In a surprising turn of events, NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Alex Labbé‘s 75-point penalty for an unapproved test on the Daytona International Speedway road course in early August has been reversed. On Wednesday, the National Motorsports Appeal Panel announced the L2 penalty handed to Labbé and his DGM Racing team will be rescinded and the points restored to Labbé’s total.
On 1 August, Labbé joined a Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) test session on the Daytona road course, where NASCAR is set to race this weekend. According to his team, Labbé drove a steel-bodied Xfinity car that was allowed for SCCA GT-1 events (steel bodies are no longer used in the Xfinity Series and have been fully replaced by composite bodies). However, various figures pointed out the vehicle was actually a composite car, a violation of the rulebook’s Section 5.1.a and d. regarding private vehicle testing.
When NASCAR received word of the session, Labbé was ordered to cease testing and later received an L2 penalty that dropped him out of the top twenty in the standings. The #90 DGM car was also penalised the same amount in the owners’ standings, while owner Mario Gosselin received a $50,000 fine. The team later launched an appeal that was overheard by the NMAP.
The Appeals Panel, led by Chuck Deery, Jay Signore, and Kevin Whitaker, provided the following comment:
“1. The Appellants did not violate the Rule(s) set forth in the Penalty Notice as it was written.
“2. The Panel rescinds the original Penalty assessed by NASCAR.”
It is rare for NASCAR to overturn penalties. According to a Jayski’s Silly Season Site page on ESPN.com, only 12 of 161 appeals from 1999 to the end of 2019 have resulted in a reversed ruling, while just one of 21 final appeals were successful. At the national level, among the rare instances of a rescinded penalty were Cup Series driver Jimmie Johnson in 2012 and 2015 for supposed C-post and side skirt violations, respectively.
“I thought it was pretty blatant,” wrote Jeff Gluck of The Athletic. “This certainly opens up a can of worms. I wonder if NASCAR is going to have to rewrite the rule or come up with a more specific policy. Appeals panel didn’t say why they overturned it.”
“We are humbled and proud to be a part of the NASCAR family,” began a statement from DGM Racing. “Today’s ruling that overturned the penalties levied against us is proof that the appeals process works. We are thankful for the time and effort put forth by NASCAR in seeking the ultimate truth. A special thank you goes out to our fans and sponsors that never lost faith and supported us throughout this. We must now put our focus back on trying to win races.”
The Xfinity Series’ UNOH 188, the series’ first time racing on the Daytona road course, is scheduled for Saturday at 3 PM Eastern. Labbé, who jumps from twentieth to sixteenth in the driver’s standings, will start the race in that position.