Pocono Pontiac Racing qualifying quotes

BOBBY LABONTE, NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: “That was a little slower than we ran in practice. I got a little too loose in (turn) one. I was way, way too far out of the groove. I just didn’t get through there very good.


“That was a little slower than we ran in practice. I got a little too loose in (turn) one. I was way, way too far out of the groove. I just didn’t get through there very good. Everywhere else was pretty decent. But I still think all-in-all we’ve probably got a great race car.”

(ON HIS CONFIDENCE FOR SUNDAY) “So far today we’ve definitely hit on better things than we did last time here. The car feels a lot more comfortable doing what we’re doing right today than we did in June. Hopefully, we can make that change into tomorrow’s race set-up and for Sunday’s race.”


“We’ve got something wrong, but I’m not sure what. We were a good bit better than that in practice, or at least we think we were, anyhow. When I qualified the car it had a bad push in all three corners. I thought maybe we had a cut a tire down or something, but we don’t have that. We’re still trying to figure out what it is. The car was a lot quicker than that; believe me. We’ll figure it out here and get it straightened out. It’s just something we missed or something that went wrong.”


“In practice we ran a 53.14 (seconds), so we ran basically the same. We didn’t pick up like everybody else is picking up. I don’t know. We’ve been struggling with this all year.”


(HOW WAS HIS LAP?) “Scary. Actually it felt really good everywhere except for turn one. I went down into third gear and it wouldn’t go in. That scared me more than anything. It started to hop the wheels, and I thought, ‘Oh man, this is bad.’ But James (Ince) kept telling me that they were making a lot of speed up in turn three, and I made sure I made every bit of it up. The guys did a great job. I can’t be any happier. This Pontiac is running good. There are a lot of good things happening. Now we just have to worry about getting a sponsor.”

(ON RACING WELL SUNDAY) “This is the same car we ran here in June, and it’s the same car we tested at Indy, which was fast, also. We thought it could be pretty fast here again, so we’re hoping we can make it happen in the race now. We were running sixth in June before we had a mechanical problem, so all-in-all, we’re real happy with the way this car is running and looking for a good run on Sunday.”


(ON HIS LAP) “I think we would have had the pole on that lap, except between the tunnel turn and the last corner the motor gave up. It must have burned a piston or something, so it just died. I just drove it on around, so I’m pretty happy with that time because it shouldn’t have been anywhere near that. But I had a good run going up to there, so it’s pretty disappointing.”


“That was good. We were pretty good all day. I made a good lap in practice. But on our sticker run we bottomed out real hard and I didn’t get a good lap, so we knew we had more than what we had in practice. “I just felt a bunch better coming back, being here a month ago and having it fresh in my mind. I was up to speed a lot quicker. I mean that was a second faster than we qualified here a month ago. We’re making good progress.”

(ON HIS FIRST DAY WORKING WITH NEW CREW CHIEF DOUG RANDOLPH) “Day one with Doug was great. The car was close to on the money when we started and we just tweaked a little bit here and there. It was a really good first day.”


(ON RUNNING RIGHT AFTER THE RAIN DELAY) “It’s hard when you sit there and you get ready to go out and you prepare mentally to go out and make your lap, and then to have the rain start just about the time that you’re getting ready to go out, and have to go through that cycle again, it created a little more anxiety than what I wanted. But at the same time, the nice thing was that Buster (Auton) came and picked us up in the pace car and took us out and said, ‘When you’re comfortable with the racetrack, we’ll go.’ He gave me the confidence that I knew what the track conditions were like when I went out there as far as knowing whether it was wet or dry, and having the confidence to go out and do what I needed to do.”

(WHAT WERE HIS GOALS FOR QUALIFYING?) “I just wanted something hopefully that would get us quick enough to be in the top five. I didn’t think we couldn’t even come close to run what Mark Martin ran, so I was really surprised. But I knew at the same time when I came off of three on the out lap that I had come off of there a lot faster than I had all day. I realized I had a pretty good lap started, and knew if I could put three pretty good corners together that it could be a pretty decent lap.”

(ON THE WEATHER) “When you get the moisture in the air it creates a lot of drag. We learned that from the Indy car days. But the nice thing is that the sun came back out. But with the sun the track temperature starts climbing again, so as soon as the rain drops quit I wanted to get in the car as fast as I could and get out, and hopefully get going before the surface temperature started rising again, which would start making the car slide around a little more.”

(WHY HAS HIS TAKEN OFF SINCE WINNING AT DOVER?) “I wish I knew what’s changed. We haven’t done anything different as a race team. I haven’t done anything different as a driver. We are just starting to get to that same point of the year like last year where everything started clicking for us. We’re starting to get a little better handle on the new tires and just doing the best we can to try to get caught up again.”

(HAS HIS TEAM MADE ANY SAFETY CHANGES TO HIS CAR SINCE NEW HAMPSHIRE?) “No. I’m not changing anything. I feel like my guys do a great job with it. My guy checks the throttle every time I get in the car. They do a pretty good job of padding it up inside there in case something happens.”

(ON USING TOE STRAPS ON HIS PEDALS) “We are incorporating a different set of pedals in the car which had it built in already. It was a massed-produced throttle. It wasn’t something that we built in-house. They’ve got toe straps on them.”

(ON KEEPING AN EYE ON THE CHAMPIONSHIP PICTURE) “We just take it one race at a time, just like we did last year. That’s exactly what I’ve always done. That’s how I won three championships in ’95. I didn’t sit there and look all year and say, ‘We’ve got a shot at this thing. I took it one race at a time, and at the end of the night I looked at the points and we went from there to the next race. But I’m not thinking about points. I’m thinking about what I’ve got to do to be good on Sunday. If I go out there and run well or win on Sunday, the points take care of itself. That’s the mindset I’ve had for years as far as racing for points. It keeps me from being stressed out by worrying about it. That’s your guys’ job to write all those cool stories about whether we’re back with a chance of getting back up there or not. My job is to go out and race on Sunday.”

(ON THE TEAM’S MOMENTUM) “We’ve got a lot of momentum on our side right now. This is about the same point in the year as last year that we really started getting consistent.”

(ON HIS RECENT EXPERIENCE DEALING WITH RAIN) “I hate rain. The rain got us in the position we were in last week. If the first rain didn’t come we were on the same playing field as everybody else. But with that first rain, a bunch of guys gambled and didn’t have anything to lose by pitting. We had everything to lose by pitting, and that got us in the position we were in the second time. I can’t stand to see it rain. It drives me nuts. I’m usually losing years off my life every time it rains somewhere now.”

(ON HIS IMPROVEMENT WHEN HE RETURNS TO A TRACK) “Our goal this year was to be better than what we were last year at each race. When we came here in the spring we wanted to be better than we were in the spring last year. Coming back the second time we wanted to be better than we were the second time last year. That’s what we felt like were realistic goals. We wanted just to improve on each race. I don’t know that you could really hope for more than that. If you can go out and just be a little bit better than you were the time before, then you’re making progress.”

(DID THEY NEED TO IMPROVE MUCH ON THEIR FIRST TRIP HERE IN 2000 ONE MONTH AGO?) “I guess we were OK. We were going to win the race if the yellow didn’t come out with 17 (laps) to go. I’d say that says we’re doing OK here. I feel like we’ve got better cars here than last year. I feel like I’m a better race car driver at this track just because I’m gaining more knowledge and logging more laps on the racetrack, and learning more about the racetrack. I expect to learn more on Sunday again and hopefully be able to apply that to run better than what we did here a couple weeks ago.”

(ON POCONO RACEWAY) “This is a driver’s track, for sure, because with all three corners being shaped different, banked different, radiuses being different, it’s really hard to get your car balanced for all three corners and get it right. It makes the driver have to make up for whatever corner isn’t right. This is a fun place to drive from that standpoint, but it’s also very hard to pass here. You’ve really got to be good all day and it’s a momentum racetrack. You have to be able to keep your momentum up. It’s a very technical racetrack for all of us.”

(ON THE IMPORTANCE OF WINNING HIS FIRST POLE OF THE YEAR) “Just from the standpoint of getting in The (Bud) Shootout, that is probably the best thing. Now we know we’re in for the rest of the year. To me, I don’t really care if I get another pole the rest of the year. I’d trade poles in for wins. The important thing is to be good on race day. They don’t pay you any points for qualifying, so I’m not sure that other than picking up an extra 10 grand ($10,000) here and there, that there is a big relevancy to getting the pole other than just starting spots. I mean we’d love t o get the poles, but we’ve really focused more on our race package than we have our qualifying package. I’ve just not been as concerned about qualifying as I was last year.”

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