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Rick’s Money Quote
“They’re trying to inspect the car at night and the chassis is pitch black, so you can’t see nothing, right? They were pissed that we had painted the chassis black, because we had pushed some rules and made it very, very hard to measure those rules and police things after the race.” – Slugger Labbe
What You Need to Know
Slugger’s first gig as crew chief was with Robert Yates Racing and 1998 Winston Cup rookie-of-the-year candidate Kenny Irwin Jr. Although Irwin eventually collected the honor, the season was a struggle.
Irwin failed to qualify at Charlotte. It was a huge issue, coming in front of friends, families, other teams and sponsors. After being forced to take a provisional later in the season at Martinsville and then dropping out of the race well before the halfway point, Irwin faced questions about his commitment to the sport in general … and to his team, in particular.
Slugger was fired by Robert Yates Racing at the end of the season, but eventually got hooked up with Dale Earnhardt Incorporated and Michael Waltrip in September 2001.
The organization was still dealing with Dale Earnhardt’s loss earlier that season, and then came the attacks of 9/11.
Slugger got his first win as a crew chief with Waltrip behind the wheel at Daytona in July 2002. In an attempt to mask some rules trickery, Slugger had the entire chassis painted black for the night race. That resulted in a rule change the very next week.
Speaking of rule changes, Slugger claims that he and his teams were responsible for approximately sixty to eighty tweaks to NASCAR’s guidelines over the years.
One of Slugger’s heroes? Smokey Yunick, the MASTER rules innovator.
A 2012 infraction at Michigan while working for Richard Childress Racing cost Slugger a $100,000 fine and a suspension of more than a month.
Slugger never really got Waltrip to open up to him. He didn’t understand why until the release of Waltrip’s documentary, Blink of an Eye.
Slugger went from that situation to working with Ray Evernham and Jeremy Mayfield, and although he said he never saw anything suspicious when it came to Mayfield’s alleged issues … working there was NOT a fit for him.
While working for Evernham, Slugger was diagnosed with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. He was out of work for four weeks and lost a staggering twenty-seven pounds.