After an incident over the weekend at the Daytona International Speedway road course that involved Alex Labbe and DGM Racing, team owner, Mario Gosselin, was fined $50,000 and docked 75 driver/owner points.
They were caught distinctly cheating, violating NASCAR’s testing policy by running in an SCCA race last weekend in an attempt to gain laps for the debut race at the DIS road course next weekend. This is highly illegal, and NASCAR told them to pull the car immediately. Their punishment was quite severe for a small team.
Did the punishment fit the crime for DGM? Should penalties for this be more severe than it actual was? What do you think should happen to the team?
Roush Fenway Racing has had a disappointing season up to this point. Both Chris Buescher and Ryan Newman have struggled to find the consistency needed to make it into the playoffs. Newman, of course, missed three races due to his severe wreck in the Daytona 500, but even so, he has not had great runs at all after coming back. Buescher has been underwhelming so far, with only a few top-10 finishes. Many expected him to compete for a win or two, potentially making the postseason.
What is the problem with the team? Is it first-year struggles for Buescher, or is it more? Has Roush taken a step back in performance versus what they were at?
Q: After the Alex Labbe incident at the Daytona road course, do you think the punishment he received fits the crime? Joe T., Tulsa, OK
A: What Labbe and DGM Racing did was almost something unheard of. It’s not the fact that they ran a car that NASCAR felt was equivalent to a NASCAR Xfinity Series car, but the fact that they thought they could possibly get away with it.
There is a huge problem with violating testing rules in NASCAR, and it just blew my mind when I saw what his team tried to get away with. For a small team like they are, it’s crazy to think that they pulled a stunt like it. Not only are they violating rules, but it cost their team $50,000 and now puts them in a must-win situation over the final nine races of the regular season in order to possibly make it into the playoffs.
So what should the penalty be versus what it was? Just as stated, a fine and a suspension is what I would’ve believed to fit the crime. NASCAR does not mess around with these things at all, especially when you are distinctly trying to gain an advantage.
What hurts the most for that team is the chance at a potential playoff spot. Labbe is a solid road course racer, and in decent equipment this year, he could have a chance to win one of them. With this points penalty, it all but takes him out of the equation to point his way into the playoffs (prior to the penalty, he was 73 points behind the cutline).
NASCAR made a pretty quick decision on the penalties with the team, but I was surprised they weren’t stricter. No matter the punishment, this is a lesson for everyone to not mess around and violate the rules. When you are going to a track that not a single NASCAR team has seen before, at least utilizing stock cars, and the sanctioning body clearly states that you can only race one race that weekend without any sort of testing, you best behave. Labbe and team did not, and we see what the consequences were.
Q: What are your thoughts on Roush Fenway Racing this season? Newman came back and struggled, and Buescher has disappointed, so what is the problem with the team? Jared G., Akron, OH
A: Roush Fenway Racing is a team many people expected some big things out of this season. However, it seems like they have taken a step back from where they were a year ago. It makes you wonder if losing a longtime driver like Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and his crew chief Brian Pattie was a bigger loss for the team than many think.
As we all know, Newman has not had the ideal season, especially after his injury following his scary crash in the Daytona 500 to start the season. For him, he was lucky to only miss three races before the pandemic hit. Even coming back fully healthy, he has had a rough season.
After making it to the playoffs last year, he will not come close this season unless he wins a race. Newman’s best finish this year has been ninth, sadly coming when he crossed the finish line upside down and in the air at Daytona. Other than that, he has only a best finish of 12th, which came at Martinsville Speedway in early June.
As for Buescher, he has had a surprisingly disappointing season. If I had to pick a driver who I thought would do much better, it would be him. While he has already tied a career-high in top-10 finishes with four through 20 races, he has been a non-factor more times than not. There have been some races he has shown speed and run well, but something is missing. His best finish outside of Daytona and Talladega Superspeedway has been 10th, which came at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the Coca Cola 600 and in the first event at Pocono Raceway.
He barely sits outside the top 20 in points, but I expected him to easily compete for a playoff spot going into this season. After his strong runs with JTG Daugherty Racing the last few seasons, going to an arguably better team and somewhere he called “home” definitely seemed like a place he could succeed at. While it is only his first season back with RFR, Buescher does have the talent to compete for wins in the right opportunity. An Xfinity Series champion does not get to that point on accident, he is very talented.
Both have struggled, but they could turn it around over the next few weeks. Michigan International Speedway, which hosts two races this weekend, is a high downforce track that may cause a struggle for the Nos. 6 and 17 teams. But the road course race at Daytona is next up on the schedule, followed by two low downforce races at Dover International Speedway, then the regular season finale at the Daytona oval. It’s possible Roush could steal a win in any of those races. It honestly would be a bit of a surprise after the way 2020 has gone for the teams, but anything can happen as we know.
Even if Roush doesn’t win and misses the playoffs, this would be an excellent opportunity to better the program for 2021 and make a strong run next season. They have the right people, they just need to find the success.