NASCAR Media Conference
October 29, 2007
THE MODERATOR: Dale, thanks for joining us.
We're joined by former NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion Bobby Labonte, six-time winner here. Leads all active drivers with six wins at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Bobby, what has been your impression thus far?
BOBBY LABONTE: It really has come along pretty good. We haven't really made a whole lot of changes to the car. Kind of tuned on a few things. All in all, my feeling from yesterday to today really isn't that much different.
Obviously you can tell that we've got a lot less downforce and center of gravity is a lot higher so the top of the car is just a little top-heavy. But other than that, it's not bad, not as bad as I thought it would be.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Bobby.
Q. Bobby, obviously it's way too early to know what this car is going to do on mile-and-a-half tracks. Are there early impressions that it is not going to be a revolutionary difference in this car? Can you give us any kind of general impression?
BOBBY LABONTE: Well, I think my first thought is it's not -- not too far out of the whack here of what we ran yesterday. But it's not what we ran yesterday either. And we're not green-flag racing yet. We're just testing. You throw 43 on a green-flag start like we did yesterday, running 325 laps, you know, that's a better indication of what you'll see.
It's so hard to tell. I mean, I think that the experts can't even tell. You know, I don't know how I can tell. But we'll have to try it and see. Hopefully it's not look-good-on-paper type of thing.
(Pause in audio)
The troubles guys had yesterday, looked like they were struggling for the handling of it, losing grip. After about five laps you pretty much lost your grip anyway. You're just hanging on. But today is a little different tire. You can be a little more aggressive with it. You can feel it a little bit better. But still we got the same problem with it on the right side. I have to show you what it looks like rather than explain it. I'm not disagreeing with him, it's just a hard call.
Q. A lot of guys are driving for the teams they're going to drive for next year today and tomorrow. As someone who sort of went through something similar a couple years ago, what are the challenges of that? What is that like? Is it difficult to stay focused on one situation when you're testing for another team at the same time?
BOBBY LABONTE: Well, I think for those guys, switching over to the new rides, everybody's professional in the garage area. They know they have three more races to complete for their current team. I look at it, too, you know, it's like it's good that, you know, they're getting a head start on next year. Every year, you got to get a quicker head start. You need to be testing sooner and more because the competition's so tight.
I don't think those guys give up or are different on their current rides. But I think it's probably a good thing that at least they're here today testing in their car for next year instead of not able to. At least for those guys, they're going to get to race the next three races in their car without somebody else being thrown in it. Again, it's professionalism on both parts.
Q. What kind of changes, if any, need to be made to the Car of Tomorrow for next year? What do you think could be changed to improve the quality of racing?
BOBBY LABONTE: I'm not sure if you read the rule book yet, but I don't think you can make any changes to it (laughter). What you got's what you got.
I don't know. I can't answer that one very good until we get into the racing season because, I mean, again, it goes kind of back to David's question where until we get out there on the racetrack, 43 race cars, throw the green flag in front of 150,000 people, you don't really know what you got. You got an idea. Until you put all the cars on the racetrack, you don't really know if that's going to improve or not.
The biggest challenge we have today, yesterday, we'll have tomorrow probably too, is the fact that all cars are really close. When you're first, you can run a certain speed. When you're 25th, you pretty much run that speed, too.
You might run close to the same speed, so if you're running close to the same speed, it's hard to pass. Usually it's a little slower. We'll see if that changes or not, if that answers your question.
THE MODERATOR: That's it, Bobby. Thank you for coming in and joining us.
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