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Veteran NASCAR crew chief Slugger Labbe takes new role with Toyota Racing Development

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Veteran NASCAR crew chief and current NASCAR America analyst Slugger Labbe has a new job.

Labbe announced on this morning’s The Morning Drive on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that he has joined Toyota Racing and Toyota Racing Development as Manager of Teams and Vehicles Support.

Labbe’s duties will be stretch across all forms of Toyota’s racing involvement including NASCAR, NHRA drag racing, NASCAR K&N Pro Series, USAC, Rally Series and several other series.

“It’s going to be a challenge for me, working for an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) after being in NASCAR for 32 years,” Labbe said. “But working with the various racing divisions of Toyota Motorsports through TRD is a very exciting challenge for me and I’m looking forward to it.”

Labbe’s duties will include technical support to Toyota teams across all the various motorsports series it supports.

“I’ll be a manager of some of that direction as for what the teams specifically need,” Labbe said.

Labbe won’t have to travel far for his first assignment: the suburban Charlotte resident will be at this weekend’s NHRA event at zMax Dragway, across from Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“I get to do something completely different than NASCAR to start this weekend and I’m looking forward to that challenge,” Labbe said. “It’s going to be a pretty cool opportunity for me.”

Labbe left Richard Childress Racing as crew chief for the No. 3 NASCAR Cup Chevrolet driven by Austin Dillon on May 22.

Labbe’s departure led to a shuffle of crew chiefs within its Cup and Xfinity teams that saw Justin Alexander replace Labbe and Randall Burnett took over as crew chief for the No. 2 Xfinity Series Chevrolet.

Labbe had been a Cup crew chief with RCR since 2010. He initially worked with Paul Menard, who won the 2011 Brickyard 400 with Labbe as crew chief. He had been with Dillon since midway through the 2015 season.

In 500 starts as a Cup crew chief, Labbe has five victories, also winning three times with Michael Waltrip and once with Jeremy Mayfield.

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NASCAR America: Joey Logano faces must-win situation in Bristol

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Joey Logano needs a win to make it into the Cup playoffs. Currently outside the top 16, the Team Penske driver has to win in the next three races or he likely won’t make it to the playoffs

Luckily, he’s won two of the last three night races at Bristol Motor Speedway.

But NASCAR America analyst Slugger Labbe says Logano’s recent record “doesn’t matter.

“You’re going to Bristol now, a night race, a traction compound that’s going to be applied and that’s going to wear off,” Labbe said. “Your car is going to be adjustable. The team can’t make any mistakes. They’re 98 points out of the playoff bubble. They have to win. Bristol is definitely a good shot for them.”

But in addition to the traction compound that had been treated on the track differently, Parker Kligerman said he thinks there’s a “lack of … confidence” in the No. 22 team.

“It doesn’t seem like the confidence is there to go out and get that win,” Kligerman said. “This is a race track that rewards confidence.”

Watch the video for the full discussion.

NASCAR America: After rough month, Kyle Larson looking forward to upcoming races


Kyle Larson has a reason to be excited.

In the last two months dating back to Sonoma, Larson has two DNFs and five finishes of 23rd or worst. He also lost crew chief Chad Johnston to a three-race suspension. Johnston returned last weekend at Watkins Glen.

Now with Larson third in the points, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver is going to a track he’s hard to beat.

The Cup Series returns to Michigan International Speedway, which the No. 42 team has won the last two races.

“I think what happened is they detuned their race cars a little bit,” NASCAR America’s Slugger Labbe said of the team’s recent run of bad luck following Johnston’s suspension.  “I think it’s time at Michigan, won the last two races, to get back to racing.”

Parker Kligerman said the upcoming races provide a “litmus test” for the team to find out if they have lost speed.

“When he goes to Michigan and they’re suddenly not as fast at Michigan as in recent months and last year, then there’s a question mark,” Kligerman said. “That’s going to be great for them to find out.”

NASCAR America: Pressure building as Joey Logano seeks to earn playoff spot (video)

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All but needing a win to make the playoffs, Joey Logano has five races left to do so, starting with Sunday’s event at Watkins Glen International.

Logano, who has made it to the championship race in two of the last three years, still has favorable tracks for him before the playoffs begin next month.

“I know I’ve heard him say that this weekend presents his best opportunity to win,” Dale Jarrett said Friday on NASCAR America. “I also think that Bristol and Richmond present him opportunities, but the sooner you can get it out of the way, the better.”

Slugger Labbe said it’s not just Logano who is under pressure.

“I think some pressure is on the team,” Labbe said on NASCAR America. “They’ve never arrived at Watkins Glen in the past needing a win … The thing the team has to do is not panic.”

Labbe also said that crew chief Todd Gordon “has to call a perfect race.”

Thirteen drivers have claimed a playoff spot with victories, leaving three spots open. Those three spots are owned by Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray and Matt Kenseth. Logano is 69 points behind Kenseth for the final playoff spot.

For more on what Logano faces, watch the video above.


NASCAR America from 5-6 p.m. ET: Previewing Watkins Glen

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and previews this weekend’s action at Watkins Glen International.

Carolyn Manno hosts from Stamford, Connecticut, and is joined by Dale Jarrett at Watkins Glen and Slugger Labbe at NBC Charlotte.

On today’s show:

  • We’ll have highlights of Xfinity Series practice. Plus, we’ll look ahead to Sunday’s Monster Energy Cup Series race.
  • We’ll go into the vault and relive some of Watkins Glen’s best moments with This Day in NASCAR and our top-5 list.
  • Watkins Glen will be a welcome site for a struggling Joey Logano. Will the historic road course provide the right formula for a ticket to the 2017 playoffs? We’ll examine his chances.
  • We’ll take a look back at the last seven days which provided a season’s worth of storylines.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, you can also watch it via the online stream at http:/

If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.