NASCAR fans from Arizona and beyond converged on Phoenix International Raceway last week for a chance to purchase tickets to April’s Subway Fresh Fit 500 from the track’s newest sales interns — Nextel Cup stars Carl Edwards and Bobby Labonte. Along with working the ticket window, the drivers signed autographs and chatted congenially with the enthusiastic crowd. Frontstretch Senior Staff Writer Becca Gladden was on hand for the event and spoke with both drivers about a variety of topics.
Yesterday’s Interview: Beyond the Cockpit with Carl Edwards
Today: Q&A with Bobby Labonte
Becca Gladden, Frontstretch: Were you pleased with your team’s performance in the Daytona 500? You finished 21st?
Bobby Labonte: We just weren’t fast enough. It wasn’t as good as we wanted to be, but we survived it. It’s kind of frustrating in one way, but at the end of the day I was like, ‘Well, my gosh, I guess we could have been in a wreck.’
Gladden: Did you learn anything there that you can carry over to the other plate races this season?
Labonte: Gosh, I hope so.
Gladden: What did you think about the controversy at the end of the race with NASCAR not throwing the caution?
Labonte: I don’t care what they do as long as they do the same thing every time.
Gladden: But some people feel that’s the problem – they don’t stay consistent.
Labonte: They never do. Trash on the track, there’s a caution – a tire’s on the track, there’s no caution. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. There’s no consistency. That’s all I care about. I don’t care if we race back to the flag or don’t race back to the flag, or this or that, just as long as it’s the same. When they say the gates open at 12:00, make them open at 12:00. We used to practice every week at the same time. Now it’s like, you don’t know what day we’re going to practice, when we’re going to practice, all that stuff. It’s frustrating.
Gladden: You have a lot of experience here at PIR with 16 Cup starts and eight top 10s.
Labonte: I love the track here. It’s a lot of fun and it’s a good racetrack to race at. It will be the first night race of the year, the first Car of Tomorrow race in the west and the third overall after Bristol Motor Speedway.
Gladden: What are your thoughts on the Car of Tomorrow so far?
Labonte: I only have 200 laps in it [before Bristol testing]. I’m disappointed that I don’t have more laps in it. It’s heavy. It’s top heavy, the right-side weight is heavy. Maybe if I get more laps in it I’ll be a better judge.
Gladden: What do you think about the changes NASCAR made to the Chase this year?
Labonte: I think all the changes are OK. I don’t disagree with any of them.