Sears Point: Terry Labonte post-race interview

TERRY LABONTE , NO. 96 DLP HDTV MONTE CARLO SS and ROGER STAUBACH, OWNER, HALL OF FAME RACING - Finished 3rd: Also includes comments from Phillipe Lopez Certainly a great run out there today, and Roger and Troy (Aikman) are looking really...


Also includes comments from Phillipe Lopez

Certainly a great run out there today, and Roger and Troy (Aikman) are looking really smart for their race strategy and for putting you in the car. Talk about that great run today.

TERRY LABONTE: Well, it was an awful good run. These guys did a great job. We had a really good car in practice yesterday, and we got here and we weren't as good as we needed to be and really (crew chief) Phillipe (Lopez) and everybody worked their part on the car and had a really good setup yesterday morning and I went out and ran practice. I think they knew when I ran ten laps in a row that that was pretty good because I usually don't run that long in practice. So we had a really good practice yesterday.

The hardest part was we were starting back so far and then the strategy. We got really good gas mileage, and then during the race today, the car was a little bit too loose under throttle, so I really couldn't use the throttle like I needed to, and I think that helped the gas mileage. We were able to stretch the mileage a little bit more. We knew exactly when we needed to pit. We used a couple of caution laps and we kind of gambled and it paid off.

We should have been second, but I didn't get my tires good and clean after that red flag. I was trying to save gas and I didn't want to try to scuff the tires up too much there, and I was hoping I had them cleaned off enough, and we took off there and they weren't good enough. It took me a couple laps to get going and the No.12 (Ryan Newman) car got me. It was still a good run for us.

Q. Roger, your thoughts?

ROGER STAUBACH: We were up there with our sponsor DLP, and I've never experienced such excitement. We've got such a class human being that's running up front. It was such an amazing race. Phillipe is not here, but between Phillipe and what Terry did and the team, earlier we talked about this today, and we wouldn't have dreamed we could do this this quickly, but we have just a great driver and a great person. He had the right equipment today, and Phillipe was our coach. He did a great job.

I don't know why I'm here. I don't deserve to be here, but I'll tell you, I'm involved with this team and we've committed to it, and it's been a lot of fun today. I'm really proud of you, Terry. Thanks a lot.

TERRY LABONTE: Thanks a lot, Roger. I've never told anybody this except for a few friends. When I was a kid growing up Roger Staubach was always my hero. I finally got to meet him with this deal, and we did a couple of appearances together, and he is everything I imagined, and that's really neat because a lot of times people that you look up to aren't really what you think they are. This guy is a class act right here, and it's just been a real thrill for me to be a part of your team, and I really do appreciate that.

Q. Terry, the last time you ran this well was when you won at Darlington the last race in 2003. You're not a very emotional guy, but with this being your last year, was there some emotion in the racecar today, and can you talk about what your feelings were as the laps ran down?

TERRY LABONTE: No, we'll have some more good runs before the year is over. Not really. I was running there with Jeff there for a long time, and we were running about the same speed there. He ran me down and passed me and then I hung with him there, but then he just slowed down trying to save gas a little bit, also. We were pretty close there and then he was able to stretch it out there at the end pretty good.

It was just a good run for us. Hey, this is my last year going into the deal, and I'm fine with that. I've been doing this for a long time and it's been a lot of fun and I've been able to win some races and some championships, so there just comes a time when it's time to retire, and I'm going to be 50 years old in November, so I think it's probably about time to retire from this deal. When you go to the drivers' meeting and there's people sitting around that are younger than your kids, it kind of tells you something. I was just glad we had a good run today.

Q. Terry, as you were trying to save fuel and trying to keep up with the cautions and how that was impacting everything, did you ever think you might have a shot at (race winner) Jeff Gordon?

TERRY LABONTE: I knew he was close on fuel, too, so it was going to be my only shot was if he had a ?? if his car missed a little bit on fuel or something or if he got off course or something, and I've only seen Jeff Gordon get off course by himself one time, and that was during qualifying this week, so that doesn't happen very often. It was going to take a slip from his part probably for us to get him.

Q. Roger, this morning you were saying that you were going to be really celebrating if you guys were 24th or so (laughter), and here you are up on the podium. What sort of celebration plans do you guys have and what do you do next?

ROGER STAUBACH: We're going to celebrate. We have a lot of our team with TI and DLP, and Troy had to leave early. He really got engaged out here with Rhonda, his wife, so they went off, and we've been emailing each other back and forth when we were leading there at the end. So I said, hey, Troy, I'm going to pull us through here, which is kind of crazy because Terry pulled us through and Phillipe, but it's been neat.

The whole DLP team and TI, we are going to celebrate. It's really fun. This is a tough sport, it's a great sport, and it's fun to be part of a legend like Terry and to have a good day out here in Sonoma, and it's amazing that we really have hit a dream this year. We got over our heads in a way, but we also put together a great team, and to finish and be competitive, it's been fun this year. We were 16th, 17th, and Terry got us started those first five races, he gave us the qualification. But to come in third today, I feel like we've won the Super Bowl. Well, almost won the Super Bowl (laughter).

Q. For both of you, the last red flag, what was running through your mind in the car? And Roger, in the suite what was running through your mind?

ROGER STAUBACH: What was running through my mind, we're in the box up there. People are going crazy. We were No. 1 and then Terry was fighting the gas deal, and I'm thinking, oh, my Lord, it's like the Dallas Mavericks, I felt like we were Mark Cuban on the Letterman Show. We were 2?0 and we thought we were going to win.

We just wanted to make sure that Terry finished and it worked out, and obviously it was a tight deal at the end. You get a little greedy, when I walked by out there and saw all those people celebrating, but we just had a magnificent run today. We're not greedy, but it's fun to be a champion, and to be in the top three has just been something very special to us. And again, I can't say enough about Terry's commitment to our team and what the day has meant for the future and the momentum that we have as Hall of Fame Racing.

TERRY LABONTE: I didn't like sitting there. I was hoping we were going to run another lap or two another caution because I knew that would help us on the fuel deal. I hated to see them red flag it. I was thinking, oh, my Lord, I'm going to run out of gas.

Q. Terry, we heard that you had run 56 of the 100 road courses; is that correct?

TERRY LABONTE: Well, I don't know. You know, I don't know. I've run since ... every road course race, I guess, since 1979, going back to Riverside. We won a couple at Riverside, and it's been 20 years ago, I guess, or so. Yeah, there's been a lot of them.

Just a couple notes on that, won at Riverside in 1984 and 85, and your best finishes here were a second and two thirds at Infineon.

Q. Given that this was the 100th road race in NEXTEL Cup history and you've been participating in over half of them, how significant was it for you to be in such close contention for the win so late in the thing today for you, being such a veteran of these races?

TERRY LABONTE: Well, of course it felt good. We had a good car yesterday at practice, like I said a while ago, and then we had great pit strategy today and were able to get up there and lead the race some and wind up with a good finish. I didn't realize it was the 100th road course. I've always enjoyed running the road courses, and over the years we've done pretty well on them. I always look forward to coming here and going to Watkins Glen.

PHILIPPE LOPEZ (Crew chief, No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevy)

Q. How close were you at the end?

Well, by the time we got to the end, we weren't. When we made the call on Lap 60, we were a half a lap short. We knew that, and we pretty much asked Terry right from the beginning to save gas. We had an 18 second lead on Gordon, but it was more important to save gas than it was to try and hold off Gordon. He was just flying. As we got the cautions, I felt better. But I didn't feel completely better until I saw him come around (Turn) 11 on the last lap.

Q. Were you nervous after making the call on Lap 60?

No, because the originally the call was to just get the tires then and that would enable us to come down pit road under green and while everyone had to take four (tires), we were just going to splash and go. That was going to save us 12 seconds on the racetrack. So, coming in on Lap 60, that was a no-brainer, I'm surprised more people didn't do it. But, then it turned into another decision five laps later and that was not to come in and see what we could come up with.

Q. How nervous were you that last 15 laps?

There is always the fear of the unknown. We're dealing with computers and they're telling me gas mileage and all this is based on something you don't know. And that's what the driver is doing with the gas pedal. You don't know how hard he is pushing it, you don't know how much he's saving, you don't know any of that. So, I felt good about what we were doing, but I still didn't know until I saw him come around Turn 11."

Q. Talk about Terry's drive today:

He did an awesome job and that's why he's a two-time champion and won two road course races. He knew we were stuck at 25th and that's why I think he wholeheartedly agreed with what we were going to do. It got us track position and he showed he could run right there."

Q. What does this mean for the team?

Well, the big thing is, every week we've been getting better. Michigan is a classic example. We thought we were top 10, but blew a left rear and finished 38th. We knew we could run top 10, but I'm not being delusional, we can't do that every week. We're not there yet. But, we knew we could do it on a given occasion. Now we've done it. It's one thing to think you can do it, it's another thing to do it."

-gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Terry Labonte , Ryan Newman
Teams Hall of Fame Racing