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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

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.