NASCAR Winston Cup Goody's Headache Powders 500 Preview: #18, Bobby Labonte
21 August 1997
#18 Bobby Labonte, Interstate Batteries Pontiac Grand Prix NASCAR Winston Cup Series Goody's Headache Powders 500 Advance Bristol Motor Speedway LABONTE ON BRISTOL: "LIKE GOING TO A METALLICA SHOW" BRISTOL, TN - Bobby Labonte will have his hands full while trying to dodge the slew of accidents sure to take place in Saturday night's Goody's Headache Powder 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway, and afterwards, he will be rewarded with an earful. "I usually sleep good the night after a Bristol race, but your ears hurt," Labonte said. "Your eardrums keep ringing. It's pretty noisy there. You go to sleep and all you do is hear ringing in your ear. It's like going to a Metallica show and sitting right next to the speakers." Frequent cautions are a way of racing life at Bristol. As many as 43 cars may start Saturday night's race, and that makes for tight racing conditions on the speedy, 0.533-mile short track. Labonte was collected in a crash with Robert Pressley in April's Food City 500 at Bristol, and wound up 34th. In nine career starts at Bristol, Labonte has two top-10 finishes and several damaged race cars to show for it. "You can really be a victim there," Labonte said. "You can stay out of trouble all day, and then all of a sudden you're in it. Good drivers always wreck there at some point in time just because they're a victim of something. There's no way anybody can say they hold a record of having never wrecked at Bristol before. That's just the way Bristol is. You just have to hope for the best, do the best you can, and if you're in it you're in it, and if you're not you're not." Races at Bristol are exhausting. The 36-degree banking is torture on neck muscles, and the bumpy, concrete surface makes for rough driving conditions. It all combines to drain a driver's stamina. Still, Labonte said he doesn't prepare for Bristol any differently than any other race on the NASCAR Winston Cup schedule. "I never do anything special to physically prepare for Bristol," Labonte said. "I'm just naturally a tough guy. Yeah, right. I've never worked out a day in my life. It's pretty tough, but you know if your car is working good it's not as tough. Now if it's not working good you're in for one long race. If you're going good it's over before you know it. If your car is in bad shape and you're getting beat up all over the place, it will wear you out in a hurry." Bristol begins a six-race stretch which will include three short track races. Labonte earned two top-10 finishes in the first half of the season on the short tracks, and is hoping for improvement the second go-round on NASCAR's "bull rings." "We need to win a race and we need to finish in the top-10 in points," Labonte said. "I don't know if I'd call it a sense of urgency, but we just need to win a race. We didn't win a race last year until the last race. Nothing like waiting around until the end, huh? We need to get it done before that." Labonte and crew chief Jimmy Makar are beginning to dial in the aerodynamic balance required to get their Interstate Batteries Pontiac handling improved. Aerodynamics don't come into play as much on the short tracks, but Labonte is a believer in his Pontiac's capabilities anywhere the team goes to compete. "I don't think the Pontiac is any better at any one kind of track," Labonte said. "I don't buy that. I thought maybe I did, but I really don't. We've run good on big ovals, we've run good on flat tracks. If we didn't run good somewhere we probably didn't run good there last year, so it's not the car. "This team has all the tools to win anywhere. This week, that just happens to be a short track." By Camp & Associates, Inc.