Daytona 500: GM - Labonte Tuesday interview

BOBBY LABONTE, NO.18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: THE TEAM HAS HAD A FEW MONTHS TO ADJUST TO A COUPLE OF PERSONNEL AND EQUIPMENT MOVES...HOW ARE THINGS HEADING INTO THE YEAR? "We hired Michael McSwain to be the crew chief on the...

BOBBY LABONTE, NO.18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:

THE TEAM HAS HAD A FEW MONTHS TO ADJUST TO A COUPLE OF PERSONNEL AND EQUIPMENT MOVES...HOW ARE THINGS HEADING INTO THE YEAR? "We hired Michael McSwain to be the crew chief on the '18' car (last fall) and Jimmy Makar moved up to more of a management role between the two teams, so that is going to help us out. We've had three really good tests with Michael and myself. We're really getting along good and things are gelling, so I'm really excited about that.

"We made the switch over to Chevrolet from Pontiac, and that is a big change for us. All the guys in the fabrication department have worked really hard to get that done - and are still working hard. But, we're really excited about that. It's a good thing and really good race cars. Like I said, we've had three really good tests because of that. A lot of guys did a bunch of hard work and did the right things."

HOW MUCH PRESSURE IS THE TEAM PUTTING ON ITSELF TO REBOUND WITH A GOOD SEASON IN 2003? "I think, understandably, quite a bit. We want to do good. We're putting pressure on ourselves, but no more than we feel from other things. We're optimistic that we're going to go out there and run good. If we start off that way and we start running good, then I know we'll build up confidence as we go."

HAVING WON A WINSTON CUP CHAMPIONSHIP, HOW IMPORTANT IS A WIN IN THE DAYTONA 500 FOR YOUR TOTAL CAREER? "It's every driver's dream to win this race. We've been fortunate enough to win some other big races and this is no different. We want to be able to go out there and run really good. I feel like we've got a good shot at it. We've got good race cars, we've got a good race team and got all the people in the right places. Now we've just got to go out there and be at the right place at the right time to capitalize on things. Hopefully, we can be up front at the end and have a chance to win a race."

ON THE IMPACT OF YOUNG DRIVERS IN THE SPORT NOW "They've just got a lot of talent and they've hooked up with some good teams. When you started having two-car teams years ago, that gave the second team an advantage because there is not a growing process to go through. Now there are three-car teams and four-car teams out there, so it just helps those guys out quicker and quicker. The way the rules are with the bodies and everything else, it helps those guys and helps that learning curve out. They've still got a lot of learning to do, but it helps them succeed in some things that they wouldn't have had the chance to if they had a single-car team eight or 10 years ago.

"But, they're good guys - really good racers and a lot of fun to race with."

-gm racing-

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Series NASCAR Cup