TERRY LABONTE , NO. 5 KELLOGGS CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO visited with the media following the morning test segment ON THE TEST AND THE IMPORTANCE OF THE DAYTONA 500 "It's a big event for us. It's the biggest race that we run. It's the one that ...
TERRY LABONTE , NO. 5 KELLOGGS CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO visited with the media following the morning test segment
ON THE TEST AND THE IMPORTANCE OF THE DAYTONA 500 "It's a big event for us. It's the biggest race that we run. It's the one that everybody wants to win. Everybody puts a lot of effort into it. It's always been that way. I can remember back years ago when people hardly did any testing. They still always tested at Daytona for the 500. It's always been a very difficult race to win over the years. It hasn't changed. There are a lot of guys that burn the same fuse I do - like Rusty Wallace and some others - that have won a lot of races and some championships but still haven't won the 500. It's a tough one to win."
ON ALL SERIES CHANGES - NEXTEL, POINT SYSTEM, ETC. "Well, things change. It's going to be a little bit different of course with NEXTEL. It's been Winston Cup for so many years. That's something that will take a little while for everybody to get used to. It's just the change. The tobacco industry has kind of taken a beating here recently. I think this is going to be good for the sport overall with NEXTEL as a sponsor. I'm sure they're going to do a good job.
ARE WE IN A NEW ERA OF RACING NOW? "We've got a new series sponsor so I'm sure things are probably going to be a little bit different. But I bet there's not going to be a huge change as far as things going on. We'll have to wait and see."
ON THE IMPACT OF THE SOFTER TIRES AND SMALLER SPOLIERS "The smaller spoiler is going to make the cars looser than they have been. The softer tires aren't going to make them any tighter because you have four softer tires. The biggest thing that I think the softer tires are going to accomplish is hopefully they're going to take out some of this gas mileage stuff and track position that we see a lot. It's really frustrating when you get to a certain point in the race where you have enough fuel to make it to the end, then you don't get tires anymore.
"But that's how the racing has become because the tires last so long. They're great tires. They're excellent tires. They're too good. The speeds don't fall off and they don't wear out. They just run the same speed. The softer tires are going to be faster to start with, I would think, and then have a tendency to wear more. So your chassis is probably going to come into play a little more than it has maybe here in the past. Hopefully it's going to take out some of the track position, pit strategy, and gas mileage thing.
WILL IT MAKE THE CALLS EASIER ON PIT ROAD? "Yeah, because I like coming in and getting four tires every time. I don't like staying out on old tires. It's going to make it easier on the pit road for the calls. What happens if you stay out, well that's fine if there are five or six guys behind you that stay out on old tires.
"But if you're running in a position where everybody behind you lines up on new tires, then you're in a bad spot because those guys are going to pass you. But hopefully I would think it's going to take out some of the decisions on pit road as far as deciding what to do and what not to do. It should make that a little easier."
ON HIS SON, JUSTIN, RETURNING TO THE BUSCH SERIES "I think he's ready for it. Hopefully we're going to have a much better Busch team than we did when he tried it before. Also, he probably couldn't have tried it at a worse time because we had 60 cars trying to make a race. The competition was awful tough. Our biggest problem was that our team wasn't very good. And so he has worked hard to make sure we've got a good team now."
WILL THE SOFTER TIRES SEPARATE THE FIELD? "No, I don't think you'll see a big difference in that. I might be totally wrong, but normally your softer tires will have a tendency to wear more. And naturally your chassis comes into play more. Darlington and Rockingham are good examples of that. The field gets separated at those particular race tracks because your cars handle good on a long run. At some of the tracks we race on, the tires don't ever fall off and so the shocks don't have to be quite as close and your set ups don't have to be quite as close to perfect. So you don't see a big difference in the cars because the tires overcome that. That (answer) even confused me (laughs).
"At Rockingham and Darlington you see where a guy has worn the tire out and it's not working anymore - whether it's a left front or a right rear or whatever - so he has to pit a little bit earlier. And you'll also see guys who are running good for 15 laps and then they start falling off. You'll see guys that run good for 25 laps and start falling off. I think it's going to be good if they really do that."