After a solid campaign in 2018, Leo Labarbera knew that he would be one of the drivers to watch in 2019 at Flamboro Speedway. However, that does not mean he was surprised about being crowned the McClurkin Properties Cambridge Pure Stock Champion.
“I wasn’t expecting it, that’s for sure,” he told SHORT TRACK MUSINGS. “I knew it was going to be a good year coming out with this car from last year. I had no idea it was going to be such a good year. I’m blown away.”
Through the season, Labarbera scored six feature victories along with 31 top-five’s and 37 top-10’s in 38 races. A remarkable accomplishment on it’s own, it stands out even more when knowing that half of the features he did not have a favorable starting position with the second 20-lap event every night being an invert of the lead lap cars from the first.
With having to weave his way through traffic, Labarbera admits that “it’s quite the challenge” at times. That’s why it’s no surprise to hear him call the first night he swept both features on May 18 his favourite moment from the season.
Now with the title in-hand, it has left him with a difficult decision in regards to his plans for the 2020 campaign.
“We haven’t decided if we’re going to stick with pure stock or move up to mini stock,” he said. “We have a car for each so we’re going to try the mini stock division, but someone said nobody has done a back-to-back championship at pure stock so that’d be something to aim for.
For Labarbera, his interest in racing was originally sparked by his step-father taking him to Mosport when he was 15-years-old. He spent time as a crew member, helping out the likes of Matt Young, until he got his chance behind the wheel.
“I was supporting a teammate one night, going to watch him race, and he had a spare car – believe it was Matt Young,” Labarbera recalled. “He said, ‘I have a spare car so why don’t you try it?’ I came out one day for practice on Tuesday, and then I started racing on the Saturday. I’ve been racing every Saturday since.”
From the multitude of experience that he has been able gather through the years, his advice to the next generation of rookies is practice and seat time are critical.
“It’s tough to get quick right away and the more time you put into it, the better off you are,” he commented.