BOBBY LABONTE, NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: "About halfway through the race we got some track position out of it. The guys got us out of the pits real good. We made some adjustments on the car. With that and the track position...
BOBBY LABONTE, NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
"About halfway through the race we got some track position out of it. The guys got us out of the pits real good. We made some adjustments on the car. With that and the track position - I think we were top five about halfway through the race and that helped out. Obviously, when you've got that track position you can keep your nose clean, stay up front and not have to race too many people, so that helped out."
WHO MADE THE DECISION TO NOT TAKE TIRES AND KEEP TRACK POSITION?
"That was definitely a mutual call. We got two tires, then we got two tires again and then we got no tires. I saw the '20' car going in and I thought maybe he would fake us out, but he didn't. He went in and I thought, 'Usually there are a lot of cautions with that many laps to go and I'm better off just trying to stay out here.' When we put two tires on it before, I was actually slower for the first 15 laps, so I thought I'd give that a try."
JIMMY MAKAR, CREW CHIEF, NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
ANY CONTROVERSY ON THAT DECISION?
"None whatsoever. Usually your driver wants four tires every time a caution comes out, so when he even mentioned the words 'staying out' it was like a breath of fresh air to me. I was all over that one really quick. Track position is everything the last 15 laps."
LABONTE: "That was the best call we've made in about three years on stuff like that, isn't it?"
WERE YOU AWARE THAT TONY STEWART WAS PROBABLY THE FASTEST CAR OUT THERE?
Makar "I knew Tony had gotten up to fifth the caution before that when Buckshot [Jones] was over there in the corner. I figured more cautions were going to hurt us in some respects because at one time there we had pulled out when the '32' and the '41' were behind us and we were pulling away from the '17' and the rest of them. But, caution flags kept coming out. But (at the end), when the '17' got beside the '88' for a couple laps, I thought, 'Man, this is what I need right there to get my tires worked in a little bit and go.' But, we knew that there were going to be a lot of cautions. There usually are, but fortunately we just weren't one of them and we made it work for us."
HOW MUCH OF A MONKEY OFF OF YOUR BACK IS THIS, WITH REGARD TO YOUR PAST SHORT TRACK PERFORMANCES?
Labonte "Thanks for reminding me. I've won a clock here before. It was just in a Busch car. It was the same press box - it just didn't look as nice.
Labonte "We've got our flat track program working pretty good. Richmond, we led a lot of laps up there two years ago. This year, not that we've worked any harder at it, we've just happened to hit on better combinations. Having Tony and Greg on the other side, they usually run pretty good on short tracks and we've been feeding off of that, too. That does help out. We do our own thing, also, but we also listen to what they do and feed off things that we can get because not everything works for me because I drive differently than him. But, it does help out."
WERE YOU SURPRISED THAT TONY DID PIT THAT LAST TIME?
Labonte "Yeah. I figured his car was good all day. I didn't see the first 250 laps - I didn't know where he was, but I assume he led a lot of the race or ran up front anyway. I figured he'd be good after 50 laps, too. I didn't think his car was fading like the '2' car. He pitted and got tires, but his car was good for about 10 laps and then it started fading. I didn't think Tony was that way because he got by me one time. But, I was kind of surprised."
DO YOU THINK IT WOULD HAVE COME DOWN TO YOU AND TONY AT THE END?
Labonte "I think if Tony would have stayed out there, I assume his car would have been good on older tires on restarts. Could I have caught him? It's hard to say. I passed him once, he passed me back. Who knows? But, his car was good on long runs from what I saw early in the day, so it could have been.
"Hopefully it would have been a one-two finish. If he had had the track position, it might have been hard to get by him. Maybe we could have stayed with him - he might have been faster. I don't know.
"If the '17' hadn't gotten beside the '88' I'm not sure what would have happened, but it didn't really matter because he did."
IS IT TRUE THAT YOU REALLY DON'T ENJOY SHORT TRACK RACING THAT MUCH?
Labonte "I never said that, I don't think. It just doesn't work for me as good as maybe some other guys. I still like it, though. Like I told you, I won a race here one time. It was about 11 years ago, but it had a lot of similarities to today. But, I won Hickory, too, which is a short track, so it's not like I don't like it. I just don't run as good at them as some other guys. At Bristol this year we finished fifth. That was the best finish up there for me. We always run good. We're just not contenders for winning a lot of times. We're usually fifth to 10th, though. But, nobody looks at that as hard either. But, I don't mind it. I enjoy and I'll enjoy it more now."
ON YOUR BROTHER TERRY'S PERFORMANCE TODAY
Labonte "At one time, Terry took the lead from Ricky Craven or the '8' car, and I was back there in eighth place cheering him on on the radio - 'Go, Texas Terry!' It's cool to see him do that because it's been a long time since he's had a car that handled good, which gives you confidence to run fast. I was so proud of my guys today, but if I was proud of anybody else, it would be him and his guys. That's really neat because this is definitely a confidence deal and I feel pretty sure that the confidence he is going to have after running really good today, he is going to be excited about going to the next races. The things that they have done to turn their deal around the past few weeks, you can just see it and I can see it in him. Confidence is a big thing. When he ran good like that today, it makes me feel so good for him because I see him all the time."
WHAT DID YOU TELL BOBBY ABOUT TERRY'S BID FOR THE LEAD?
Makar "I didn't have to tell him anything. We were about three-quarters of a straightaway behind and Bobby was looking up front. He saw Terry pass for the lead. He doesn't miss a lot on the racetrack. We've got a lot of stories of Bobby seeing things that happen even behind him and he tells us about them. His eyes are pretty good out there. But, I could tell he was really excited to see Terry racing up front and taking the lead right there. Like he said, it's been a long time since Terry has been that competitive and it was neat to see him back up front again."
ON THE DECISION TO GO WITH TWO TIRES ON A COUPLE OF STOPS NEAR THE END OF THE RACE?
Makar "Obviously, two tires is a track position thing. We didn't have a lot of laps on our lefts. Like Bobby said earlier, it took our tires quite a bit of time to come in - at least 10 or 15 laps before they finally came in.
"We've seen that time and time again at Martinsville. Two tires works really well and sometimes none, so we decided to come get two that one time. I really thought everybody else was and I thought we might have made one of those mistakes when everybody got four and we got two. But, we went with that and it worked. We probably could have gotten four later on, but we already made our beds there and we needed to stick with it. Left sides really stayed good. The car ran just as good on those two as a lot of guys did on four."
WAS THAT PRE-PLANNED EARLIER TODAY?
Makar "We had talked about it earlier, before the race ever started, to remember not getting tires at times and even getting two tires for track position when the time called for it, so we were ready for it."
WHY HAVEN'T EITHER YOU OR TERRY EVER WON HERE BEFORE TODAY?
Labonte "We just didn't, I guess. I don't know. I'm not a wizard, but I can pretty much tell you it's because we weren't fast enough. It's just one of those deals. It's a good track, but it's not the best track. I could say, 'Why have we won Atlanta five times?' I don't know that either. It just happened that way."
ON BOBBY IMPROVING ON THE SHORT TRACKS
Makar "Really, all joking aside - Bobby is a great short track driver. It's just that sometimes he is a little bit too nice of a short track driver for some of the guys out here. A lot of times you've got to push the issue, but Bobby is not that type of race car driver and everybody knows it. The guys down there know it that he races around. Sometimes, it costs you a little bit when you're racing, but a lot of times it pays off. I think you'll see more people give him a break when time comes for him to get by. They won't race him real hard and will give him a clean shot at getting around them. That's not a bad thing. But, when you get on these short tracks, it takes a lot of effort to get around these cars. You don't really need to give a lot because you're going to have to take a lot."
ARE YOU SAYING HE IS NOT MEAN ENOUGH?
Makar "No, he can be mean - trust me. I've seen the mean side of him. You just don't want to get him very mean. It takes a lot to get him that way."
HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT YOU NEEDED TO CHANGE YOUR NATURE AND GET A LITTLE ROUGHER SOMETIMES?
Labonte "Nope. If you change your nature, you're changing a lot, I guess. The cards just fell our way today to get the right breaks to be in the right place at the right time. Other times, we've not had that happen.
"If you can change the nature about you, then you're better than I am because you are who you are and you do what you do. If you change, that would be like cheating.
"I'll be honest with you, I'm glad I'm as aggressive as I am - not any more, not any less."
ANY THOUGHTS ON KEVIN HARVICK GETTING "PARKED"
Labonte "It's funny because I read the paper this morning. I read it and I missed that part because it was in a kind of a different section. I hate that I didn't know last night. Somebody should have called me.
"Did I mention that Martinsville is my favorite track?
"Obviously, NASCAR did something I guess and I was kind of shocked that they did it. I didn't see the truck race, to be honest with you. I didn't watch it. Obviously, they saw it and Mr. France saw it, too, from what I heard. They did what they did for a good reason, I guess."
IS THIS FURTHER PROOF THAT THE NEW PONTIAC WILL BE ADVANTAGEOUS FOR YOUR PROGRAM NEXT YEAR?
Labonte "Yeah, I figure we'd lap the field if we had that, right? No, really this track here, it's just hard to pass because the tires are so consistent. It's not aero dependent here like it is at a lot of places, like Texas for instance, last weekend. Obviously, that was an aero track. You could lose three tenths of a second if you got behind somebody. Here today, you lose it, but it's not because of aero. It's because everybody is so close. Everybody gets on the gas at the same place and it's just hard to pass. You can do it. Sometimes it takes about 25 laps.
"The tires - we ran just as fast at the end on 170-lap lefts as we did with 20 laps on the lefts. That's what is so amazing, that the tires do that. Am I a fan of that? I wish the tires would fall off three seconds. That way you've got to get tires. That way it's no questions asked. I've said before that when the tires are as good as they are, which is a credit to Goodyear - it's a good tire - but, when the guys with older tires can win races, it's a tough deal. Does Tony pit? Yeah, he pits because he thinks he needs to. But, if he had stayed out, he probably would have won. Guys getting four tires can't pass a guy with two tires or no tires. That's kind of weird. It doesn't seem right, but it's just luck; it's just track position. It goes back to track position. That's not the fun part about it, as far as I'm concerned. I wish they would fall off about three seconds. No, we might be running about 14.30 seconds the first lap, but if they fell off that would be more fun for me because that way you've got to manage your tires. Now, you just step on it and go and they'll last 170 laps, I guess."