Labonte making most of short-track success in 2002. DETROIT, Mich., Sept. 5, 2002 - Over the course of his career, Pontiac Grand Prix driver Bobby Labonte has been considered the master of tracks like Atlanta, Charlotte and Michigan. But short...
Labonte making most of short-track success in 2002.
DETROIT, Mich., Sept. 5, 2002 - Over the course of his career, Pontiac Grand Prix driver Bobby Labonte has been considered the master of tracks like Atlanta, Charlotte and Michigan. But short tracks have never been his calling card - until 2002.
In what has been a challenging year for the 2000 Winston Cup champion, Labonte has taken what he used to consider a weakness and turned it into a strength. For the season, he and his teammates have tallied four top-10 finishes. But, in four short track events this year they have mustered a win, two top-five and three top 10s. With Richmond on the horizon Saturday night, Labonte is hoping for another productive short-track weekend
Thoughts From Bobby Labonte, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Pontiac Grand Prix:
HOW DO YOU FEEL HEADING INTO THIS WEEKEND' SHORT-TRACK RACE AT RICHMOND?
"I feel pretty good about going back up there because we've run good there in the past, we ran good up there last time and the time before that. It's one of our better tracks right now.
"In May we were doing pretty good before we got in a wreck. That really messed up our day. But, we still worked on the car after that -- trying some things because we were so many laps down anyway - and even learned some stuff then. Knowing what we knew before the wreck, knowing what we learned after - it makes me feel pretty good about this weekend.
"Plus, the '20' car (teammate Tony Stewart) tested up there after that race for Goodyear and for NASCAR, so I kind of feel good about that."
HOW MUCH DO YOU GET OUT OF IT WHEN TONY TESTS SOMEWHERE THAT YOU DON'T?
"We take all we can - all we want to. If we want to take 50 percent of what they learned at the test, we take 50 percent. If we want to take 100 [percent], we'd probably take 100. It just depends on what they do and if we want to do it or not. We figure that if they tested good, then we should take it all.
"We could apply everything they do, but sometimes we don't because we're reluctant to change on some of that stuff. But, they are another tool that we have. We can have all their notes, and if we go back to a track and find out that the track is a little different than it was and feel we need to adjust a little bit, we can do that. We may not do it exactly the same way they did, but we'll do it the way we think we should go."
THE SURFACE AT RICHMOND WAS VERY SLICK IN MAY BECAUSE OF THE SEALER...HOW FRUSTRATING IS THAT WHEN THE SURFACE IS NOT AS GOOD AS YOU EXPECT IT TO BE?
"It's very frustrating as a driver because you're already on the edge, whether the track is coming apart or not. You're running as hard as you can to where you're on the edge of wrecking every lap without losing control and looking like you're fixing to wreck. But, you're on the edge of the grip of your tires. Then, when something happens to the race track like that, you're not certain that you're on the edge. You lose that confidence and there is a part of you that says, 'I can't drive this track because the sealer is coming up,' or whatever the case. But, it definitely makes it frustrating because there are too many elements that you don't know and you can't control. You can still bust your butt when you're in control of it, but now you've gone over the edge. When it's not of your doing, then it is a lot harder to swallow."
YOUR TEAM'S SHORT TRACK PROGRAM HAS BEEN STRONG THIS YEAR...DOES THAT SURPRISE YOU?
"Yes and no. It does if you look at the way we've been over the years at the bigger tracks, but it doesn't when you look at the way things have gone for us this year. Good or bad, short tracks have been pretty good to us this year. It's good, but it's bad when you look at the other tracks because we haven't run that good there."
OVERALL, YOUR TEAM LOOKS LIKE IT IS IMPROVING EVERYWHERE...
"We've made a turn and we've got the program going in all areas now. We've got to keep working on it and make sure that it turns out really good. It's something that we've been working on. We just haven't hit upon the right thing. Here lately, we've kind of hit upon the right combination and that is a good thing."
WITH THE FIRST ANNIVERSARY OF THE SEPTEMBER 11TH ATTACKS APPROACHING NEXT WEEK, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?
"The date of September 11th now stands out like December 7, 1941 - the attack on Pearl Harbor. That's been 60 or so years ago and people still remember that day and this will be no different.
"You think about what has happened and how it's really affected all of us. In some ways, it seems like we're back to business as usual a year later, which I know is the way that everybody wants it to be. But, the feelings you felt still need to be there in your heart and in your mind and in your representation of it.
"September 11th is a day that will stand in your mind forever - at least in my lifetime it will. It will be depressing and, at times, it will be hard - obviously, not as hard as it was last year - but, it will still be hard.
"I'm sure you'll hear stories that you might have heard once before, but you didn't really think about them at the time. You'll hear them again and that will bring back memories of what really happened."