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July 4, 2013

"From the Pit Box" for Daytona with Slugger Labbe

Read our new weekly feature "From the Pit Box" where one of our crew chiefs talks about the upcoming race. This week, we hear from Slugger Labbe, crew chief on the No. 27 Menards Chevrolet

     From the Pit Box w/ Slugger Labbe – Crew Chief No. 27 Menards Chevrolet

Richard “Slugger” Labbe joined forces with Sprint Cup Series driver Paul Menard in 2010. Since joining forces, the duo has earned one victory, six top five and 27 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 the NASCAR 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 Daytona International Speedway?

A: “The thing about Daytona that is unique is we don’t try and practice very much. With all of the rules they have in place at restrictor-plate tracks, you are set with shocks, springs and all of your selections. We try not to run much, so we don’t take a chance of getting caught up in a wreck during practice. We will probably run about 10 laps of practice and that will be it. We know the package we want to run, so we will just got out and do what they call a ‘leak check’ on the car to make sure it doesn’t have and leaks and that the gears, engine and transmission are ok. We sent the Research and Development team down in April for the Goodyear Tire test with the same Menards Chevrolet we are taking this weekend. That test allowed us to learn things we can apply during the Coke Zero 400 on Saturday night.”

Q: How does the track at Daytona change during the race?
A
: “The track doesn’t change a whole lot over the course of the evening. With it being a night race, we do practice some during the day, so from our practice sessions to the actual race on Saturday night, the track will get faster.”

Q: What are the keys to success at the famed superspeedway?

A: “It’s important to keep your fenders intact and miss the accidents. The biggest key is keeping your nose clean the last 10 laps, make your way to the front and be there at the end. Setup wise, it’s easy, but it all comes down to driver timing. It’s risky and sometimes you go too early and get in a wreck, and sometimes you go too late and it’s not enough time to get where you need to be. There will be some people on different strategies throughout the night. There will be some drivers that try and race to stay out front thinking that’s the safest place to be, and some will ride around in the back until the end of the race when it’s time to go. At Daytona, it takes about 15-20 laps to make your way from the back to the front because the track narrows up so much in turns two and four. It presents a unique challenge at Daytona, because you’ve got to really time your moves to make a run to the front.” 

Q: What is your favorite memory from Daytona International Speedway?

A: “My favorite memory at Daytona is in 2001 when I won the Coke Zero 400 with Michael Waltrip as my driver. It was my first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race win as a crew chief, and it was just a really cool experience. Then, we came back in 2003 and won the Daytona 500. Daytona has been good to me and I have a lot of good memories there. I’m actually trying to buy the car I won my first Cup race with so I can fix it up and restore it to its original condition. I think it would be a good piece to add to my collection of race memorabilia.”
 

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