Labonte - Ford interview 2009-05-19

This Week in Ford Racing Bobby Labonte's first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win came in 1995 when he captured the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway for Joe Gibbs Racing. Labonte, driver of the No. 96 Ask.com Ford Fusion, recalled that ...

This Week in Ford Racing

Bobby Labonte's first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win came in 1995 when he captured the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway for Joe Gibbs Racing. Labonte, driver of the No. 96 Ask.com Ford Fusion, recalled that special night as he gears up for the 2009 Memorial Day Weekend spectacular.

BOBBY LABONTE - No. 96 Ask.com Ford Fusion

HOW EXCITING WAS IT TO HAVE YOUR FIRST CUP WIN BE THE COKE 600? "We had run second for like three races that year before we got to Charlotte, so we have a lot of confidence that we could go fast. It was just one of those nights where we qualified good and were able to run good all night long. Our car was just so good that we didn't want to mess it up and it just kept getting faster as the night went on, which it usually does. Right there at the end I was worried with Schrader in front of me. I thought, 'I can catch him, but I don't know if I can pass him,' but then he blew up with about 20 to go. Then I was like, 'OK, now I'm leading. What am I gonna do now?' So I heard everything in the car and then we finished ahead of Terry by seven or eight or nine seconds, but what a neat deal to win your first NASCAR race at the Coke 600, which is the longest race of the year. It's your first win ever. It's hard to beat that."

IS THERE ONE THING THAT STANDS OUT FROM THAT NIGHT? "I think Victory Lane was a huge thing just for the fact that I got to celebrate there. Tyler was like a year old and with that being the first win and being able to do Victory Lane for the first with everybody was cool. They experienced Victory Lane with DJ the fall before that, so to come back here and do that with Jimmy (Makar) and everybody was special. You were hoping Victory Lane would never end because it felt so good."

DO YOU LIKE THE UNIQUENESS OF A 600-MILE RACE? "Yeah, I do. Pocono could be 400 or 300 miles, but at Dover I loved when it was 500 miles. I thought that change there was cruel because that last 100 was awesome, whereas here that last 100 miles really goes by kind of quick. You only go about 60 laps under a green flag run for tires and fuel, but I think it's because you go from day to night that makes 600 miles here different than if you went 600 miles at 12 noon. That would be too long. But as the night goes on, your car changes so you're still changing for that last 100, so I think that's a neat element that I don't think we'd want to forego. It's always a challenge, so the last 100 miles is a challenge for us."

IS THE LAST 100 MILES MORE OF A CHALLENGE FROM AN EQUIPMENT STANDPOINT AS OPPOSED TO DRIVER STAMINA? "You don't notice it because it goes from day to night, so it cools off some. Again, if it was 12 o'clock you'd probably feel like Pocono. Pocono feels like 800 miles sometimes, even though it's only 500. The 600 here doesn't feel like 600 sometimes. It does feel like 500 because you do go from day to night, and then the fact that the last 100 miles things can happen equipment-wise. The field usually gets strung out there with the lead lap cars and everything for the last 100 miles. I remember back in 1993 I was on the lead lap at mile 500 and there were only like three of us on the lead lap. Some guys just got a lap down and they got them back and I think I ended up finishing sixth my first time here in a Ford, so that last 100 miles made a big change. If it would have been a 500-mile race, I think I would have finished second or third, but it was 600 and I finished sixth, so it can go either way on you. Those last 100 miles can make a big difference in what we do."

-credit: ford racing

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bobby Labonte
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing