TERRY LABONTE, DLP HDTV TEAM, SONOMA NOTES AND QUOTES CORNELIUS, N.C., Monday, June 19, 2006 -- When Hall of Fame Racing officials announced they would field the No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevy in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series in 2006, they also...
TERRY LABONTE, DLP HDTV TEAM, SONOMA NOTES AND QUOTES
CORNELIUS, N.C., Monday, June 19, 2006 -- When Hall of Fame Racing officials announced they would field the No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevy in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series in 2006, they also announced a unique arrangement. Two-time series champion Terry Labonte would drive the first five races and the two road course events, while Tony Raines would drive the remaining 29 races.
So far, Labonte has driven the first five races, while Raines has started the last 10. This week, Labonte returns to the cockpit for the first of two road course races on the Nextel Cup schedule.
Labonte brings plenty of road course success to the DLP HDTV team. Of his 22 career wins, two have come at a road course -- the defunct Riverside (Calif.) Speedway in 1984 and 1985. And in his 56 career starts at road courses, Labonte has earned eight poles, 17 top-fives and 26 top-10s while leading a total of 411 laps.
TERRY LABONTE (No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevy):
Is it strange doing the first five races of the season, then driving a few races for Hendrick and now coming back and driving a race for Hall of Fame Racing?
"No, not really. It's really not that strange. When I talked with Bill Saunders (Managing Partner, Hall of Fame Racing) and the DLP guys, we talked about doing the two road courses in addition to the first five events. So, we all knew that going in. It's not really awkward or anything. The two road courses are completely different from the ovals we run, obviously. It's a whole different animal."
You've had some success at Sonoma. What is the track like?
"Well, the track changes a lot. It was the same for a few years and then every time we went out there it seemed like they cut part of it out or added part of it and changed it. One thing about it, if you don't like the track, just wait a couple of years, they'll probably change it. It's OK. I enjoy running the road courses."
You tested with the DLP HDTV team a couple of weeks ago at Virginia International Raceway (VIR). Have you noticed a difference in the team?
"It didn't take me long to notice that they've come together better. I ran the first five races, and then going back up there for the test, it was pretty obvious that they've gotten better as a group. I noticed that right off. It's probably hard to see if you're there every week, but not being there and then coming back, you can tell they've made some progress. We had a good test up there at VIR. We had a good car and everything went well."
Have you been able to follow Tony's progress this season?
"They've run well at times. They had a great run at Pocono and then the next week, they had to be disappointed at Michigan. That's one of the hardest things to get is your consistency. They have proven at times that they are capable of running well. They just need to make it happen every week. And, that's a hard thing to do the first time on some of these race tracks. The second time around, I think you'll see a lot more consistency, because they've shown they can run well."
This weekend, both Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman will be at the race. Even being a veteran, any nerves?
"Not really. We're going to go out there -- we've got a good car, the guys have done a good job on it. I think we'll have a good run."
You are known as a guy who is easy on equipment and doesn't tear up race cars. How important has it been for you and Tony not to crash race cars in the first half of the season?
"Very important. I knew when we started the year we had to be careful, because we didn't have that many cars. They were really late getting the program going and getting everything put together. It's hard for people to understand that you can't just put this thing together overnight. It takes a long time. When they started out, they had just a handful or cars there and it's so important not to tear those things up. That would have really put them in a bind. For a start-up team, I'm sure they're not where they want to be. There is no doubt in my mind they're not where they want to be. But if you really look at it, they've done really well for a start up-team. That's really hard to do."