There are always layers to a great story, and so it is with Austin Dillon’s win in the rain-delayed Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
It was barely a week ago that Justin Alexander replaced Slugger Labbe (above, right) as Dillon’s crew chief, and Labbe left the Richard Childress Racing operation “to pursue other opportuniites.”
If you thought that meant Labbe was bitter about the change, think again. And here’s the social-media proof.
As noted by Jamie Little of FOX Sports, Labbe was one of the first to reach Victory Lane to congratulate Dillon and the No. 3 RCR team from which he had recently been dismissed. It was indeed a classy move.
Chassis No. 600
Yes, both Dillon’s new crew chief and old one confirmed that he won NASCAR’s only 600-mile race on a new chassis — Chassis No. 600.
When Childress was sked if the car was headed to the RCR museum, Alexander interrupted and replied, “I don’t know if I want him to put it away. This is a brand‑new car we brought this week, chassis number 600, believe it or not. Kind of ironic.”
Shoutout from Junior
Dale Earnhardt Jr. even took note of Labbe’s congratulatory note to the No. 3 team on Twitter — and pointed out that Labbe likely helped lay the foundation for it.
Labbe was Dillon’s crew chief from the middle of the 2015 season, when he replaced Gil Martin, through all of 2016 when Dillon made NASCAR’s playoffs and through the first 11 races of this season.
You could tell Labbe was bursting with pride, even though he is no longer with the team.
Labbe also made sure to remind everyone what Memorial Day weekend is really all about. Another class move.
Slugger the spotter
Labbe spotted for the car of J.J. Yeley in the 600 as a favor to Tommy Baldwin Racing. He took note of his surroundings.
Labbe also took note of the big crowd from his new perch atop the spotter’s stand.
Make no mistake, though. Justin Alexander had lots to do with Dillon winning his first career race Sunday, making a gutsy call to stay out and stretch his fuel to the end.
It is the second time Alexander has won in his first race as crew chief for Dillon, having also done so the first race he was atop the pit box for the driver in the XFINITY Series.
“We add a piece with Justin,” Dillon said after Sunday night’s race. “His demeanor, he had ice in his veins tonight. Make the call, let the guys go to work.”
In their post-race news conference, Dillon and his grandfather/car owner Richard Childress admitted they argued earlier in the week about the direction of the team, ostensibly bringing about the crew-chief change.
Of the argument, Childress nodded to Dillon and said, “He’s won twice this week.” He later added of the crew chief swtich, “It was a company decision.
Grateful for opportunity
Alexander obviously is grateful for his opportunity as well.
Making a point
While also making it clear that he is ecstatic with Alexander and supports him fully, Childress did also take time in the post-race news conference to praise Labbe as well.
J”ust a lot of decisions had to be made. Nothing negative at all about Slugger,” Childress said. “We always felt it was time for a change. Slugger helped us out throughout the years, and I would never say anything bad about Slugger.
“It was just time for a change. You could hear it in their voices. You could hear it in Austin’s.”
Victory Lane interview
Watch as Dillon talks about his huge win on FOX Sports’ “NASCAR Victory Lane” post-race show.
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