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November 18, 2015

Alan Gustafson

THE MODERATOR: We've now been joined by Alan Gustafson, crew chief of the No.24 AXALTA Chevrolet. You work with one of the most iconic drivers in our sport. Talk about the opportunity you guys have here this weekend to send Jeff out on top.
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, I mean, obviously it's what we strive to do in general every year. You want to win a championship; you want to be a champion. That's what you compete so hard for in this sport. The fact that it's Jeff's last year, somebody who has been a huge part of the sport with a tremendous amount of success and been such a great advocate for the sport, but a huge part of our company and our success of our company and a huge supporter of us for so long, I mean, that's extra added incentive obviously to send him out on top as we believe he deserves, and we're working hard to do that. It's a really huge moment for us, and we're excited about it.

Q. I'm curious, with it being Jeff's last weekend, and I'm sure he's being pulled in a million different directions, when did you have to say, hey, this is when I need him, and did you have to‑‑ is there any kind of additional planning time you've kind of set with him this weekend just because you're going for the championship versus past weekends?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, he does have a lot on his plate, and he's got a lot of things. I think being able to clinch in Martinsville has helped that out because he can get some of that stuff out of the way, and we wanted to make sure when on‑track activity was going on or anything around that, he had as limited obligations as possible.
He's very much on board with that. It's not something that I had to tell him. It's something that he was very much on board with and that he wanted to do, also, and when it comes down to the on‑track that there's no interruption there. He manages his stuff really well. Of everybody I've been around in my life, he's the best at it, and he knows how to manage it and not let it influence his racing, and this is probably going to be his toughest task when it comes to that. But you know, we typically have our weekly time with Jeff, which we've had this week, even though he wasn't able to be here on Tuesday, which he typically is. He was here today, and we were able to speak to him on the phone Tuesday at length. Saw him today, and at track he's very attentive and very much involved with what we need him to do, and his staff take care of that, so it's worked out well.

Q. And I just want to check, do you know how many warnings you have in this accumulation system?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: I do. I do. Two. The infamous warnings. Yes, I have two, so I should be in good shape.

Q. The other guys have three, or at least the 18 and the 4 have three. Do you feel like you have an advantage at all or would you be worried if you had three going into this weekend?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, I think three is kind of the number you don't want, right, because that's‑‑ I don't know. You know, I'd have to address it with Richard to know what would happen if you get four prior to the race. Does that carry over to the Daytona 500 or does it go away? I don't know what happens in that instance. But if you have three, obviously if you fail pre‑qualifying, then you can lose your pit pick, which for me that would be something that couldn't happen with having two. So I think two is the place you want to be, or less. Three does put you in a little bit of a difficult spot because you just can't take any chances to fail the LIS especially for qualifying and potentially lose that pit pick.

Q. Alan, obviously everybody is talking about what this might mean for Jeff and the focus has been on Jeff, but I mean, this is your first opportunity to‑‑ a great opportunity to get to win a championship. I mean, what's this like for you? How are you trying to keep this as a regular week? How are you trying to keep it calm? How are you trying to enjoy this experience because not everybody gets to enjoy it, and there's no guarantee you'll get to enjoy it after this.
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah. For me, you know, it is a big thing for me. It's a career goal and something that I want to do and have aspirations to do and think it would be a huge thing for me in my career to win a championship. It's been my goal my whole career. On another side note, not really a side note, but I've been in this building, the 5/24 shop for 11 years since its inception, and that's been the goal for me in this building, also, to win a championship out of this building, and we've come close but haven't been able to do that. So we're very aware of that, and it's a huge thing for us, and it's why we work so hard and why we dedicate so much time and why we do everything that we do is to win a championship and be champions. That's the end result, that's the end goal. That's what we're trying to do, what we've tried to do for a long time. If we could do that, that would be huge. It would be a big thing for myself in this building, and I think it would set a nice culture or legacy standard, whatever you want to call it, to propel us into the future with Chase.
So yeah, there's a lot of things, a lot of huge, big things on the line for us.
As far as enjoying it and opportunities, absolutely, you're right. It's never guaranteed. You never know if you'll get a chance to be back in this position again. You never know what the future holds, and this is a special opportunity.
I just enjoy competing and being involved in it. That's really what's fun for me, what I'm passionate about. So just going through the act of it is very much‑‑ is very enjoyable for me, and the preparation of the car and the interaction with the team and all the things that go along with a situation like this where you have a heightened sensitivity and this heightened awareness. I really enjoy that, so that's kind of the fun for me.
You have to really appreciate it, and you want to be aware of your surroundings and kind of take it in, but at the same time you want to stay focused on the goal. It's been fun to do. It's been an enjoyable week, and looking forward to getting to Homestead and seeing what happens and seeing how it transpires and working through it good or bad and trying to put ourselves in the best position possible. That fight is what I so much enjoy, and I'm looking forward to that.

Q. Also with the way the season has gone with weather, I'm sure you've become an expert or even were an expert at reading radar. How good are your skills, and what goes through‑‑ how much are you looking at the radar during a race, like the Phoenix example, and how much might you have to be concerned about that, that the early forecast is for rain on Sunday?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, you have to be aware. I think that's something that we have a lot of different tools that we use. It seems like every site or every weather prediction tool or software varied a little bit, so we take about 10 sample sets and try to make a decision based on that.
Phoenix was a great example of just how close it is, and we were in a position where we tried to stay out as long as possible, hoping to get the rain and be able to put ourselves in position to lead the race when the rain came, and we were probably five, seven minutes short, and that's tough to predict when you get down to those small windows. It's tough to predict. But depending on how your race is going, it could be a big factor and it could play out.
I think all of our hopes are, as they were in Phoenix, you go the advertised distance without a break. It seems like those‑‑ you want to see somebody win the race based on performance on track, on pit road and strategy, not based on being a good predictor of weather, but if it comes down to that, we'll give it our best shot, and I think we've got enough experience doing it, and we should be okay. I wouldn't say I'm very good at it. I don't think I'm terrible at it, but it's a tough thing to do.
South Florida is very unpredictable. The storms can generate in such a short period of time, it may not be a situation where a lot of places we're at you can see this coming over hours and hours. There it can pop up really in a short period of time and not be displayed on a radar. We're geared up for it. We hope we don't have to use those skills, but if we do, we're ready.
THE MODERATOR: Alan, we wish you the best of luck this weekend in Miami, and we thank you for joining us today.

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