Talladega is definitely an exciting place to go to. Bobby Labonte happens to runs real well on restrictor-plate tracks, and we've been running well on restrictor-plate tracks. Well, we finished only one, the Daytona 500, and we failed to finish the second Daytona and first Talladega race because we got caught in the middle of wrecks.
I enjoy preparing the car for the superspeedway. We spend a lot of time on the car, massaging it, sending it to the wind tunnel, etc. The guys from the fab shop, body shop and crew take pride in the Talladega car, because your car is just so important. The details, having a nice body, having a slick body, all of your details add up at Talladega. It's not really setup-oriented or driver-related, it's about the car. Especially in qualifying, your work shows up more.
That's why I enjoy it. You put a lot of effort into your superspeedway race cars. You take a lot of pride from that, and it really shows up well on the track. It's not so much setup and driver -- it's definitely the piece you put out there.
Spotters are very important, because everything is happening so fast, and there's so much going on with cars three- and four-wide. The driver does everything he can looking in mirrors, but there's only so much you can see, and with the rear wings, the drivers really can't see that much out of the mirrors. From where the spotters stand, they can see so much of what's going on, and they'll tell the driver what lane to get in, what drivers you don't want to draft with -- your spotter is very important just because he can see so much more than the driver can.
Last week at Kansas we didn't hit on a whole lot, but we're 20th right now in points, and we're definitely gaining on 18th. We had a few bad weeks a month ago, and now we're getting better and making up some distance in the points. The past couple weeks, we have been doing more things and taking more chances. At Dover, for instance, we used different setups that didn't work for us in practice and qualifying -- we were terrible in qualifying and had to share a pit box for the race -- but we made big swings in the setup for the race and we finished 14th. There were times I actually thought we were the best car on the track.
But Talladega is a totally different race. It's also an interesting place. I've walked around the infield and there's a dirt track across the street, so we usually go watch the dirt races. Believe it or not, there's a lot to do there.
Jeff Meendering is the first-year crew chief for the famed Petty Enterprises No. 43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge Charger driven by Bobby Labonte. Meendering takes ESPN.com readers inside his life on and off the track each week with the help of writer Angelique S. Chengelis.