BOBBY LABONTE, NO. 10 GANDER MOUNTAIN OUTDOORS CHEVROLET met with members of the media at Texas Motor Speedway and discussed racing at Texas for his brother Terry Labonte and other topics. DO YOU ENJOY RACING AT TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY?: "I...
BOBBY LABONTE, NO. 10 GANDER MOUNTAIN OUTDOORS CHEVROLET met with members of the media at Texas Motor Speedway and discussed racing at Texas for his brother Terry Labonte and other topics.
DO YOU ENJOY RACING AT TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY?: "I grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas and watching my brother race on the short tracks there before moving to North Carolina. Texas World Speedway -- I got to race there a couple times actually on the road course. That was the biggest thing that I'd ever seen as far as race tracks goes besides the quarter-mile and half-mile tracks. I got to race here a little bit even after we moved to North Carolina, we came back to race. To come back here is awesome. We were able to be back of a select group that came down and blew up part of the soil here and got the track started. Dale Earnhardt, myself, Jeff Gordon and Terry (Labonte) came down here so it was kind of cool that we got to see this place as virgin soil as you might say. To come back here year after year and see the fans come out to see this race track. The way it is, when you come down 35 and you look at the lights, it's like it resembles huge stadiums and big time events. It's really cool to come back. It's a good race track, love coming down here for the fans and the friends that we have. Twice as good this year and this time because I get to drive my brother's car so it's even better."
HOW DID IT COME TOGETHER TO DRIVE FOR JTG-DAUGHERTY RACING IN 2011 AND WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS?: "I'm really excited about that. Tad (Geschickter, team owner) and Brad (Daugherty, team owner) came to my motor home in Chicago and they told me that Marcos (Ambrose) was leaving and they asked me if I would be interested in driving their car next year. About five seconds later I said, 'Yeah, sure.' Then I said, 'Hold on a second, let me think about it, yeah, okay, I think it's still fine.' So really I was overwhelmed and thrilled that they asked me to drive their car and especially to get a contract signed and sealed by August, which the past couple years hasn't been like that.
"So that was exciting. I've already been to test with Frankie Kerr (crew chief) and the guys at Gresham. We plan on going to Orlando in a couple weeks and a Goodyear tire test in December. Rolling right along with that; and again just looking forward to that association and that relationship. Tad, we talk a lot, more so now than we did after the first couple weeks, but we talk a lot trying to get stuff squared away for next year and just real excited about the opportunity that I have going forward next year. A great race team, a great group of people, great staff there at MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) that they're working with and a lot of resources to have. Can't wait for obviously a couple weeks to test and next year to get started soon."
HOW WOULD THESE SPRINT CUP CARS LOOK AT TEXAS WORLD SPEEDWAY TODAY?: "I think the last time I was there testing was 1995. I know Greg Biffle was down there testing a couple years ago and speeds were like 220ish, you know. Without soft walls, that's probably not very good. Are they going to change Fontana to that? Is that what you're trying to say? You suggested that? I wouldn't suggest that if I were you. I don't know that would be any better. Richmond would be a better type of track. I don't know. It's been a while, but when I went down there in '95 and ran the whole track instead of just the road course and part of the track, it's really, really fast. It would be great racing I know because it probably could be multiple lanes too. You have a lot there, but I'm not sure that would be any more conducive to greater racing than we have at some places that we come to like this place."
HOW DID IT COME TOGETHER TO DRIVE FOR YOUR BROTHER TERRY LABONTE?: "It came about, obviously my year didn't turn out like I thought it would be at the start to drive for one team. Been driving for James Finch and he's given me a great opportunity to drive a few races for him and even drove for Robby Gordon at Loudon and then when Terry (Labonte) was going to have his team going -- he went to Richmond and didn't make the race and he asked me that night in the motor home and he said, 'Man, I should get you to drive my car at Charlotte.' I said I was in so he called Billy Stavola on the phone and we had a three-way conversation right there and next thing you know it kind of happened and then after Charlotte, I was kind of like, 'I would love to be able to drive your car at Texas.' Then they called me a day later and they asked me if I would so it makes sense. It's a great race team.
"Billy and Terry started this deal off early in the year, they've got three races they were going to run and trying to build for next year and I think they've got a great start at it as far as putting things together. I hope they can continue with it and I just hope for a good run. Terry and I have both driven like each other's cars at times and work out of the same shop together and all that. He's been my agent for years as far as when I have a call that I have a question about, I let him answer it for me sometimes and even vice versa. I was the guy that Eddie Dickerson called to get with Terry for him to go drive for Hendrick's (Motorsports) one time. Anyway, it's kind of cool being able to drive for him. We spend a lot of time together so it's a lot of fun."
WERE YOU GETTING CONCERNED ABOUT BEING ABLE TO GET ANOTHER RIDE LIKE JTG-DAUGHERTY RACING?: "There was times that you didn't know -- you were hoping and watching the phone waiting for the phone call. Tried to do as much talking as you can, but it's kind of one of those things, the best way to put it is that you just live by faith and just what happens, happens. You're not sure and if it hadn't of happened then that's just the way it is. Very fortunate and blessed that it happened. Obviously there were times that you weren't sure what were going to take place."
WHO IS IT TOUGHER TO DRIVE FOR -- YOUR DAD OR TERRY LABONTE?: "That's easy -- my dad. My dad's a lot harder to drive for than Terry (Labonte). I drove for my dad for years and he was my crew chief and everything. He wasn't hard on us, he was just very determined. It was probably a little bit more difficult with him."
HOW HAS RACING AT TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY EVOLVED FOR THE FANS?: "Everything is bigger and better in Texas, obviously. I can state that it's a truthful statement. Just the fans here -- over the course of the years they've really been supportive of the race track. They come out here for the week before the race, start parking and tailgating and stuff like that. The amount of fans that showed up for this event the first several times and knowing the support the track gets. This is a great market. Bruton Smith (owner), Eddie Gossage (president) -- they do a great job promoting it. There were times that we would come here early on that there were more fans here for qualifying then there were at other tracks for the race. It's just one of those events that people plan for and it's a great market area. The fans always see a great race and they always have a good time here. There's a lot to do here around the area so it makes for a good place for race fans to come and view this event."
HOW HAVE YOU EVOLVED AS A RACE DRIVER?: "A lot of things have changed with the cars, people and engineering resources, teams, teammates over the past few years. At (Joe) Gibbs (Racing), I had a lot of that there with Tony (Stewart). That kind of gave me that little bit there and then fast-forwarding to this opportunity with JTG (Daugherty Racing) with Martin Truex and David Reutimann as teammates at MWR (Michael Waltrip) Racing is kind of going back to where I was or where I felt like I was at with Gibbs Racing. A great opportunity. I know that the resources that are there that you have to use, the staff that's there that you have to believe in and the support that you have from the manufacturer and everything else is what makes the difference nowadays. Knowing that they have that gives you confidence and gives you confidence every time you sit in the race car, gives you confidence every time you go to bed at night just knowing that the next day you're going to be better.
"Hopefully you can take the experience and what's good about experience and bad about experience is that you don't want to hold onto it too much because in a lot of ways it can bite you because you can't do the same thing over and over again, but hopefully you can take the experience that they have and the new stuff that makes the cars go faster today, might not have been the same years ago so you have to try that. Not that we didn't do that for years, but you just have to be more on your game and realize that it's there. Hopefully the experience pays off, but I don't want to get stuck in a rut either and say, 'Well, I'm used to running x and that don't work no more.' You have to be careful with it and ride the center of it instead of being one way or the other."
HOW HAS THE RACING CHANGED AT THIS TRACK OVER TIME?: "The best thing about race tracks is aging -- either hard winters or long summers. Of course you can go too far and 30 years later it might need a repave, but at the same time, this place here -- from the first time here until now has obviously changed quite a bit. It has a lot of characteristics in it now that you're able to drive around and drive through and stuff like that with bumps in the corners. I love bumps in corners because it gives you something to work on. If it was just smooth as glass and wide open then it gives you less to work on.
"It comes down to the race and what we were talking about earlier today and this week was qualifying is going to be a certain speed, but race pace is going to be something else so you really have to know what you think the race pace is going to be in tomorrow's practice because it's going to slow down enough where it's going to change the attitude of the race car and you need to change your setup for 20 laps into the run rather than just the first five laps. That really, you have to guess a little bit and that's good about the race track because you can practice fast and then race pace will slow down. So you work on that and you have to sometimes make some guesses at it, but that's what makes the characteristic of the race track better and that's why it's so much better now than it was at the beginning. It was good at the beginning, but it was more at the bottom of the race track and now it's gotten to where Juan Pablo (Montoya) will be up top and Martin Truex will be on the top and some other guys will be in the middle and some guys on the bottom so that always leads to better racing I think."
-source: gm racing