Richard Childress Racing
“From the Pit Box” – Bristol Motor Speedway
August 22, 2013
Richard “Slugger” Labbe joined forces with Sprint Cup Series driver Paul Menard in 2010, since joining forces the duo has earned one victory, seven top five and 30 top-10 finishes. This season marks Labbe’s 15th year as a crew chief and his third at Richard Childress Racing. Labbe’s racing interest began at a young age in his native Maine when he would help his father, Ray, work on cars in NASCAR’s Busch North Series. When he is not working, Labbe enjoys spending as much time as he can with his family. He currently resides in Kannapolis, N.C. with wife Angie and their two children.
Q: How do you set the No. 27 Chevrolet up for Bristol Motor Speedway?
A: “Bristol is very unique. There are multiple grooves. It’s a short track with high banking. A lot of the drivers end up running very high near the wall and it seems like you can make pretty good time up there. If your car is handling really well you can run the bottom and make passes. Setting the car up for Bristol is very hard. We practice in the day and race at night, so we have to rely on past race notes.”
Q: How does the track at Bristol change during the race?
A: “With a concrete track there are expansion joints in between sections of the track and as the race goes on, those joints fill up with rubber and the car gets to bouncing as it hits the expansion joints. Getting the right shock and bump stop package is really critical for the longer runs in because the car will bounce like a basketball. Other than that, the track doesn’t change a whole lot. The biggest change is the car gets tight rotating through the center of the corners.”
Q: What are the keys to success in Thunder Valley
A: “The car has to be handling well enough so you can be aggressive on pit strategy. Last year at Bristol there was a caution at lap 350 and that was the last time we pitted. We ran the last 150 laps on the same set of tires and a full load of fuel. With that strategy we were able to gain a lot of track position and since the car was good, we were able to maintain most of it. Like any week, track position is really important. Handling is also key. There is no aero push at Bristol like at some of the bigger tracks, so it comes down to a lot of seat-of-the-pants short-track racing. You can just race like they did back in the old days.”
Q: What is your favorite memory from Bristol Motor Speedway?
A: “I’ve won at Bristol a couple of times, but my favorite memory was in 1995 when I was working with Terry Labonte. Dale Earnhardt and Labonte got together coming off of turn four and slid across the start/finish line wrecking. Labonte won and I remember going to Victory Lane with the car wrecked and smoking. Winning there like that was very special.”