Martinsville: Monte Carlo Labonte, Johnson Happy Hour interview

Terry Labonte, No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet Monte Carlo - fastest Chevrolet in first Happy Hour session: "Practice was pretty good. We were just working on our race set- up. It was really close to our qualifying set-up. We tried a few different ...

Terry Labonte, No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet Monte Carlo - fastest Chevrolet in first Happy Hour session:

"Practice was pretty good. We were just working on our race set- up. It was really close to our qualifying set-up. We tried a few different things, but we're pretty happy with it right now. We've got a few more things to try in the next session, but overall, the car has run good every time out - from the time we unloaded it off the truck until now. So not many changes."

Are you the type of driver who likes to watch other races? Will you watch Darrell Waltrip race in the trucks today? "Yeah, I watch other races. I don't even know why I'm going to watch it. I know he's going to win. He has gotten so smart sitting in the booth. It's obvious that nobody else will stand a chance with all the knowledge he has gained."

With all the experience Waltrip has at Martinsville, can he really beat the truck guys? "He has won a lot of races here. It's been a few years since he won one, but this is one of his best tracks, probably. I think he's won like 12 times here - or some ridiculous number. But he'll probably run good in that truck. I'm a little surprised he didn't qualify better. Track position is kind of hard. It's only a 250-lap race. It might be a little bit harder to pass than some of the old races here, so that could be a little bit different for him. But I'm sure he'll do good."

So what is your strategy here for staying up front all day? "Well, we hope we run good enough to stay up front all day long and just make the right calls on pit road, which I'm sure we will. It's a lot easier when you qualify up front and can stay up front. It's easier on your brakes, it's easier on everything. So if we could just accomplish that and stay up here, it's going to be a lot better for us."

What's your role during the race on conserving the brakes? "I'm not very good at conserving the brakes, I don't think, because I've run out of brakes here before - more than once. So you have to be aware of that all day long to try to make sure you have enough brakes. There have been a couple times here when we've been running second and lost the brakes. It seems those last 50 or 60 laps, you're about out of brake pads. So any time that you can conserve them earlier in the race, you've got to try to do that."

Is your crew chief going to nag you about the brakes? "He doesn't nag me about anything, so I don't know if he will or not. I'm sure he'll remind me occasionally because that's very important here. The past few races here I've been out of brakes at the end."

On instinctively riding the brake "Well what happens is it's so easy when you're trying to catch somebody to drive in the corner farther than they are to gain some ground on them. Years ago, it used to be that you'd boil the fluid so you'd have to start pumping the brakes so you'd know that you're using the brakes too hard. Well today with the recirculators and everything, the brakes don't have a heating problem. They just have a wearing out problem. And when you wear out the brake pad, it blows the seal out of the caliper and the piston comes out or something like that. So that's where the pad is. The problem is that there's not enough pad on your brake pads. That's what creates the problem. It's not because they won't stop or because they get too hot, it's just because you're using them too much and they wear too much."

So nowadays, you don't get as much of a warning as you did before? "No, you don't. The first time I cam here, I was out of brakes in 30 laps. I had to pump the brakes the rest of the day. But the brake pads were still there at the end. Today, the brakes are so much better and everything runs so much cooler."

Could you be as much of a victim of circumstance at Martinsville as you can at a track like Bristol? "Yeah. I have seen that in the past. It's easy to get in trouble here. It's such a tight track with tight corners. Anything can happen. Somebody could dump oil down, somebody could run into you and spin you around. It's hard to pass."

Coming off your 10th place finish at Texas and qualifying 4th at Martinsville, what does that do for the momentum of the team? "I have felt like we really should have had a couple of other top 10 finishes this year, but we missed out. We finally got one behind us. We're coming with new cars here down the road that we're going to be mixing in. I think we're getting our equipment where we need it. So everything is coming into place, I think. Jim (Long, crew chief) and I are learning each other better. And, I think we've got some great racetracks coming up - Richmond and Talladega - we've won a couple of times. We're a team that people can look at and we can surprise them. I don't know what they expect out of us, but I think we're better than people give us credit for."

Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo: "The car was good in practice. There are a lot of things that I'm fighting due to lack of experience here. The entry into the corner is really critical at all the racetracks and I don't know really where I need to be. If you arc it in to make the car turn in the center, you're leaving yourself in a vulnerable situation where guys can drive in there underneath you and turn you around or get position on you. And what you do in the entry affects the center of the corner and how it handles.

"So, we're trying to decide where my lines are going to be and what part of the corner to work on. Ultimately, the car is a little tight in the center but everybody is so darn close lap-time-wise, that we don't need much. And the biggest thing is that I need experience here and we need to survive this race to get some valuable points."

Can you win this race? "I think anybody can. When I walked into the gates here, I was thinking I'd be in provisional-land, and race-wise I'd be probably two laps down. So we've already exceeded the provisional side of it by qualifying 14th. Race-wise, I know if we survive, we'll be in good shape. Anything can happen. Track position is so important. I know I'm going to have a strong racecar. It's just up to me to get whatever experience I can and to be there at the end of the race."


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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Darrell Waltrip , Terry Labonte , Jimmie Johnson