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NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Daytona 500

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  Daytona 500

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Daytona 500

Bobby Labonte
February 26, 2012


DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA

KERRY THARP:  Joining us you former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Bobby Labonte.  He will be making his 20th Daytona 500 start when we take the green flag tomorrow.
Bobby, talk about your mindset.  You're a veteran of many of these races.  First time one has been postponed.  Talk about the mindset of a competitor getting ready to line up today, and now you have to wait.  How does that all flow into your preparation?
BOBBY LABONTE:  Well, I mean, it was kind of weird today because we kind of saw the weather.  I didn't know when to eat, I didn't know when to rest, I didn't know when to do whatever.  This might be good if it's at 12:00, the sun will be out, I'll have a better idea.
Every race down here at Daytona, you're building up for a week to get here.  It's a lot of things happening, a lot of downtime as well.  Just be as prepared as possible.  I think every driver that does this, they're ready, as well.  We just have a ritual that we go through.  Whether it was going to be raining for another hour, an hour less, we'll always be ready.  Not a whole lot we can do about the weather.
When you get in the racecar, everything else goes away and you're just ready to go.
KERRY THARP:  Questions for Bobby Labonte.

Q.  How did you spend your day?
BOBBY LABONTE:  Well, I never took my uniform off.  Obviously you can see that.  I took a nap, though.  I think we cleaned out the refrigerator snacking on things.  I was just fixing to get changed when I had to come over here.  I was going to do a weather report.  It's pretty much obvious what the weather was going to be like.
Just did that.  Watched the telecast, all the guys in the booth talk about everything, interview drivers.  That's about all.  Like I said, took a good nap.  That was probably what I needed the most.

Q.  Bobby, you mentioned you still have your uniform on.  With a smaller team like yours, the big race out west in Phoenix coming up.  Logistically, what does this do to a team like yours?
BOBBY LABONTE:  Well, there's still several employees back at the shop getting the Phoenix car ready.  It was fairly close through last week to get done.  The spare is already done.  It's basically waiting for the transporter to get back and make a changeover like that, which every team is going to have to do, make a changeover in their racecars.
There might be a few things that we'll have to do to it.  But I'd say that Todd Berrier probably already has that handled.  It's a matter of changing our situation over, unloading this car, putting new cars in it.
It's going to make a tough trip for the truck drivers more than anything else, leaving here, when we do leave here, to go home and make a swap.  How many hours will that take?  You have to make sure that you're planned well enough that your truck drivers can get there in the amount of time that's out there.  It's a long ways.  So we'll see.
But we should be all right.

Q.  Obviously you're used to having races being postponed because of rain.  When it's the Daytona 500, is it any different?
BOBBY LABONTE:  I went through a spell, every time we had a race that was delayed for hours or a day, it seemed I won.  I won a few of those.  This is all right by me if it turns out the same.  I'll be fine with that (laughter).
Last year we had some.  Watkins Glen, a couple others, as well.  Yeah, I mean, it's the fans.  I was talking to a friend of ours at the motorhome before I come over here, Butch's girlfriend said that she had some friends up from North Carolina towards the mountains that came down here for the race.  All the fans that have been here had beautiful weather for 11 days basically almost, then today is not the best day.
So I hate it for that.  I hate it for the fans.  But we all, and you guys, get to suffer through it, too, another night as far as thinking we're going to get out of here.  Unfortunately we can't do nothing about it.  Wish we could.  But we're all prepared to go and hopefully race tomorrow.

Q.  The side draft seems to be a little different than last year.  Can you explain what's going on?
BOBBY LABONTE:  Yeah, I know in the 150s especially we noticed it.  It's like it used to be to a certain extent.  When the first car goes by you like on the inside, you get your left front fender to his right rear quarter panel, it takes air out of his cowl, I'd say.  It slows them down, might slow him down or the second car down.
There is a way we can move around, move our cars closer together to pick up speed, get a slingshot effect.  If you're going by them, it kind of slows and anchors you down.
We saw that in the Nationwide race yesterday when Kurt and Kyle were drafting, Joey and somebody were going by them.  Might have been Ricky or Trevor.  But, yeah, it broke 'em up.
With the spoiler package, with a few other things they've got, didn't have that much last year to a certain extent because you go a lot faster.  Now you're not going as fast.  Kind of got back to where it was a few years ago in the old pack racing.  Definitely it plays an effect.
You have to have a real head of steam to get by a guy.  If you don't clear him, it will really bog you down.  With two cars, you can mess them up as well, if they're tandem hooked up at that point in time.
Kind of like it used to be.  So not much different than that.  I'm more used to that anyway.

Q.  One of the things that's happened a lot in the last week are the crashes that we've been seeing.  They've been pretty spectacular.  Can you talk a little bit about your thoughts on the safety issues with the revised pack racing and how it seems like it doesn't matter whether it's tandem racing or pack racing, there have been a lot of hard hits this week.
BOBBY LABONTE:  Yeah, thank God for soft walls, I can say that.  I'm sure Danica can appreciate that, as well, like all of them have.
Pack racing's going to lead to that.  We've seen more pack racing.  Yesterday when they were tandem racing, I mean, Oh, by the way, now it's a pack.  When you mix all those together, it pretty much can be chaos.
Daytona is Daytona.  It's narrower than Talladega.  The asphalt still is really good, so everybody is really confident.  The car is going to grip really good.
All of them, you know, for the most part take part at the last 20 miles of race.  So you spend most of the day getting your car, feeling confident about what you can do, you use it to what you think you can do, and you can't do it sometimes.  It's just a product of the racing that we have.  Whether it was two‑car tandem or whatever, I've been coming here for a long time, I remember looking in the mirror, seeing guys go backwards behind me, at Daytona being caught up in a Nationwide wreck at lap three or four.  It's just a product of restrictor plate racing that we've seen for years.
Unfortunately, the past week has been a lot of carnage.  I hate that for all the car owners.  I texted Tad last night, It's a good thing we don't own a Nationwide car.  It's unfortunate it's that way, but it's Daytona.  Daytona is Daytona.  That's why we come down here.  Last year, three or four wrecks we missed, I'm there at the end.  Trevor Bayne, guys like that.  That's just part of the racing that we do, whether we're pack racing or tandem racing.  But pack racing definitely has a place for it right there to make you crash.
KERRY THARP:  Bobby, thank you so much and good luck tomorrow when we drop the green flag.
BOBBY LABONTE:  What time is that again, make sure I put it in my calendar?
KERRY THARP:  12:01, your 20th Daytona 500.

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