TERRY LABONTE, DLP HDTV TEAM, ONE MORE FOR THE ROAD (COURSE) CORNELIUS, N.C., Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2006 -- When Hall of Fame Racing officials announced that they would be fielding the No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevy in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series in 2006,...
TERRY LABONTE, DLP HDTV TEAM, ONE MORE FOR THE ROAD (COURSE)
CORNELIUS, N.C., Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2006 -- When Hall of Fame Racing officials announced that they would be fielding the No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevy in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series in 2006, they also announced a unique arrangement. Two-time NASCAR Nextel Cup champion Terry Labonte would drive the first five races and the two road course events, while Tony Raines would drive the remaining 29 races.
This week's event at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International is the final event for Labonte as part of the DLP HDTV team and the final road course event of his incredible career.
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 57 career starts at road courses, Labonte has earned eight poles, 18 top-fives and 27 top-10s while leading a total of 428 laps.
In his last start for the DLP team, Labonte and crew chief Philippe Lopez gambled on fuel at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., and finished third, the best finish ever for Hall of Fame Racing and the best finish by a new Nextel Cup organization since Bill Elliott won at Homestead in late 2001 driving for the first-year Evernham Motorsports team.
TERRY LABONTE (No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevy):
Overall thoughts heading into Watkins Glen:
"The track hasn't really changed a whole lot. I've always enjoyed running up there, and it's a pretty fun course. I've had some good runs there, so I always look forward to going there. The thing I like about it is that if your car is running well, it's a little bit easier to pass there than at Sonoma. It's a pretty good track."
How important is it to take care of your equipment at a place like Watkins Glen?:
"Going to a road course, everything is important. Your brakes have got to work good, because there are some pretty hard-braking corners. Watkins Glen is actually a track that you need a lot of power, too. And, your car has to handle good. You can make or lose a lot of time in the esses. If your car is good in the esses, then you can carry a lot of speed into the backstraightaway before going into the interloop. It's like a lot of tracks you go to, it takes the whole deal, chassis, engines, brakes. Everything is important."
This is your seventh and final race with the team. Have you seen the team change since January when you tested at Daytona?
"Oh, for sure. We went and tested at VIR (Virginia International Raceway) to shake the car down before Sonoma, and we spent about a half a day getting the car ready. It was pretty obvious that the team was a lot different than in February when we tested at Daytona. They've really come a long way, which is understandable. It's really hard to start out as a new team, and I think these guys have done a good job. I can see a big difference because I haven't been there every week."
How enjoyable has this year been for you, not only doing 10 races with Hendrick, but also the seven races with Hall of Fame Racing?
"It's been a lot of fun. It's been really neat to run a few races with the DLP team and help them out some. When I was a kid growing up, Roger (Staubach) was always a guy I looked up to. And Troy was also, of course, I was grown up when I was watching Troy. But, when I was a kid growing up in Texas, we were diehard Cowboys fans. We'd watch them all the time. It was neat to finally get to meet Roger."
You had a great finish at Sonoma, coming home in third-place. Can the same happen at Watkins Glen?
"The thing about Watkins Glen, it can always come down to a fuel deal or a track position thing, but you also have more opportunities to pass people at Watkins Glen, than you do at Sonoma. So, although track position is very important, it might not be as important as it is at Sonoma. People will probably do the same thing, depending on tire wear and where the speeds fall off and things like that."