Chat with Bobby Labonte
In his career, Labonte is the only driver to have won both Sprint Cup title, as well as a Nationwide Series title. Labonte enters his first season in the No. 96 car this year, as a member of Hall of Fame/Yates Racing.
Labonte drove the Hall of Fame Racing?s No. 96 Ask.com Ford Fusion to a sixth-place finish in the second Gatorade Duel Thursday, securing the 12th position for the start of the 51st Daytona 500 on Sunday. Since becoming the "Official Search Engine of NASCAR," Ask.com and Bobby Labonte have been busy, recently teaming up for a public service campaign to promote the importance of parents playing a key role in keeping kids safe online. As a father of two, Labonte is an advocate for Internet safety and also serves on the Ask.com's Safesearchschools.com panel of experts that will recognize elementary schools for their Internet safety education activities, with free computers and a visit from Labonte himself.
Send in your questions now and then join Labonte at 4:40 p.m. ET on Friday!
Buzzmaster (4:33 PM)
Bobby Labonte will be here in a few minutes!
Buzzmaster (4:36 PM)
We've got Bobby!
Matt (Ogdensburg,New Jersey)
hey bobby i was wondering what do you think is going to be the most important factor in winning the race
Bobby Labonte (4:37 PM)
It's going to be handling. Handling will be the biggest factor, the biggest key. About 12-15 laps is when your car starts to go away. Track position is key.
Are you excited to be a part of Yates Racing?
Bobby Labonte (4:38 PM)
We're real excited. We know that there's a ton of opportunities to do good. We have a ton of support. We're real excited to be associated with those guys and have some good teammates. There is a lot of excitement in our team because of that.
Ask.com is your new sponsor, how cool is that? What kind of work are you doing?
Bobby Labonte (4:40 PM)
It's very exciting to have them sponsor a car in NASCAR. To sponsor my car is even better. They're real active in a lot. They're doing a lot of cool things around the track. We did a PSA about Internet safety for kids. A lot of really cool things will come out of this. Very energetic things they are doing.
Riley Grant (Denver)
Have you ever played Mario Kart?
Bobby Labonte (4:40 PM)
Not Mario Kart. But I got hooked on iRacing, that debuted this fall. I play that simulation racing game quite a bit.
David (Jackson, KY)
Do you go into a restrictor-plate race with a specific strategy -- such as hang out in the back to dodge the wrecks -- or do you wait to see how the car is and adjust from there?
Bobby Labonte (4:41 PM)
See how it handles and put your strategy from use from there. You don't want to take a car that's not handling good and try to put it where it can't go. You're not at benefit if you put yourself in risk at a track like this to tear it up.
Mitch Campany (Rochester, NY)
With your brother on board for the Daytona 500, how do you think Prism Motorsports will do as a start up team in 2009?
Bobby Labonte (4:42 PM)
I have no idea how they'll do. I think Terry is going to drive this race for them. I don't know about after that. But they're in the Daytona 500 and a lot of guys didn't make it, so that's a start.
s [via mobile]
Do you think your car will be able to compete with the bigger teams Sunday?
Bobby Labonte (4:43 PM)
I think we'll be OK. I think we still have a little work to do. I'm not as happy with the way the car drives as I'd like to see it. Thursday was fair, but I think we still have some work to do.
Ryan (Wilmington, DE)
Are you happy with NASCAR's popularity?
Bobby Labonte (4:44 PM)
I think the sport grew real fast for many years. I don't think you could ask for a better growth spurt. But like many growth spurts, it has to take a flat line. With that, I think NASCAR will come up with some things that will be better for the fans to get to the track and enjoy the races and not spend quite so much of their earnings and savings. They want to be here. It's so popular and it's great.
who are you expecting to big the biggest threat this year
Bobby Labonte (4:45 PM)
There are quite a few of them that have a shot at it. I think Jimmie Johnson is a favorite just because he's been so dominant the last three years. Carl Edwards, doing what he's doing the past two years. He's close and hungry.
Bobby, what are your thoughts on trying to tap into the Canadian or European fan markets with a race or two around the world?
Bobby Labonte (4:46 PM)
Well, NASCAR has been to Japan three times. They do the Nationwide Series in Mexico and Canada. Those are the things that NASCAR does to try and get to the next levels. I think it's a great thing, but I think it has to make sense economically for our teams to do that.
Nick Stone, Louisville, Ky
How confident do you feel in the change this year to the new car to compete for the championship? How many more years do you feel you have left in racing?
Bobby Labonte (4:47 PM)
I knew, when making the change to the new car, with the resources they had and the backing they had, they have a great group of people around it. I have all the confidence in the world that they're going to do a great job.
Zach Rastall (Marinette, WI)
Bobby, who was your idol growing up? Besides Terry of course.
Bobby Labonte (4:48 PM)
AJ Foyt, I was born and raised in Corpus Christi, Texas. His name was always in the papers down there.
Do you still keep in touch with Richard Petty?
Bobby Labonte (4:48 PM)
I saw him the other day for the first time since Homestead. I'm not sure he has a cell phone.
Ryan (Wilmington, DE)
What kind of car do you normally drive on the road?
Bobby Labonte (4:49 PM)
I just ordered me a Ford F150 pickup truck, so I'm excited about that. I'm usually a big vehicle person, even though I have a Mini Cooper. I'm pretty laid back on the street. I don't try to over do it. Kind of go slow.
Do you think Jeff Gordon will rebound from his winless 2008?
Bobby Labonte (4:50 PM)
You'd have to ask him on that part, but to me, it just shows you how tough the competition is that he didn't win. It's going to be tough for everybody. Tough for him and for everyone else.
Bobby Labonte (4:51 PM)
Thanks for coming online. I hope you can either personally come see the race or if not, watch online, watch on TV. Make sure you support the drivers and sponsors. It's great that we have you fans.
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