Bobby Labonte was a late feature in the Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 at Darlington, but lost a possible winning advantage over Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson when the yellows flew for Kyle Petty's blown engine.

The #18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet was beaten off pit-lane by Johnson's Lowe's example, but hung on to take second place from Ryan Newman.

Q:
Bobby, tell us about your run today...

Bobby Labonte:
We were pretty good there up until that last caution with about 18 laps to go. The car was really good at that point in time. We just probably weren't as strong on short runs as some of the other guys. There at the end, when the #48 [Johnson] got in front of us out of the pits, we had a few laps that we couldn't run because of the caution flags there. We just couldn't get by him. We tried our best and just couldn't do it.

At the same time, Ryan [Newman] was coming awful strong so, if we had a lot of green flag laps, we might have finished third. It was still a good day for us. We worked on the car continuously all day. It was one of our better days, communication-wise for [crew chief] Michael [McSwain] and I. At the same time, when you start off a little closer, it's a whole lot easier than if you start way off. Sometimes you hit it and sometimes you don't. We worked really good today. We just came up a little short. But it was a fun race.

We got it better throughout the day. Obviously, that last run we had prior to the caution flag with 18 laps to go followed by a couple more caution flags was when it was the best. We passed Kurt Busch and took the lead and the car was handling perfect. We obviously didn't want to mess with it when the caution came out. The #48 car beat us off pit-road and we ended up chasing him for second.

Q:
If you had one more lap, could you have beaten Jimmie?

BL:
I don't know. If we had one more lap, we might have gotten beaten for second. So you never know. We were pretty good. We were better on the long runs. The guys did a great job in the pits and got better throughout the day by tweaking on it. That wasn't good enough for us, but it was almost good enough for us.

Q:
Without that last caution, are you sure you would have won the race?

BL:
It's hard to say. I believe that, if I had gotten out front, I might have been like the #48 car. He'd have been all over me and maybe not have made the pass, but we were good enough to get close to him, but not make the pass. It is a pretty narrow place to race on. That might have made the difference. You never know. We had a pretty good car for those last four laps. We had to pass a car and it's kind of hard to make that pass sometimes - especially when you're making four qualifying laps there at the end.

Q:
With the new SAFER barriers, did the narrower groove make any difference?

BL:
You had to pick and choose your places a little bit more. I didn't quite see as much passing going on today as there has been. Obviously, it played out where the narrower upper groove did not allow you to get your car up there and be at speed. And then the narrower groove made you lower and harder for somebody to pass.

So, in those terms, I would say it was a little bit more difficult than in the pass. But, it was still a good race. You just had to play with the wall being 30 inches closer. I think everybody did a pretty good job.

Q:
On the penultimate lap, how close were you to getting by Jimmie?

BL:
Not close enough. It was close, but I couldn't get the run off the corner. It's always a hard corner to come off of on the bottom when somebody's got momentum going on the outside. You can get them throughout the day there, but on a short run - if their car is working pretty good - it's hard to pass. And then you've still got to gain momentum down the straightaway. I knew we had a fender underneath him there. But when you're making qualifying laps, it's difficult. It was going to be hard to pass unless he slipped or something.

Q:
What does it mean to bounce back after Atlanta?

BL:
We didn't have a good day at Atlanta. I think we know why, but it's kind of like what Dale [Earnhardt] Jr said after Las Vegas. We're really not sure we did as bad as we did at Atlanta. But we have an idea. But it is definitely a confidence-booster to come from last weekend when we were two laps down and finished 18th, to today where we finished second.

Second is disappointing after leading there toward the end and not getting that chance to get around Jimmie but, at the same time, it was a great confidence builder. Michael and I talked all week long. We said we had to do something or we weren't going to have jobs for very long. We knew we'd better figure out something better than what we did in Atlanta. He and the guys at the shop kept up with what was going on and made some changes. We brought a little different car here than what we had last weekend, which was our best car. And now we've got one just a little bit better. They did a great job and brought me a good race car. It was definitely a lot of fun coming back from last weekend.

Q:
How do you feel heading to Bristol next week?

BL:
Bristol hasn't been all that bad. I think we had more of a struggle last fall than we did in the springtime. I think we finished pretty good. It can be like Darlington. A couple of guys today looked like they weren't having any fun and Bristol can be the same thing. I feel like going into Bristol is going to be no different than any other time. We have to go in and do the best we can. Coming off a good run today is obviously going to help out. So we're looking forward to that.

 

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