Our weekly series of interviews continues: 12 questions with NASCAR drivers who aren't currently in the top 12 of the Sprint Cup Series. Since the Chase drivers already get plenty of publicity, we thought this would be a good way to get to know some of the non-Chase drivers a little better. This week: Former Cup champion Bobby Labonte of TRG Motorsports.
What's the best race you've ever driven?
BL: I don't know. There's more than one, but one I can think of right now was Darlington in 1999 where I broke my shoulder blade on Friday (in a Busch Series practice) and raced on Sunday. I ran til the first caution, started dead last but got to 20th, passing cars and driving the crap out of it. But I got out, because I thought if I crashed again, I'd get hurt worse. So Matt (Kenseth) got in and finished 10th. I thought for being broke up two days before that, that was a pretty good drive.
Who is the most talented driver in NASCAR?
BL: Jimmie Johnson. SBN: Any reason in particular? Speaks for itself.
If a new driver came to you and asked one driver he should learn from and one he shouldn't, who would those people be?
BL: I can't answer that. SBN: Why not? You're going to print that, right? That's stupid. I can say who to learn from, but not who not to learn from. Jeff Burton. Speaks for itself, you know what I mean?
When's the best time for a fan to approach you for an autograph at the track?
BL: After practice, before practice, going to the car after practice, coming out, going to the car before qualifying, before the race or hospitality.
What is something people may not understand about you?
BL: How mad I get when things don't go right. No, just kidding. How passionate I am about this sport. This racing. My racing.
What's the worst track on the NASCAR circuit?
BL: Pocono. The race is too long.
If you were put in charge of NASCAR, what's one thing you'd change?
BL: What would I change? Salary cap and franchise. SBN: So you would institute a salary cap? (Labonte nods). SBN: Any reason for that? For the teams or drivers? Teams. To try to control spending every which way possible. How do you control spending? Control what's spent. Duh.
What driver outside of NASCAR do you most admire?
BL: I think Dario (Franchitti), of the current drivers. SBN: Why's that? I've talked to him before when he was over here, seems like a good guy, wants to do the best he can and enjoys what he's doing.
How long do you see yourself driving?
BL: I can't answer that. SBN: How come? That means I'd put a number on something. You can't put a number on that, because I just don't want to look at a number. Some things you just don't think about like that.
What's the first thing you do when you get home from a race?
BL: Take a shower.
Who wins the Sprint Cup in 2015?
BL: Bill Elliott (chuckles). In five years? I'll go for (David) Reutimann.
Would you rather be known as a great driver or a great person?
BL: Person first, driver second. Well, I'll just say both. You can't put one in front of the other.