When Alex Labbe shows up to the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval this weekend with DGM Racing, he expects to run near the front. Quietly, he‘s one of the best drivers at the track, finishing inside the top six in three of the five races since the track debuted. Never has he finished outside of the top 15.
Labbe grew up karting in Canada before turning to the Super Truck Series in Quebec. After winning the championship, he transitioned to late models in the American Canadian Tour Series in 2010. He made occasional trips across the border into the United States and competed in the New England area. Competing in the NASCAR Pinty‘s Series is where he learned how to road race while also beat-and-bang on short tracks.
“It‘s a good place to cut your teeth and learn a lot from some of the best drivers in stock cars on road courses in North America,” Labbe said of his stint in the Pinty‘s Series, spanning parts of 10 seasons. “It‘s where I learned the most.”
Labbe struck up a mentor with fellow Canadian Mario Gosselin prior to running his first Pinty‘s race in 2012. That friendship ultimately led to a driver-crew chief bond in the 2017 season, when the two dominated the circuit with five wins and a championship.
Meanwhile, Gosselin was dipping his toes into running NASCAR teams in the Xfinity Series and Craftsman Truck Series in the mid-2010s. He turned to Labbe to be DGM‘s first full-time Xfinity driver in 2018.
“I‘ve never seen a jockey win the Kentucky Derby on a donkey,” Gosselin said. “You have to have a driver, but you‘ve got to have a horse. It takes it all. [Labbe is] a great all-around driver.”
Much of Labbe‘s attention has been focused on getting the job done for DGM in the Xfinity Series since 2018. He scored his first career top 10 that season, placing ninth at Mid-Ohio. The team had enough funding to field a car for him in 10 races the following season, scoring another top 10 in the inaugural Charlotte Roval race.
Even though they knew how well Labbe could run on road courses, it was an eye-opener for Gosselin. Xfinity teams were given additional practice time, but Labbe had a flight delay and couldn‘t make it. But when he hit the Charlotte property, he was a factor.
“He jumped into the car and was in the top 10 immediately in a matter of a few laps,” Gosselin said. “It‘s something about the Roval that fits his style. It‘s a track that requires a lot of finesse and patience. That fits his style well and we hit on a good setup there from day one.”
Labbe returned to DGM full time in 2020, earning a career-high five top 10s, including his first on an oval in the season-opening Daytona race after leading 19 laps. His lone top five in 151 career starts came in the Charlotte monsoon, placing fourth behind series heavyweights Kaulig Racing and JR Motorsports. He went on to score three top 10s apiece in 2021 and 2022, sprinkling in Darlington and Martinsville.
The 2023 season has been a new experience for Labbe. For the first time, he‘s competing with teams outside the DGM parameters, making starts for RSS Racing, SS GreenLight Racing and Emerling-Gase Motorsports. In a deep Xfinity field, six of his 13 starts this season have resulted in top 20s. Three times, he‘s finished 11th, and he‘s yet to crack the top 10.
“It‘s cool to see that other people recognize what I‘m doing,” Labbe said. “I‘m fortunate to have run a lot of races with DGM and it‘s fun to be in other equipment and try to compare what‘s different and try to make the most out of every opportunity that I get.”
To receive calls from other team owners is a new feeling. After running inside the top 15 for much of the Chicago Street Race, Emerling-Gase wanted Labbe back for the Indianapolis road course, the site of one of his three 11th-place finishes this season.
Labbe is well aware of the business side of NASCAR, as he lost his primary sponsor Can-Am last season. The partnership helped him secure the bulk of his starts with DGM in the past. Without it, he brings smaller sponsors to the table.
“I‘m very fortunate that teams believe in me more outside of the business,” Labbe added. “It‘s a lot easier for them to just get a driver that comes here with a sponsor and sit in their car and they don‘t have to worry about that part of the business. It‘s cool to have their trust that way.
“It‘s definitely rewarding. It‘s harder and harder; 10 or 15 years ago, we saw that more often. Now, it‘s a lot more rare, but it‘s rewarding. I feel like I‘ve been able to make the most out of all my opportunities.”
In 2023, most of Labbe‘s Xfinity races have been week-to-week deals. For his Pocono start with SS GreenLight, he knew just days before the event that he would be piloting the No. 08 car. He still lives in Victoriaville, Quebec, and books flights out of Montreal or Burlington, VT, as both are similar distances apart.
Outside of the Xfinity Series, Labbe is fine competing in his home country, as he‘s ran multiple Pinty‘s Series races this season. He also tried his hand at racing a dirt modified for the first time at the end of May. It resulted in him scoring the pole and winning the race.
Gosselin knows Labbe is a hot shoe, and if the right opportunity arises, he could show his true potential at the national level.
“He‘s family to us; he‘s like a brother to my daughters,” Gosselin noted. “No matter where he‘s at, we want to see him do well. I would rather not compete against him, but when we do, we will help him.”
There‘s no challenge that Labbe won‘t attempt to overcome. His next task to conquer will be the toughest.
“I‘m hard headed and have been focused here and trying to make it happen,” he said. “I‘ve got one top five, but before I quit, I want to win a race in the Xfinity Series. That‘s on my bucket list.”