Tuesday, July 13, 1999. Highlights of Winston Teleconference with Team Monte Carlo driver Terry Labonte. TERRY LABONTE (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "We're probably not quite as good as I thought we were going to be,...
Tuesday, July 13, 1999. Highlights of Winston Teleconference with Team Monte Carlo driver Terry Labonte.
TERRY LABONTE (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "We're probably not quite as good as I thought we were going to be, but you still never know. I think the biggest problem we've had is we haven't been quite as consistent as we need to be. It's hard to be up in the points race when you don't have that consistency. You can win the points race and win just two races, but you've got to have a lot of top fives. I think in '96 when we won the championship we had several second-place finishes and came close several times, but consistency -- top fives and top 10s -- means you're going to be there every week and run well every weekend. "Unfortunately, sometimes rumors do get started like that. There's really no fact to 'em. I've got one more year on my contract with Hendrick Motorsports and one more year with Kellogg's. Right now, we're actually negotiating to extend our contract. All that is kind of a little bit of a distraction. I really try to ignore it, but you can't help it because people ask you about it all the time. There's absolutely no truth to it. I've never spoke to Robert Yates. He has an excellent race team, there's no question about that. I feel like we have a great team here and if we get this thing back on track we've got an excellent chance for another championship. We're going to have a special car at Michigan and I believe at Charlotte in October. It's going to be a Kellogg's Rice Krispies Treats car. "I think we've got some really great race fans every place we go. I can't really tell much difference. I think it's much better for the sport to be a national sport. I think the more races we can run in different parts of the country will continue to help the growth of our sport and continue to help our sponsors. I like running in the South, and I like running everywhere else, too. "I didn't see what happened (after Sunday's race between Dale Jarrett and Jeff Gordon), and I didn't see the interviews on TV. I heard about it, but I didn't see any of it. In my years of experience, it's the guys who don't say anything that you've got to worry about. The guy that says something, you don't have to worry about him. I'm sure he (Jarrett) obviously must have been upset. I'm sure they were both just racing hard, and like I said, I didn't see it. I don't really know much about it. "I think in the near future our teams are... We're really kind of working toward working more together like we used to. I think it's a good opportunity to do this while we're building these new cars for next season and try to get the cars a little bit closer together for all three teams. We kind of went in separate directions a few years ago, and I think it's going to benefit all of Hendrick Motorsports if we can get it going back in the same direction and the teams working closer together. We've made big steps going in that direction recently, and we're going to continue to do that. I think it's an excellent time because of the new cars we're building. "The short tracks are tough and over the years we've usually had some pretty good short track runs. Years ago I probably ran more short tracks than Bobby did before I got started, but I think I've always been with teams that had pretty good short track programs. I know when I drove for Junior Johnson several years ago, we would put more effort into going to North Wilkesboro than we would to Daytona just because that was in Junior's backyard. We really worked our short track program a lot. I really like the short tracks and enjoy running 'em. Bobby has really run good at Richmond the past couple of times there, and he ran good at Bristol. He got caught up in a wreck
there. Their short track program has stepped up a lot this year. A lot of times it's harder to get your cars handling on the short tracks versus some of the big tracks. The aerodynamics aren't quite as important, the horsepower isn't quite as important. Basically it comes down to chassis, springs and shocks and things like that. Short tracks are tough to get a handle on sometimes. "We went to Daytona and unloaded and weren't very good and by the end of the week we had a car that was a very good car. I think with the help that we've received from Hendrick Motorsports, it's been a big help to us. "I'm going to Myrtle Beach to the Busch race Saturday. My son is going to drive the Busch car down there Saturday night. "I tell him (brother Bobby Labonte) he needs to be careful. No, I haven't really told him anything. He knows what he needs to do. Consistency is the key. He can't make mistakes. It's hard to gain points. It's easy to lose them. He worked on the team when I won my first championship in '84. He's been around the sport a long time. He's won the Busch championship. He came close another time with that. I think they've got an excellent chance to still win that thing. They've got a lot of races to go. They're very consistent this year. They've got a great team there. It'll all come down to mistakes. A lot of times it does. You get down to late in the year when the points are close, it's going to be the guy who makes the least amount of mistakes or has the least amount of problems and doesn't get caught up in a wreck or something like that. "He (Rick Hendrick) is doing good. He still isn't able to come to very many races. His leukemia is in remission, but he still has to take this medicine that has some very harsh side effects, and it's very tough on him. He doesn't have a lot of energy for a long period of time, and he isn't able to travel to many of the events. He can make some of the ones that are close by. "He (son Justin Labonte) is going to run Myrtle Beach and IRP and maybe Richmond. I'm going to get back in the car for St. Louis and probably the rest of the companion races. I really don't think my team is as good as it needs to be yet. We've got a way to go with our team yet. I think the best way for me to try to get that team better is to continue working with it. I'm going to run all the big tracks and let Justin run the short tracks. "He wants to run more, but I don't want to put him out there if he's not quite ready. I don't want to put him out there in my car if my team is not ready. I know how important your equipment is, and I know sometimes you've got to get the experience. You can't get it sitting in the truck or sitting on top of the tool box or something like that. He's young and we've got an opportunity I can let him run the car. We actually might let him run a couple of ARCA races next year to get a little more experience. When we feel like he's ready, we're going to turn him loose with it. I've got to wait for the timing to be right with my team and get my team better and get him some more experience the next couple of years. "You have to have the whole package, and actually the cars are built kind of different by the three (Hendrick Motorsports) teams. That happened over the years here with the three teams going off in their separate directions a little bit. It's hard to go down and get the springs and shock setups and put it in the car and have it work. That's what we're trying to do, especially for next year, to get these cars closer together so you can walk over and get the setups from one of the other teams and it's going to work in your car. That's our goal. It bugs me because I've always been pretty consistent over the years. For us to be off sometimes, it's disappointing. So yeah, it kind of makes you want to work harder and try to figure out what you need to do. The competition is awful tough today. You can be off a little bit and it shows up a lot more than it used to. "We're going to try to win another race or two if we can. We want to finish in the top 10 in the points. We don't want to finish 10th. We'd like to be a little bit higher than that, but that's our goals. We'd like to get some consistency the second half of the year. We feel good about going back to a lot of these places because we feel like we learned a lot the first time. "I've been impressed (with Tony Stewart), probably like a lot of other people have. I never really dreamed he'd be able to come in here and run the way he has and as consistent as he has week after week. He's up there in the points race. I've been pretty impressed. That team's for real. They should have won a couple of races, and they're probably going to win a couple before the year's over. It wouldn't surprise me. It would surprise me if they didn't. "I don't like to compare people, anybody to anybody else. It's like everybody is their own person, but the guy has obviously got a tremendous amount of talent to be able to accomplish all the things he's done in Indy cars and things like that. To be able to step over here in stock cars and run the way he's run has been pretty impressive. He's definitely for real. Those guys have got an awesome team there. They're going to be a force to deal with
as far as the championship goes here in the next year or two. "In qualifying, obviously we don't concentrate too good on that, but it's always been that way. There's always been a few reporters around. I think most of the people do an excellent job in maybe getting you after practice or after qualifying. Nobody ever really bothers you when you're really working. "I kind of have to laugh at Kyle a lot. I'll say one thing about him. He'll tell you what he's thinking whether it's right or wrong or whether you agree with him or not. I don't remember exactly what he said, but he could have said it jokingly beside the truck and it got blown out of proportion. Who knows? Maybe he was feeling that that day. When I read it, I kind of laughed. I know Kyle better than some of the other people do, not that I know him that well, but it doesn't surprise you when some people say things. I just kind of laughed and said, 'that's Kyle.' "It seems like it's been two years ago now (victory at Texas in March). To be able to go down there and be able to win in my home state and be able to run the way we did, just dominate the race really. It was a close race with Dale Jarrett there at the end. It was a tough race for us, but very satisfying for us to be able to go down there and win. I've got a lot of fans down there in Texas, so it was very exciting. "I think we'd help the whole organization by everybody going back in the same direction and get the cars a little more standardized instead of being a little different now with the different teams. That's something we're going to work on. We've got to try to make the whole program better. I think the chemistry between the drivers is very important, but it's also very important between the crew members. It's very important between the crew chiefs, engineers and other people. I think we definitely going in the right direction. We've made big steps in the right direction. Things are going good, and I think everybody is really, really happy about it. It's not easy. The competition is tough. The other teams are good out there. I think we're stronger when we work together. It's not that we haven't been working together, but we haven't been working near as well as we could have been and as well as we're planning on being. I know you guys are probably familiar with seeing some of the other multi-car teams out there, and it appears they work pretty well together. We're going to try to get more like that. "A lot of times you can't run the same thing. I'm sure you might have to fine tune it a little bit, but at least it ought to get you close. Some places it won't make any difference. Other places, it's going to be fine-tuned for each individual driver, but it sure gives you a step in the right direction. "I didn't feel real good about the one (Pocono setup) we had. I don't know. We're going to try to be a little bit better when we go back. We're going to Indianapolis to test next week. Hopefully we'll learn something up there and figure out which car we're going to take back to Pocono. Pocono is a tough place. "With big corporations, they have a lot of different people all the time. It's never the same people in a corporation. They change management a lot and they change people a lot. A lot of times you see new people come in and they don't want to do the same thing the old people were doing. Maybe they want to go a different direction or something. I know a guy who had a sponsor and they renegotiated it every year. He said every year it was with different people in the corporation and it got tougher every time. "You can kind of run fairly close to the same thing at both of those race tracks (Indy and Pocono). A car that runs good at Pocono should run good at Indy and vice versa. I like Indy. It's a pretty neat place. Pocono has been a pretty tough place for us. We've gone there and won and we've gone there and run terrible. It's just a hard place to get the right setup on. "That would be an important win for anybody (Brickyard 400). That's such an awesome place up there. All the history and tradition there at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and all the fans that come to that race. That's definitely one of the biggest races you can win, it would be for me. Of all the races I've won up until this point, that would be the one. It would bump Texas. "It never changes. You always want to win the championship. You just finally write it off. Then you look at a top five or maybe a top 10. It all depends on your consistency. Everybody is pretty optimistic when the season starts. You think this could be the year. If you get off to a bad start, you think, 'this won't kill us. It's not over yet.' You've got to be consistent. That's the key to it. When you're not consistent, you fall back in points, and it's hard to make them up. I haven't given up on it yet because it could happen. The competition is so tough, you can be off a little bit and it shows up more today. We've got to work on our consistency. That's what wins championships. If we can get our consistency better the second half of the year, I think we've got a good shot at a good, solid top 10 in the points."