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"From the Pit Box" - Martinsville Speedway


Richard “Slugger” Labbe teamed up with Sprint Cup Series driver Paul Menard in 2010. Since joining forces, the duo has earned one victory, 10 top-five and 34 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: What is the biggest challenge for No. 27 Chevrolet at Martinsville Speedway?

A: “Martinsville Speedway is a tough race track. It’s a track where Goodyear brought a new tire to this spring with the green initiative to help with environmental issues, and it is a tire that doesn’t put much rubber down, it just grinds away. We tested at Martinsville a couple of weeks ago and it was a one groove track. There were so many teams testing there and they didn’t want to get out of that main groove and get rubber marbles on their tires. The hard part is making sure the tire doesn’t grind away. We need to focus on tire management for 150 laps. It’s very easy to burn a set of tires off in 20 laps if you don’t manage them correctly.”

Q: How does the track at Martinsville change during the race?

A: “The more you run at Martinsville, the more rubber marbles build up on the track. If you get out of the groove and in the loose rubber, it will take you four or five laps to get the marbles cleaned off of your tires. It’s cold rubber outside of the groove and you’ve got hot tires, so if your tires go over the cold rubber the marbles stick and it’s really hard to get that debris off of your tires. If you get shoved out of the groove just a few inches you’re going to lose a lot of ground just because it takes so long to clean the debris off of your tires. The racing groove doesn’t widen much because with the new tires there aren’t rubber build up patches.”

Q: What are the keys to success at Martinsville?

A: “It requires a car that turns really well in the middle of the corners and has great forward drive off. It’s also important to have a driver that can manage his right foot so he doesn’t contribute to burning the tires off. It’s a very challenging track because it takes everyone to make it work. Track position will also be key.”

Q: What is your favorite memory from the half-mile Virginia track?

A: “I went to Victory Lane there with Dale Jarrett in 2001 and there wasn’t a scratch on the car until he pulled in. We ran the whole race without a scratch on the car and when he pulled into Victory Lane he turned the corner too tight and ripped the whole side of the car off. That was a fun memory. We made it through the race clean and then wrecked in Victory Lane.”

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