Alex Labbe: “We're slightly exceeding our expectations”
Victoriaville, Québec native Alex Labbe said he and Mario Gosselin’s DMG Racing enjoyed a solid start in the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity series.
Labbe, the 24-year-old reigning champion of the Canadian NASCAR Pinty’s Series, currently lies 16th on the Xfinity Drivers’ point’s table after five races.
Driving the No. 36 Chevy Can-Am/Kappa/Cyclops Gear/Wholey Seafood, Labbe finished 24th in Daytona (although he appeared to be in contention for a top-five finish before running out of fuel just prior to the fifth and final attempt at a green-white-checkered), then 18th in Atlanta, 17th in Las Vegas, 22nd in Phoenix and finally 19th at Auto Club Speedway.
Labbe, like the other competitors of the Xfinity series, now enjoys a two-week break in the calendar. The Canadian was the host of a morning show on the French speaking Montréal television on Thursday morning.
“Things are going well, I admit,” said Labbe. “But don’t be mistaken, it’s a huge challenge. I have to discover and master a new track every week. We're slightly exceeding our expectations, but there’s still room for improvement.”
Labbe drives for a small team headed by veteran and fellow countryman Mario Gosselin. “Mario has played a major role in my career so far,” Labbe added.
“When I started racing Late Models, he’s the one who built my car. We talk on a regular basis about technical stuff as well as the driving techniques. He knows in which areas I need to improve. He’s my mentor. He was my crew chief last year when I won the title of the Pinty’s Series, and again he’s working alongside me in the Xfinity series.
“We’re quite a small team. There are only five or six people working at the shop and at the race tracks. The big teams have something like 25 persons working on the cars,” the racer added.
The art of drafting
Labbe seems to have adapted quite well to his new racing environment, but what was a most striking thing for him?
“The race tracks,” the rookie racer replied. “They are all different. We race on ovals that are one, one and a half and even two miles long. We reach speeds up to 180 to 200 miles per hour. The level of competition is also extremely high. You need to be fully focussed on your driving, because the slightest mistake is usually very costly. Aerodynamics also plays a major role, not as big as in Formula 1 of course, but the science of drafting is a key element here. When you run in the pack, the turbulences are quite something.”
When asked if he’d like to compete in the Trois-Rivières round of the Pinty’s Series in August, Labbe said yes. The Xfinity Series will be racing on the Mid-Ohio road course on Saturday August 13th, and Labbe could fly directly to Trois-Rivières to contest the Pinty’s race on the following day.
“I circled that date on my calendar a long time ago!” Labbe replied. “I’m facing big challenges every week but I’d like very much to race again on the streets of Trois-Rivières. I would obviously miss qualifying and need to start last on the grid. Passing is nothing easy on this street circuit, but I relish the challenge.”
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