Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Labbe On New Job: "I'll Work Hard Every Day"

Last October, veteran NASCAR crew chief Richard "Slugger" Labbe announced that he was ready to slow his roll; giving up full-time life on the road for a new role as the head of Research and Development at Richard Childress Racing.

Yesterday, those plans were put on hold, when RCR announced that Labbe will replace Gil Martin as crew chief for Austin Dillon and the No. 3 Sprint Cup Series Chevrolet.

"I was on the shop floor trying to get the truck loaded up to go to Richmond to test with Brian Scott, and I got called in the office and told, `this is what's going on.’"

Labbe and Martin will essentially trade jobs, with Martin heading up the team’s R&D effort, effective immediately.

"It's time to get off the semi-retirement gig and get back after it,” said Labbe on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s SiriusXM Speedway yesterday. “I've still got to call my wife, daughter and my son and let them know what's going on. My son's got nine baseball games in the next two weeks (that) I'm now not going to attend, but that’s part of it. It's what we do. We're racers.

“I've spent 30 years in this sport, and without it, I wouldn't be where I'm at today."

As part of his R&D effort, Labbe has served as crew chief for Ty Dillon’s part-time Sprint Cup Series effort, most recently recording a solid, 14th-place finish at Michigan International Speedway Sunday. His resume includes a 2003 Daytona 500 win with driver Michael Waltrip, as well as an emotional 2011 Brickyard 400 score with Paul Menard at the wheel. Now, he is tasked with returning RCR’s fabled No. 3 Chevrolet to Victory Lane for the first time in years.

"If we can get Austin running like we have Ty, I'm looking forward to getting this No. 3 car back in Victory Lane where it belongs," said Labbe. "That's the challenge, that's the goal and I'll be pissed if we don't get there."

With Dillon mired a disappointing 23rd in the championship standings, Labbe said he knows where there is work to be done.

"They've always qualified very, very well,” said Labbe. “It seems like they struggle when they throw the green flag on restarts. (Then) they get behind for four or five laps, lose track position and… struggle making that up.
"There are certain things I need to discuss with (Austin) and see what his thoughts are. But from me looking from the outside in, they need a little bit of love here and there -- in certain areas – to get everyone pointed in the same direction."

The best solution, he said, is good, old-fashioned elbow grease.

"If you're not working, someone else is working to try and beat you," Labbe revealed. "I work my ass off every day and try to come up with the things that put speed in the race car. I'm not going to stop now. (I’m) back at it full time. That's what they've asked me to do, and that's what I'm going to do.”

Labbe said he looks forward to returning Dillon to the competitive form that earned him a pair of titles in NASCAR’s Camping World Truck and XFINITY Series in 2011 and 2014.

"He's a champion, and hopefully we'll get him there again," said Labbe. "But the first thing we've got to do is lead laps and get him to Victory Lane. If I don't do that, Richard (Childress) will be all the way up my butt.

“So I've got to work very hard to get that done."

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