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From the Pit Box: Slugger Labbe at Pocono Raceway

Richard “Slugger” Labbe enters his fourth year with the No. 27 Menards team at Richard Childress Racing. The Saco, Maine native has set the No. 27 team up for a successful year, logging seven top-10 finishes and currently sitting 14th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship points standings.
We sat down with Slugger to see what it takes to be successful at Pocono Raceway.

Just how tricky is the “Tricky Triangle”?

“Pocono is a unique challenge. We race here in June and come back six weeks later in July. The track definitely changes in that short amount of time. We actually tested here last week and the conditions we saw then were way different than what we are fighting this weekend. The track does change a lot with rubber being put down and the temperature of the track. It’ll make you want to pull your hair out because it comes down to track position so strategy with how many tires to put on during a pit stop really messes with your race plan. Playing the track position game definitely affects the car handling. When they throw the green flag you’re constantly playing the game, trying to get track position and keep the driver happy. Pocono is definitely one of the trickier tracks we race at all year long.”

How will you approach setup now that the asphalt has aged a year?

“Definitely the track is losing grip and we typically see that with surfaces as we race on them and time goes by. There are some grip issues as the rear of the car won’t stick so Paul has to manipulate the throttle off the corner. It makes for a challenge for sure. You can shift here and that helps a little bit but if you don’t get back to the gas in the right spot at 100% throttle you definitely pay the price down the straightaway. The biggest thing we fight here at Pocono is drive off the corner.”

Do you have a favorite racing memory at Pocono?

“In 1995 I worked for Terry Labonte when we came to Pocono. Jeff Gordon dominated while we ran second for most of the race. Pocono was one of Terry’s worst tracks and coming to the last restart with three or four laps to go, Jeff missed a shift and we won the race. Needless to say, there was a big party that night when we got to Indianapolis since we were testing there the next day.”

How do you mentally prepare for the long summer stretch?

“The biggest thing is keeping your team fresh and their minds right. We are in the middle of the stretch now and we tested last week in Pocono then this coming week we will test in Chicago so there’s a lot of stuff going on. We are preparing a lot of different cars right now, there’s a road course coming up so we have a lot of different mindsets at the moment. The biggest thing is just making sure the guys get all their work done and get the time off they need to stay fresh. We signed up for it so it’s something everyone is pretty used to by now.”

Make sure you follow Slugger on Twitter at @SluggerLabbe and the team at @RCR27PMenard.

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