Commentary

Cure-all for bad weekend in Southern Cal? Snowmobiling in Wyoming

The best way to forget a bad weekend at Auto Club Speedway? Snowmobiling with Bobby Labonte and Richard Petty is a good start, Jeff Meendering writes in his diary.

Updated: February 28, 2008, 7:54 PM ET
By Jeff Meendering | Special to ESPN.com

California definitely didn't go as planned. We didn't have a very good test there in the preseason, and we came back with quite a bit different setup than we had there in January.

[+] EnlargeBobby Labonte
Jason Smith/Getty ImagesBobby Labonte started 19th but finished a disappointing 25th in Monday's Auto Club 500.

We had a test at Nashville and planned on racing that setup at California. The problem is, we had five laps of practice. That really hurt us. We chose to run that new setup, and we felt like we were going to be better there, but we were just off, and we never had the practice time. We ran 500 miles of practice, basically, for us. We made some big changes during the race, and we got good notes for when we get back there. We threw that one away. It was definitely not the run we were looking for.

What made that weekend so tough, we started the first day under the lights, we got pretty far into the race that first day, and the second day [after the rain postponement], we had such different track conditions. We dialed into that kind of track the first day, and the next day we came back to a different track. We felt like we were trying to play catch-up the whole weekend.

After California, we went straight to Wyoming. Sunday morning, Bobby [Labonte] told me he was going to Richard Petty's ranch to go snowmobiling, and he asked if I wanted to ride along. Richard and Linda were up there. One of the head guys from Polaris, which is one of our sponsors, was there and he gave me some lessons.

I'm from Michigan, but snowmobiling in Michigan is a lot different than in Wyoming. The snow was powder, and it was the deepest snow I've ever been in. You do a lot of climbing, because it's in the mountains. It's neat. It's definitely an experience. I've never done anything like that. It's really relaxing. You shut your snowmobile down, and it's really quiet. I saw a couple moose, and a few of the people in our group saw a bald eagle. Hanging out with Bobby, snowmobiling, I was getting nervous, but he was getting courageous. He was climbing these mountains -- he wasn't just climbing -- he had to jump at the top of them.

It definitely was a bonding experience with Bobby. Just flying in the plane for a couple hours together was really good. We hung out all day Tuesday, snowmobiling. It was definitely was a good learning experience. We talked a lot just about Sunday at California, stuff that he felt would help us, and I told him things I was thinking about. We normally wouldn't have that much time to talk about a race. We have competition meetings every Tuesday, and Bobby comes to them, but this was really good. It opened our eyes up to maybe we should do that, just he and i, just sit and talk about things every week.

Now it's on to Vegas. We tested a lot better there. We knew going to California would be a struggle, but we're anticipating better things this weekend. We left the test pretty happy with our car.

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.