Alex Labbe taking best shot at Dash 4 Cash bonus at Pocono
Crew members for Xfinity Series team DGM Racing were busy loading wrecked and damaged cars in the Talladega garage area last weekend when they received some surprising, but good news.
Wayne Auton, director of the Xfinity Series, approached the team and told owner Mario Gosselin that his driver Alex Labbe had qualified for the final round of the Dash 4 Cash, to be held Sunday at Pocono Raceway (12:30 p.m ET on FS1).
“Everybody was pretty happy,” Labbe told NBC Sports.
Labbe, driver of the No. 90 Chevrolet this weekend, had been sixth on a late-race restart in Talladega, fell to around 12th and rallied to ninth before the checkered flag. Between him and fourth-place finisher Austin Cindric were four part-time drivers who won’t be racing at Pocono.
The prospect of going up against three other competitors - Justin Haley, Ross Chastain and Cindric - for a $100,000 bonus hadn’t even crossed Labbe’s mind.
“We’re a smaller team and we don’t really focus on that stuff,” Labbe said. “It’s pretty cool for an organization like ours to qualify for that kind of deal. It’s huge boost for us ... all the media attention we’re going to get during the weekend, we’re just going to try do our best and showcase what we can do Sunday.”
One reason the possibility of earning $100,000 is important for Labbe is that it could extend his season. Though the Canadian driver has competed in all 11 races so far, he’s not guaranteed a full season.
“We’re still pretty much week-to-week, but we’re probably going to run the next two to three weeks, for sure,” Labbe said. “Trying to build up some momentum and I think that situation (Dash 4 Cash) is really going to definitely help us a lot. With that run we had last week and the Dash 4 Cash and next week at Indy, I think it’s going to be a pretty good stint for us. We’re just going to try to get everything we can and hope it can make us go further in the season.”
Working in his favor are sponsors who have stepped up to give the 27-year-old driver his best possible shot at the $100,000. Labbe will have Larue Snowblowers and Rousseau Automotive on his car. With their support, DGM Racing was able to lease an ECR engine for Sunday’s race. It will be the first time in 58 career Xfinity Series starts that Labbe’s car has had a leased engine.
“The motor we’ve run have always been owned by the team,” Labbe said. “We know they’re always down a little bit, for sure. ... But it’s definitely going to be the best motor package that I’ve run in the Xfinity Series. It’s really tough to know what we’re going to get in an engine. Pocono’s a completely different track.”
Labbe has only made one start at Pocono. That came in 2018, his only full-time season, when he finished 18th.
One difference in Sunday’s race is that Xfinity teams will not be using a high downforce package that was used in 2018.
“Going to be a lot different for sure,” Labbe said. “We were pretty much flat out through the corners too, it was almost like superspeedway racing. It was all about the draft, but this time it’s going to be with the normal package. ... I think we’ll be fine. I kind of like that kind of track. I will not classify myself as a true road (course) racer, but I really like the road racing. I think Pocono is a little like a road race ... I think it fits my driving style pretty decent. I just hope we can get there and have a solid car to start the race and work on it and try to race into the top 10.”
Going against two Kaulig Racing cars and one Team Penske car, Labbe knows “we’re the underdog.
“We have everything to gain. For sure I’m a little more nervous ... we really want to see what we can do with that kind of motor plan. That’s going to be a big challenge. ... We know that Penske car and those Kaulig cars are going to be really, really hard to beat. We never know what can happen.”