Pinty’s Series champion Alex Labbe’s brilliant run in the NASCAR Xfinity’s race at Daytona ended abruptly when the gas tank ran empty just a few miles before the chequered flag.
A rookie in the Xfinity series, Labbe qualified the No. 36 Can-Am/Kappa/Cyclops Gear/Wholey Seafood of team AM Prime Racing of Mario Gosselin in 22nd place, a stunning performance in itself.
Labbe drove well, using his head to stay in touch with the leaders, not losing a lap, and staying away from trouble.
His crew chief, the experienced Mario Gosselin expected the race to end on Lap 120 or so, as scheduled, and decided not to fill the tank completely during the last pit stop. However, the final laps turned into chaos, and the race lasted an additional 23 laps (57.5 extra miles, quite a good distance!).
The V8 ran out of gas just moments before the field got the green for what was to be the final and decisive green/white/checkered attempt of the race. Josh Williams pushed Labbe’s car to his pit and after a speedy splash of fuel, Labbe rejoined the fray and was classified finally 24th, one lap down to the winner, Tyler Reddick.
“This thing should have ended one lap earlier,” Labbe told Motorsport.com.
“But it’s part of the game. Under the old rules, the officials only had three attempts at green/white/checkered. This year, they can do as many attempts as needed. To score a Top-10 finish in our first race ever would have been a dream come true.”
Despite his lack of experience, Labbe was quick from the word go. “Qualifying went very well, and the gap with the really fast guys of the big teams like Roush (Fenway Racing) and Joe Gibbs (Racing) was not that great.
“It was my first race on a superspeedway and the plan was to keep is easy and keep in touch with the leaders until the last 20/15 laps. We stayed in the lead pack for most of the race. I think I only lost the draft once. Near the very end of the race, I navigated between the seventh and ninth place. I tried to save as much fuel as possible, shutting down the engine on the straights. I made good restarts, running two or even three wide. It was wild! Unfortunately, the engine died.
“I am pleased with the overall result. I brought back the car without a scratch on it, which is pretty good for a first race at Daytona,” Labbe told us.