Pontiac Racing Richmond preview

DETROIT (Sept. 5, 2000) - Richmond International Raceway is known for having a split personality. It allows a lot of speed similar to a speedway, but also offers the rugged aspects of a good, old-fashioned short track. For that reason, any team...

DETROIT (Sept. 5, 2000) - Richmond International Raceway is known for having a split personality. It allows a lot of speed similar to a speedway, but also offers the rugged aspects of a good, old-fashioned short track. For that reason, any team that is going to be successful at Richmond when the Winston Cup Series heads there this week will have to approach the .75 mile Virginia oval with a degree of caution and care.

Bobby Labonte and his Jimmy Makar-led team pursue a $1 million Winston No-Bull 5 Bonus this week as they look to rebound from last spring's 26th place finish at Richmond when they were an innocent victim in an incident that sealed their worst finish of 2000. John Andretti and Dave Blaney also have ground to gain at Richmond based on May's running of the Pontiac Excitement 400. Andretti ran all 400 laps on the way to an 18th place finish, while Blaney suffered a transmission problem and had to settle for a 34th place finish after dropping 61 laps in the garage area.

THOUGHTS FROM JIMMY MAKAR, CREW CHIEF, NO 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:

...on the team's thoughts going into Richmond: "Anytime you go to a short track you take a chance of something happening that is not of your own making. The chances there are a lot greater that something can happen. We're in a tighter confinement on the racetrack and running a lot closer than we normally run, so you always worry about those kinds of things. That's on the bad side.

"On the good side, we have run well there the last several times there. We feel like we are making progress and making gains. We are looking forward to getting back there and trying to make a few more gains to the point where we feel like we can maybe have a good shot at winning the race.

"We went and tested a week or two ago and had a real good test. We felt like we learned some things. Really, sitting here today, I'm looking forward to getting up there."

...do you control your own destiny more at Richmond than some of the other short tracks?: "A little bit. It's not a little, tiny half-mile, typical short track. It's a little bit bigger, we run a little bit faster and it's a pretty wide racetrack. It's not like a Bristol where you go in there knowing that things are happening so fast and the place is so small that you are out of control most of the time. It's a little bit better. It and Loudon (N.H.) both are racetracks that you don't feel like you're only in there worried about getting caught up in somebody else's problems."

...on the team's approach to the points race going down the stretch: "We're really not going into races looking at dodging bullets necessarily. We're going into the races thinking the same way that we have all along, to try to go in there, qualify well and have a competitive car that gives us a chance to win a race. That's the way we go into every racetrack we look at. This weekend is no different. We go into Richmond completely forgetting about the last race - the last 24 races, actually."

"What's happened in the past has got nothing to do with what's going to happen this weekend and this weekend is all that matters. We're trying to do that every weekend. If we can do our job and be competitive, then the points thing will take care of itself. It's too easy to get caught up in worrying about points and worrying about what happened last week or last month. We have got to stay focused on this week, what we've got ahead of us and what we've got to accomplish to go in there and be a competitive race car."

...on running for the Winston No Bull 5 Bonus for a series-leading eighth time: "It's certainly exciting to have an opportunity to win that kind of money. Winston does a great job of creating programs for us to create excitement for the fans and the racers as well. Just to have the opportunity to race for that $1 million is very, very exciting. Now that being said, whether it's a million dollars or a dollar, we'd be going into that race in our competitive nature trying to win the race at Richmond. It's a neat thing. We've been in it many, many, many times and more than anybody else and not won, so it won't be anything new to us. It's something we've been a part of many times before, so I think that takes a little of the luster off it for us as far as getting too hyped up on it. We've been down this road before. If we're fortunate enough to have an opportunity to win the thing, that's great, and if not, that's nothing new for us either."

THOUGHTS FROM JOHN ANDRETTI, NO. 43 CHEERIOS/STP PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:

...on short track racing: "I love short track racing. I don't like short track demolition. But I think Winston Cup is about going different places, racing different circuits and the guy that comes out on top has earned it. Some teams are better on flat tracks, some teams are better on banked tracks, some teams are better on restrictor plate tracks and I think you've got to have a variety, including the road courses, to say, "Yeah, here's a guy that can do it all and a team that can do it all." Short tracks are a big part of that."

...is Richmond the most "raceable" short track Winston Cup visits?: "I actually think Martinsville is a place where you can probably get away with more because if a guy rubs you, even if you spin, it's usually not the end of your day. At Richmond, if a guy rubs you it can be the end of your day. But then again, Richmond's definitely got two grooves. If you're not working in one, just move and you'll probably find something that does work."

...on the season Bobby Labonte is having: "I think Bobby has paid dues over the years in the sense that he has worked hard to get to where he is at and he is very deserving of all the success that he's had. He didn't just walk into a team that was, "Boom - right there." I remember when they switched from Hendrick motors to doing their motors in-house. Bobby struggled through that period of time as Joe Gibbs Racing kind of pushed on. Now they've got everything together from the engines to the cars to everything. Bobby has played the most significant role in that, as far as the continuity with him and Jimmy Makar. I don't think anybody looks at it and says, "These guys are not deserving." If they win it, they've been there year-in and year-out, and obviously have staked their claim this year that they would be very deserving champions.

"I just think it would be really cool if Bobby won the championship because I'm a big Bobby Labonte fan. It would be cooler if I won it, but I'm real happy for him. I like his attitude and I like the way he drives. I hope that he pulls it off in a big way."

THOUGHTS FROM DAVE BLANEY, NO. 93 AMOCO PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:

...what are his expectations at Richmond after racing there last spring?: "Well, we didn't really get to race in the spring because we had the transmission go out of it, so we didn't learn too much. But we were up there testing a week or so ago and things went pretty well, so you never know. We'll just go up there and pretty much approach it like we do every week - hoping to qualify first round and run top-20 in the race."

...what's the biggest challenge at Richmond: "It seems like the biggest thing that sticks out to me is that it is so easy to overdrive the car there. The car needs to do all the work there. It needs to roll through the center of the corner and get you aimed to get off the corner hard. If you try to hustle it through the middle of the corner a little bit it just complicates the problem. That's the biggest thing I've had to learn there is to just let the car do the work and try to fix it, and make it work."

...could the No Bull 5 Bonus change the racing at all among the eligible drivers during the race?: "Most likely, no. In my experience with the sprint cars you never really worried about it (the money) much until it came down to the end of the race where you saw you had a chance at it. But it could. There is some rubbing that goes on at Richmond that you can get away with for sure that you can't at some of the bigger tracks. "It could get real exciting when they get into the heat of battle there with all that money on the line. In that situation as a driver you just do all you can do and that's it. But there is no sense in going overboard if it's not going to get the job done."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers John Andretti , Bobby Labonte , Dave Blaney
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing