Saturday, February 13, 2021

XFINITY: Alex Labbe scores first last-place finish on a rough Daytona night for DGM Racing

PHOTO: @dgm_racing

Alex Labbe picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner 300 at the Daytona International Speedway when his #36 Larue Industrial Snow Blowers Chevrolet was involved in a multi-car accident after 60 of 122 laps.

The finish came in Labbe’s 80th series start. In the XFINITY Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 15th for the ##6, the 340th from a crash, and the 562nd for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 48th for the #36, the 1,236th from a crash, and the 1,760th for Chevrolet.

One of the strongest talents among NASCAR’s growing Canadian contingent, Labbe enjoyed the best season of his career in 2020. The six-time NASCAR Pinty’s Series winner and 2017 champion began the year with a 10th-place finish at Daytona – his first of five top-ten finishes – and led 19 laps. He continued to excel at both the superspeedways and road courses, taking 9th and 10th in the two Talladega races, then 8th at the inaugural event on the Indianapolis Grand Prix Circuit. His best run yet came in the torrential downpour in downtown Concord, where he ran a career-best 4th. DGM Racing, the Mario Gosselin team for which he races, improved along with him – particularly teammate Josh Williams, who earned another six Top Tens of his own in the #92 Chevrolet. Both would be ones to watch when the 2021 season began at Daytona.

When qualifying was rained out, Labbe secured the 19th starting spot by the rule book, having run 19th fastest of the 44 drivers who took time in opening practice. Missing the cut were part-timer Chris Cockrum, and the new teams fielded for Ronnie Bassett, Jr., Mario Gosselin, Tyler Reddick, and Jordan Anderson. Gosselin, Labbe’s team owner, had attempted to field a fourth DGM Racing car, the #91.

Rolling off 40th and last was Jason White, who hadn’t made any starts in NASCAR’s top three series since the Truck Series at Las Vegas on September 27, 2014. This time around, he drove the former #93 RSS Racing entry, which closed out the 2020 season with back-to-back last-place finishes with Josh Reaume. Now renumbered the #23 under the Reaume Brothers Racing banner, the car was also a blue-and-pink Ford sponsored by A-Game Energy. While just 34th in practice, the team’s 2020 association with RSS kept them in the field as the final starter.

Joining White in the back was 23rd-place Robby Lyons, who pitted his #61 CSM Masonry Toyota during the pace laps, followed by 27th-place starter Matt Mills, who dropped back voluntarily in the #5 J.F. Electric Chevrolet. When the race started, Mills remained in last place, just behind Lyons on the inside line. Mills passed him by Lap 2, and Kyle Weatherman slipped to 39th in Mike Harmon Racing’s #47 Axe Crossbows Chevrolet. Weatherman and Lyons then lost touch with the pack and drafted each other until the caution came out on Lap 4.

For Labbe, trouble found him early. Running in a tight pack of traffic, he broke loose in front of Ty Dillon’s #54 Bass Pro Shops Toyota and spun to the inside of the track. Just like teammate Caesar Bacarella in the 2020 running, Labbe didn’t hit anything, and pitted for fresh tires and adjustments. In doing so, he pitted too soon along with White, and both would drop to the tail end for the restart. The two traded last place until the Lap 8 restart, when Mills reassumed the position, followed by White on Lap 9, and Bacarella on Lap 10.

Bacarella’s #90 AP Sport Regimen Chevrolet was still running in 40th when the caution fell again on Lap 11, this time for still another DGM Racing entry. Josh Williams’ #92 Alloy Employer / Sleep Well Chevrolet slowed down the backstretch with a flat left-rear tire, the driver complaining of a bad vibration. He became the first driver to lose a lap as he made it to pit road, and would incur a pass-through penalty after taking the green. On Lap 14, he rejoined the field two laps down, but still complaining of the vibration. Five circuits later, with the leaders closing fast, Williams spun in Turn 4 and further damaged the right-rear corner, drawing the second caution. Once again, he cleared the “Crash Clock,” and though he doubted his car would make it to the end of Stage 1, he reached the Lap 31 caution without incident.

Williams remained in last place through Stage 2. On Lap 50, he hugged the inside line in Turn 1 to let the leaders go by once again. He remained the only lapped car until Lap 58 when Kyle Weatherman, who had also lost the draft, was passed down the backstretch. This would give Weatherman the Lucky Dog when the caution fell to end the stage two circuits later. When it did, trouble broke out again.

On Lap 60, Brandon Jones, who was among the Top Ten in his #19 Menards / Jeld-Wen Toyota, crossed the nose of Myatt Snider’s #2 Tax Slayer Chevrolet and spun in the tri-oval. Hydroplaning across the wet grass, Jones’ splitter dug in and ripped off, then skated into traffic. Cody Ware jammed on the brakes, but couldn’t avoid skidding his #17 Jacob Construction Chevrolet into Jones. Not far behind was Labbe, who had rebounded from his spin to at one point run in 17th. Ware’s impact knocked Jones into Labbe’s path, destroying the left-front corner. All three drivers climbed out uninjured, their cars done for the night. The three dropped below Williams in the rankings on Lap 66 with Labbe taking over last place.

Rounding out the Bottom Five were 37th-place Jeffrey Earnhardt in the #0 Forever Lawn Chevrolet and 36th-place Michael Annett in the #1 American Heart Association Chevrolet, both also victims of a pileup that sent them into the infield grass. Josh Williams climbed to finish 21st while last-place starter Jason White managed a 10th-place finish – his first top-ten finish in the series since May 4, 2013 at Talladega. His was the first of several strong runs by underdog teams.

Brandon Brown was collected in one of the night’s pileups, suffering damage to the right-front corner of his #68 Original Larry’s Hard Lemonade Chevrolet. After running in and around the Top Ten for much of the night, he held onto the outside line in the final laps to come home 6th –tying his best-ever finish at Daytona in 2019.

Brett Moffitt came just a couple moves away from scoring Chris Our his first XFINITY Series win as a team owner, coming home a close runner-up to Austin Cindric in Our Motorsports’ #02 Fr8 Auctions Chevrolet. He did so without a consistent drafting partner after teammate Tyler Reddick was sent home by the rain in a second Our car.

Taking 8th was Brandon Gdovic, who clawed his way from 39th on the grid in Sam Hunt Racing’s #26 Toyota Racing Toyota. The run came in only Gdovic’s 11th series start and his first-ever on the Daytona oval. It was also the first-ever top-ten finish for Sam Hunt Racing in their third year of operations.

The 2020 season saw Joe Graf, Jr. finish last in both XFINITY Series races at Daytona. This year, he and the SS-Green Light Racing team rebounded with an 11th-place finish in the #07 Bucked Up Apparel Chevrolet.

With six laps to go, both Landon Cassill and Tommy Joe Martins were also in the Top 10, only to be collected in the same accident. For Cassill, it was his first start since returning to JD Motorsports in a #4 Chevrolet sponsored by his iRacing backer, Blu-Emu. For Martins and his #44 AAN Adjusters Chevrolet, it was bouncing back from a DNQ in 2020 that began a rollercoaster season. Each fell victim to the same wet grass and splitter damage after contact from Jeb Burton, leaving them 23rd and 24th, respectively.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #36 in an XFINITY Series race at Daytona.
*The 60 laps completed by Labbe are the third-most by an XFINITY Series last-placer at Daytona. The record goes to A.J. Allmendinger, who was disqualified after finishing all 100 laps on July 5, 2019, followed by Scott Lagasse, Jr.’s 71 laps before a crash on February 14, 2009.

40) #36-Alex Labbe / 60 laps / crash
39) #17-Cody Ware / 60 laps / crash
38) #19-Brandon Jones / 60 laps / crash
37) #0-Jeffrey Earnhardt / 74 laps / crash
36) #1-Michael Annett / 74 laps / crash

1st) DGM Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (1)


1 comment: