If it was Bill Elliott in the car, I wouldn't be very surprised. But Kasey is doing a great job without a doubt to accomplish what he has, to finish the way he has, and to qualify the way he has."

REGARDING THE BALANCE OF THE CAR, IT SEEMS LIKE THE CHEVROLETS ARE MORE OUT TO LUNCH COMPARED TO THE DODGES AND FORDS. ARE YOU WORKING ON THAT?

"We don't really think that what we've been missing on is really the balance of the cars. We think that with the new tire, we don't have our front-end stuff right. We don't think we have the geometry quite right. That's what we're working on. We think our aero is pretty close. I don't really think there's a big difference between the cars and aero, balance-wise. I might be wrong. We just know what we have and we feel like we're pretty close on that. We think with this new tire, the geometry we ran last year is different. We know it is. The tires have responded differently. We don't really have a handle on that.

ON HIS SON, JUSTIN LABONTE, MAKING HIS DEBUT AT TEXAS AND IF HE IS MORE PREPARED THIS TIME AROUND:

"Yeah, I think Justin is a little more mature now than he was. I take the whole responsibility for him not doing well in the Busch car before because it wasn't a very good Busch team and we really didn't run very good. We'd take turns driving it sometimes and if Bobby (Labonte) and I didn't like it, we'd let Justin drive it because it really wasn't very good you know (laughs). But, we've got a different situation now. We've hired some really good people. I've been really impressed with the jobs they've done in the shop. So we're going to Texas. That'll be our first race. But in watching Justin grow over the few years since then as far as what he's done in his Late Model, and he's run a few ARCA races and things like that, he has really matured a lot. He's basically a different driver than he was then. And I put him in that car. He wasn't ready for it and then it wasn't a very good car either. So, that was my fault. Looking back on it, I shouldn't have done that. But it's a lot easier looking back on things than it is to make the right decisions at the time."

-gm-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Terry Labonte