Labonte Preseason Thunder - Dodge interview

BOBBY LABONTE (No. 43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge Charger) COMMENT ON THE DAYTONA TEST SO FAR "I think everything is going pretty good. We've got a new car here and one we ran last year. The new car didn't roll off the truck real good, but ...

BOBBY LABONTE (No. 43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge Charger)

COMMENT ON THE DAYTONA TEST SO FAR "I think everything is going pretty good. We've got a new car here and one we ran last year. The new car didn't roll off the truck real good, but we're getting it better. The older car's not bad, either, so we're cautiously optimistic that the speeds we're running aren't bad. We're trying to get everybody to work together and get through the three-day test here and get everybody acclimated as much as possible. I feel really good about it."

WILL CLIMBING TO THE NEXT LEVEL BE MORE DIFFICULT THAN THE AMOUNT YOUR TEAM IMPROVED LAST SEASON? "It's true in a lot of ways that the next step is going to be harder, but we went through a crew chief change last year and that was difficult. We've overcome that. I think that was a plus for us as far as stability starting the year off with Paul Andrews. I feel like the next step will be harder in a lot of ways, but hopefully through the seasoning of last year with the understanding of the racecar, hopefully it won't come as hard as you think. I hope it's not twice as hard to get to the top 15 as it was to get to 21st. I know there are areas I made some mistakes in and we had some DNF's that we had no control over. If we can fix those DNF's and my mistakes, that could put us there without running any slower or faster. The law of averages just bit us on some races last year."

WILL THE COT HELP YOU COMPETE WITH THE BIGGER TEAMS? "I don't know that it'll be any easier for us. It is a new racecar. I think with the technology nowadays, if you've got more that could be better for you with a four-car team compared to a two-car team. I don't see us having an advantage going to a new type of racecar. It's like going to a new racetrack. A guy that's got four cars at that new racetrack is going to get more information than a guy that has two cars at that track. A guy that has four cars at his shop that he has built compared to two cars at our shop is going to get more information. I wouldn't think it's going to be anything that says it's going to help us a ton. You never know. We'll see."

COMMENT ON TEAM CHEMISTRY "I think it has changed a lot. With Paul being the crew chief on the 43 car with me, which is great because he's been at Petty Enterprises for a couple of years working with Kyle, and then hiring Billy (Wilburn) to work with Kyle, that's a strong point for us. That's a strong program right there in itself. With Paul being there and having worked with Kyle already and Billy coming in with fresh ideas, he has no ego. He wants to race and do good. That's going to help out our team. Kyle and I have known each other for a long time prior to racing together. Just working with him through last year, probably wasn't quite the relationship we needed 100 percent. Paul came over and it took a little bit, but it became stronger at the end of the year. You're always trying to strengthen it. There's always room for improvement where ever you go. I think the chemistry is going to grow between our relationships and the crew chiefs' relationships. We could see it already helping toward the end of last year because both cars were better in the last 10 races."

DOES THE LOCATION OF PETTY ENTERPRISES PRESENT A PROBLEM? "That's a good question, and every year it does get tougher I believe. You could look at it 15 years ago and maybe it wasn't that big of a deal. You add Michael Waltrip Racing and Red Bull Racing and there's five cars right there. I guess that's really five new cars. That's five times ever how many people you're going to have per car that's going to go there. That makes it tough. We have talked about it and there are a lot of pros and cons being located in Randolph County (Level Cross, N.C.). It's only 15 minutes from my house and that's a good pro, but it is difficult and each year it gets more difficult so we have to make sure we don't get any more behind than what could happen. There's a ton of heart in the shop. You can't go and get that many places, but you just have to be cautious about how you go about something like that. It's not like we're doing something different tomorrow. We've got to think about it and go through the motions and make the decision when the time is right."

ANY CONCERN WITH THE TOYOTA TEAMS? "I think everybody is looking at it with concern this year. Whether it is Toyota, it is, but you're looking at five new race cars also. That puts people out of the show on Sunday. With Kyle being in the top 35 last year, that made the winter go by a little bit easier. It's a competition thing, and it's going to get harder and harder. It goes in spells when you have too many cars and then just enough cars. Right now, I think we've got too many cars and that might last a little longer than it has been, but that is definitely a concern for guys 30th on back in points to start the year off."

WHAT OTHER RACING WILL YOU DO IN 2007? "I will drive for Kevin Harvick in the Busch Series for 18 races. I don't have anything in the truck series scheduled. I'm going to run the 24 hours like we did the last couple years. I bought a dirt late model team off a whim with a friend of mine. He's going to race it. I'm just going to watch it, and I probably won't watch it much because I won't be able to go. That's the way the schedule goes for me this year. I'll probably one two Rolex races for sure, maybe three."

ARE YOU CONVINCED GOING TO PETTY ENTERPRISES WAS THE RIGHT MOVE FOR YOU? "Yes. I wouldn't second guess it right now. I think there are a lot of opportunities there for me for years to come. We've just got to race real hard and make sure we do the right thing with our sponsors. Going back to the Randolph County question, it's not the right location for the hub of racing where it used to be fine. Now it's not, so it's a challenge there. It's always a challenge, but I kind of like that challenge. It's interesting to be a part of that. I believe we're in the right direction to make the right decision to do that. To compete against Hendrick or Roush or Gibbs and Evernham, obviously it's difficult, but I feel like toward the end of last year we made a big jump and we can continue making those big jumps. We've got to keep making the right decisions as a team. I'm excited about it. At this point in my life, I think it was a cool move for me because it was a great opportunity to get back to victory lane."

-credit: dodge motorsports

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Michael Waltrip
Teams Red Bull Racing , Michael Waltrip Racing