Labonte pledges to regain champion form

Reigning NASCAR Winston Cup champion Bobby Labonte believes he is on the verge of recapturing his form of last season

Labonte pledges to regain champion form

The 37-year-old comes into this weekend's inaugural Winston Cup race at Chicagolands, Illinois, searching for his first win of the 2001 season, which he freely admits hasn't gone at all to plan.

"It's definitely a character-building year," admitted Labonte. "All of us are trying to find out what we can do to make the performance of the car better. Jimmy [Makar, his crew chief] and I have talked about that quite a bit. We've run a couple of tests that weren't at NASCAR tracks just to kind of learn a few things over again.

"We've had some [bad] luck this year - we've had three engine failures and we didn't have any last year. It sure would be nice if we didn't have any more. What does that mean? It means we've got to work harder. It means we're not working hard enough and we're not headed in the right direction.

"We maybe kind of went up the wrong path on our set-ups and need to come down a go a different way. The big thing is just that I think this is a big, old character-builder for us as a race team to make sure that we get everything right," he added.

Crew chief Makar cites the early season dip in form which has characterised his man's season so far.

"The big problem we had was the DNFs early in the year," said Makar. "We had three or four races there where we lost probably 250 points or so. That's hard to make up over the course of a season. But, that's water over the damn and we can't them back, so what we have to do is look forward and try to scrape and dig and do all we can to get as many points by the end of the year that we can.

"I feel a lot better right now than I did 10 races ago about the prospects of winning races and being competitive week in and week out."

Labonte echoes his engineer's sentiments: "Knowing that we've been getting better on our set-ups here the past few weeks gives me a lot of confidence. I know it gives Jimmy and everybody else a lot of confidence that hopefully we'll go back up there and get back in the swing of things as far as our confidence level goes."

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