Labbe to lead No. 36 Toyotas

There's a Maine twist to all this silly season action.

Biddeford native Slugger Labbe, best known for his Daytona 500-winning work with Michael Waltrip at DEI, will take over as the crew chief for the No. 36 Bill Davis Racing Toyotas. Mike Skinner will try and qualify the car for the next 2 events (Atlanta, Texas) and Johnny Benson will try and steer the cars into the final 2 (Phoenix, Homestead). The seat became open when Jeremy Mayfield announced his decision to sign with Haas-CNC racing for the remainder of 2007 and through 2008.

Labbe, 39, had been working with Jacques Villeneuve at BDR. He's also served in crew chief capacities at Gillette-Evernham Motorsports, Robert Yates Racing and the now-defunct Ginn Racing.

Labbe's start in NASCAR racing came as a crew member for Kelly Moore's Busch North Series operation.


Minott coming back to Wiscasset booth

In the midst of a somtimes turbulent change at Wiscasset Raceway this summer, there remained one constant.

One constant that, thankfully for track owner Doug White, will be back for a 15th straight season of racing at the facility. Ken Minott confirmed this weekend that, despite swirling rumors to the contrary, he will be back as the track's lead announcer in 2008.

Minott is a true gem on the local racing scene, a guy that people like myself can lean on. Want to know who won the Late Model feature last weekend? Ken's on top of it. Want to know how many times Chris Thorne finished 7th or worse in that division over the last 3 seasons? Well, Ken's got that info, too.

When White bought the track in the middle of the 2007 season, he brought with him the engergetic and sometimes abrasive John Crawford. Crawford was originally brought in as a consultant to White, someone who then could sell the place to potential advertisers and help bring it a little more visibility -- like he'd done with Unity Raceway when he leased that track from Ralph Nason a few years back.

But, Crawford soon ended up on a microphone, and then on a radio to help officiate races. In fact, Crawford was everywhere all the time it seemed. It became clear that it grated on Minott's nerves -- when during one Saturday night, Crawford left the announcer's booth with a scrape on his forehead.

(For the record, Minott didn't swing at Crawford. He simply knocked over a pile of "stuff" that caught Crawford's melon...)

More than Crawford's appearance, however, Minott had to weigh what all of us are forced to at times -- family obligations vs. our vocations. On a couple of occasions, Ken had asked me if I ever felt torn between work and my family. At first, it seemed an innocent enough query, but by September I knew something was on his mind.

For 14 years, Ken has missed out on Saturday cookouts, trips to Red Sox matinee games on Sundays in Boston, on watching his kids do things themselves.

He's not ready to give up either -- the family or racing. And all he wanted from this year was permission from White to miss out on a race here or there to tend to things such as, oh, I don't know, his daughter's graduation. Seems reasonable enough.

Minott will also get his Sundays, too. He's giving up the media relations portion of his gig at Wiscasset, meaning he won't have to spend hours and hours compiling race results, recaps and press releases.

Good for Minott for putting family first. Good for Doug White for understanding the asset he has in Minott. Good for Wiscasset Raceway fans for getting the best deal of all.


A few wild pitches from the week...

I've got to level with you. With the Sox in the American League Championship Series, I've been distracted.

I mean, real distracted. Who can worry about the All-Star Speedway Pro Stock Nationals or some silly Nextel Cup Series race in Martinsville, Va., when Jacoby Ellsbury's going to get the start in center field or J.D. Drew is lining up a 1st-inning grand slam? It's about priorities here, gang.

That being said, I know I've got a captive audience (uh, maybe not...) that's clamoring for some racing news, a readership that could care less about curve balls and balks.

Here's what I've missed this week:

* We've found the answer to Greg Biffle's prolonged 2-season Nextel Cup Series struggles, and it's got nothing to do with Roush Fenway Racing's Fords or the driver's flavor-of-the-month crew chief. It's the driver himself.

Just 37 years old, Biffle's already thought about running part-time down the road if the opportunity presented itself.

"To be totally honest, if I could sign a 3-year deal that I ran 15 to 17 races [a year], I'd strongly consider ending the full-time thing sooner," Biffle said. "It gives you a life."

In a sport that is so brutally competitive, you're never going to be a threat for a championship if you're wishing you were off doing other things. Period.

The "life" you want has to be a racing life, one that is full-time, no ifs, ands or buts if you're going to succeed these days.

* Scott Chubbuck and the Hight Motorsports gang continued their barnstorming ways, swooping in to win the shortened Pro Stock Nationals at All-Star on Saturday night. The 150-lap race was shortened because it ran up against curfew -- a wreckfest that didn't start until somewhere in the neighborhood of 11 p.m.

News flash for All-Star owner Bobby MacArthur -- It's October. It's cold enough to begin with. Add on an 8-hour show, and you tell me who on God's green earth wants to sit through it.

And with the rumors of cheating for an "open" competition at the track, I'm seeing why so many of the area's Pro Stock staples opted to just sit that one out.

* NASCAR's got to figure out how to work this whole owner points/car number scenario out once and for all. Not only can I still not figure out how the No. 15 Menard's Chevy or Paul Menard got the points from the No. 14s formerly piloted by Sterling Marlin at Ginn Racing after Ginn and DEI merged, but now comes a report that Petty Enterprises is simply going to swap car numbers on the Nos. 43 and 45 to make sure Kyle Petty gets into races.

The idea, quite simply, is to take advantage of Bobby Labonte's past champions' provisional opportunity should Petty's No. 45 slip out of the top-35 in points, and thus be in for the guaranteed starting spot each week.

There's something wrong with the entire system when you can just whack a few different decals on one car and -- woolah! -- you're in the race. Really wrong.

* Tony Stewart may be right, but that doesn't mean he has to say it.

After he and Paul Menard had a mini-incident on pit road at Lowe's Motor Speedway last weekend, Stewart sounded off on Menard.

"You can have your father buy your ride and write DEI a big check, but you can't buy talent...," Stewart said after the Lowe's race. "(John Menard's) bought his son a Nextel Cup ride and he's just got enough talent to just be in the way most of the time."

Given the state of Nextel Cup racing these days, you could say that about half the starting field -- or more -- each week. But calling Menard out, just because Stewart has a platform via his weekly satellite radio show, was unnecessary.

Not that Menard kept quiet, either.

"I've known Tony for 10 years," Menard said. "He's not a very mature person. Yeah, I wouldn't be here if my family didn't support me. I don't think he would be either if his family didn't support him. You can't get too wrapped up in it... I know him well enough to know he's a 50-year-old kid in a six-year-old's body. He's got the platform to say that stuff. Good for him. I hope he feels better about it."
* And now, you're starting lineups for Game 7 of the 2007 ALCS. Leading off and playing second base, No. 15, Dustin Pedroia...