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Looking forward to Sonoma and having a good time with the Labontes

I'm excited about this road course race.

The 43 had a good run at Infineon Raceway last year. Obviously, my history, I used to go to road course races with Jeff Gordon, so I have a lot of confidence there. We're definitely looking forward to it.

We tested at Virginia International Raceway a couple of weeks ago and feel like we had a decent test there, and we feel like we're going with better equipment than we had there.

Bobby kind of surprised me at Sonoma last year. He's not one you would normally think of as a road course racer, and I distinctly remember looking at the board last year and he was on top.

Honestly, you've got to go into this race thinking fuel strategy. If you look at the history of this race, the people who have made two pit stops have won. To do it on two pit stops you are absolutely pushing everything, and you are banking on caution-flag laps. I'll have a pretty good headache after this race.

After practices Friday and Saturday, we'll get real good fuel-mileage readings, and that's going to tell you if you're going to be really close, and whether you're going to go for it, or if you're going to try to finish the best you can on three stops.

I look forward to it. I enjoy trying different strategies from other people during a race. We've done that a few times this year, and we've had better finishes than we should have with the car we've had. We've developed very good pit strategies.

Having Bobby signed for four years, for me and the team, we really haven't let that bother us at all. For Bobby, it's kind of a big decision, a big burden lifted off his shoulders. He doesn't have to worry about that and can focus on other things.

As far as our team, we had the same goals before the announcement as after the announcement. I know it's going to be great for the company, and it's going to help our performance down the road. For us, it's business as usual. He's been good about it. He doesn't let his business affect his racing at all.

With Bobby's brother Terry Labonte running with the Petty Enterprises team now, it's been different. Fun. I didn't know Terry well before now and what little I've dealt with him, he's a great guy. He's real laid-back. It's neat seeing how well they talk to each other at the racetrack before they get there, before and after practices, just all the time.

Bobby's definitely not as laid-back as Terry is, but it's pretty obvious they're brothers. Both are very soft-spoken. We're enjoying having them together.

As for Michigan, it's not far from my hometown in Grand Rapids, but I didn't see any family while I was there.

Usually, I've gotten so many family members calling for passes, and you can only get so many pit passes. I think they were afraid to ask me this time. Nobody came. I either get more people than I can get passes for or nobody wants to come.

Maybe we better start running better. Maybe they're embarrassed (I'm laughing). It was a tough race weekend for us. Going in, we were 159 points out of the top 12, which is definitely doable. Now, we're 239, but we're not giving up hope. The way these races go, there's no telling how people are going to run.

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 will take ESPN.com readers inside his life on and off the track each week with the help of writer Angelique S. Chengelis.