When Chase Elliott suits up for the NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Darlington Raceway on Sept. 5, he will mark a key moment in his crew chief’s career. Alan Gustafson will celebrate his 600th start of a winning career, which includes the 2020 Cup Series championship.
Gustafson is currently in his sixth season working as the crew chief for Elliott’s Hendrick Motorsport Chevrolet Camaro. He and Elliott failed to win a race in their first two seasons together, but they posted 22 top-five finishes. Starting in 2018, however, they became perennial playoff contenders, winning multiple races every season.
“I’m certainly honored to be able to do what I do,” Gustafson said in a statement from HMS. “I’ve been able to work with some great people and that’s the biggest thing that stands out to me. The relationships you form — that, to me at this point in my career, is the sweetest thing about victory. That’s what motivates me, fuels me, and gets me excited.”
Gustafson Worked With Multiple Title Contenders
While Elliott helped Gustafson secure a championship in 2020, he was not the first contender to work with the crew chief. The veteran has helped guide multiple drivers to Victory Lane, resulting in 33 wins at a wide variety of tracks.
Gustafson began his Cup career with Kyle Busch in 2005, kicking off a tenure that lasted until the end of the 2007 season. They combined to win four races before Busch headed to Joe Gibbs Racing. Gustafson then worked with Casey Mears for the winless 2008 campaign before joining forces with Mark Martin in 2009 and 2010. The duo won five races, including one at Darlington Raceway, before finishing the 2009 season second in the standings behind Jimmie Johnson.
From 2011-2015, Gustafson partnered with a NASCAR Hall of Famer. He served as the crew chief for Jeff Gordon and the No. 24 team, resulting in 11 wins and a sixth-place finish in the 2014 standings.
Gustafson & Elliott Are Ready to Defend Their Title
The No. 9 has only reached Victory Lane twice in 2021, the lowest total since Elliott and Gustafson began winning. However, the defending champions remain among the favorites entering the playoffs due to contending for the checkered flag throughout the season, as well as the upcoming date at the Charlotte Roval, the site of multiple wins for the No. 9 team.
Prior to heading to Charlotte, however, Elliott and Gustafson will have to take on three tracks where the No. 9 has never won. The playoffs begin with Darlington Raceway and then head to Richmond Raceway and Bristol Motor Speedway.
“You got to be operating at 100%,” Gustafson told the Hendrick Motorsports media team. “I feel we got the team, the car, the sponsors. We got what we need to do it; we just have to make sure that everybody is operating at their maximum ability and if we do that, I feel very confident that we can compete with anybody. That’s it and peaking at the right time and all those things you hear from Chase, that’s what it’s about. Just getting everything working to see what’s optimal. (We’re) trying to get that.”