Las Vegas: Bobby Labonte preview

Track Time Valuable at 'New' Vegas Track Cup Drivers Tackle Fresh Pavement and Added Banking This weekend, Bobby Labonte and the ...

Track Time Valuable at 'New' Vegas Track
Cup Drivers Tackle Fresh Pavement and Added Banking

This weekend, Bobby Labonte and the #43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge team head to the 1.5-mile Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway for Sunday's UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400. Teams return to the track after testing the newly reconfigured and paved track in late January. The track was repaved and banking added after last year's race. Labonte participated in both test Nextel Cup and Busch Series test sessions.

Labonte will be making his 10th start at Vegas this weekend. Past results have proved Labonte to be strong during qualifying. He has earned two poles and has started inside the top 10 in fifty percent of his starts at the track. Labonte's Sunday resume is equally impressive; finishing in the top 10 in four races.

The #43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge team are 23rd in championship points, but only 57 points outside the top 10. The team is already 13 positions higher in points than at the same time last season.

Comments from Labonte as he prepares for this weekend's UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400:

What are the new challenges of the track?

"It's repaved. There is a lot of grip on the bottom. We're going to have to work the second groove throughout the weekend. Running the Busch Series car this weekend will help. I think track time will be valuable. The track itself will change as the weekend progresses, and it will change during the race on Sunday. Hopefully we can learn some things on Saturday.

"We saw some different things during the test session. I think every team will have some issues to work through, but at least we aren't at 'square one' with the track. The test session gave us the chance to get out here and get some time on the new surface. That was very important and helpful for us.

Did testing help?

"I'm glad that we were able to get out here before this weekend. We had a 1.5-mile track that was relatively flat and wide. You had to 'drive' the track and have a good handling car. It's a completely different track today. The guys are up against different challenges. Our test session at least gave us an idea of what we are going up against.

"It was a big change to the track. Track time is going to be valuable now. We need to learn as much as we can. The tires will be different, shocks and spring, everything. We'll study all of it and see if we can get a good package for Sunday."

Does a good start to the season mean a lot?

"Every race is important. You don't want to start in a hole. We had some bad luck to start the beginning of last season and that set us back early. We climbed out of it, but it's a lot easier to start at the top. We're in the middle right now, but at least we are in a better position than last season. There are a lot of guys in the back now. I don't' think they will stay there, but you still have to make that climb. Bristol is coming up and you want to be inside the top 35 in owner points to guarantee a starting position after that. That's the biggest deal right now for those guys.

"We are in position to really make up some spots. The points are tight right now. A good race can put us right in the mix with the leaders. We certainly want a good showing this weekend. The season is long, but it's easier to go along when you have a good start."

-credit: pe

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bobby Labonte