DEI Signs A Slugger

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Richard “Slugger” Labbe has joined Dale Earnhardt Inc. as crew chief for Michael Waltrip’s team. Labbe will take over crew chief duties for this weekend’s Chevy Monte Carlo 400 at Richmond International Raceway, where Waltrip has a shot at $1 million as part of the Winston No Bull 5 program.

Steve Hmiel had been Waltrip’s interim crew chief since Scott Eggleston left the team in May. Labbe joins DEI from Robert Yates Racing, where he served as Dale Jarrett’s car chief. Labbe won the Rookie of the Year Award while working with Kenny Irwin in 1998, and was on the 1996 Winston Cup championship team with driver Terry Labonte.

“Slugger has been trained in winning environments, so the transition to Dale Earnhardt Inc. shouldn’t offer him any surprises.” said Waltrip, who worked with Labbe at Ultra Motorsports. “When we were together at Ultra Motorsports, I was impressed with Slugger’s commitment to the sport and his desire to make every part of the car better.”

Besides Waltrip’s victory in the Daytona 500 and runner-up finish in the Pepsi 400 at Daytona, he’s had a tough season. Waltrip is 27th in the points standings, only six points ahead of Robert Pressley – who has driven in two fewer races than Waltrip.

“This is a new beginning for the NAPA team,” DEI executive vice president Ty Norris said. “There has been a void in the crew chief position since May, and it’s nice for Michael to have a partner. Michael and Slugger already have a good personal relationship, and driver/crew chief chemistry is the most important element to success.

“We’re ecstatic that Slugger can work the remaining 12 races with us, which will enable us to be stronger entering 2002.”

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