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May 22, 2017

‘Slugger’ Labbe out at RCR amid crew chief shakeup

Richard Childress Racing announced changes to its crew chief lineup Monday morning, naming Justin Alexander as a replacement for Richard “Slugger” Labbe with the No. 3 Chevrolet team and driver Austin Dillon.

Alexander moves over from RCR’s No. 2 Chevrolet in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. His first race atop the No. 3 pit box will be Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The Richard Childress-owned team announced that Randall Burnett, most recently with JTG Daugherty Racing, will take Alexander’s place within its XFINITY Series operations. Burnett was replaced last weekend by veteran Ernie Cope on JTG Daugherty’s No. 47 Chevrolet team with driver AJ Allmendinger.

Labbe, 48, had been with Richard Childress Racing since 2011. The team indicated in a news release that Labbe “is leaving the company to pursue other opportunities.”

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ most recent points-paying event at Kansas Speedway was Labbe’s 500th race as a crew chief in NASCAR’s premier series. He has five victories as a crew chief, including Michael Waltrip’s 2003 Daytona 500 win and Paul Menard’s Indianapolis triumph in 2011.

Labbe has worked with Dillon since the midpoint of the 2015 season. This year, Dillon ranks just 22nd in the series standings, with his lone top-five finish a fifth place at Martinsville Speedway. RCR replaced Labbe with Sammy Johns for one race earlier this season, at Richmond International Raceway.

Alexander was atop the pit box for the team’s two victories in the XFINITY tour last year, going back to back with Dillon winning at Bristol Motor Speedway and Michael McDowell taking Road America. He previously worked in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, serving parts of three seasons with Menard and Childress’ No. 27 Chevrolet.