Xfinity Series rookie Alex Labbe was showing well in his first ever super speedway race at Daytona.
He qualified 22nd for AM Prime Racing, a smaller team that would be happy with just finishing without crashing the car, let alone finishing in the top ten. But that’s exactly what Labbe was on the verge of doing near the end of the race.
But then NASCAR’s new overtime rules came into play. In the Xfinity series, as of this season, there can be as many green-white-checkered restarts as it takes to get a clean finish. Due to chaos at the end of the race, that meant an added 23 laps or 57.5 miles, according to Motorsport.com.
Those extra laps were the worst thing possible for Labbe and his team, who had not accounted for the extra fuel needed for so many extra miles.
“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.
“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.”
Once it was clear the race was going to go longer than expected, Labbe did everything in his power to save fuel, but ended up having to come in to the pits just before what would be the final restart.
“I tried to save as much fuel as possible,” Labbe said. “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.”
Under the previous rules, Labbe likely would have had an impressive top ten finish, instead he finished 24th.