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October 7, 2018

Alan Gustafson

Dover, Delaware

THE MODERATOR: We have now been joined by the race‑winning crew chief, Alan Gustafson, for the Chase Elliott No.9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, and Alan, first of all, congratulations on the win today. Just talk a little bit about Chase's drive there the last few laps, that last call to stay out, but then also just kind of what this win means at this point in the season.
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, I mean, it's obviously really sweet any time you can win one of these races. It's a great honor, and it's what you strive to do. Really fond of Dover. It's a great racetrack, and we've had a great record here. It was nice to close the deal.
We had a really good car. I don't think our car‑‑ we had a chance to show it as much as we should have been able to kind of mired back there after the pit stop penalty. But I knew we had a good car, and just thought we'd give him an opportunity, and I wasn't sure about the guys‑‑ I can't remember if we were‑‑ I think we were third at the time the caution came out, but I wasn't sure what the guys were going to do either way, but I just wanted to give him a chance there, and if we could have got a little bit of protection behind us with some guys that stayed out, I thought we'd be in good shape, and our car was good in clean air.
Then we got an opportunity to do it a couple times. It's the risk here at Dover certainly at the end of the race with the corner exits. It's pretty easy to crash like Aric did there on the back, and fortunately we were in front of that, so we'll take it.

Q. Were you concerned with those late caution flags? Did you question that call to stay out late and not come down pit road when some of the other cars behind you especially after that wreck started moving up closer with fresher tires?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: No, not really. You always run a lot of scenarios through your head, and there's a lot of what‑ifs, and I certainly think you can second‑guess about anything, but I think that was our best opportunity to win the race, and it was our best opportunity to score the most points we could score.
Even if Denny would have passed us, which was certainly a possibility, it was still going to be‑‑ yield us more points than I think it would have had we pitted and been potentially in that accident.

Q. Alan, after getting now your second win this season and locked in to the Round of Eight, how do you feel your team is set up for the rest of the championship race? It would seem to be you're in a pretty good position considering how you guys have performed on some of the late‑season tracks.
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, I think we're in pretty good shape. You know, that Round of Eight is obviously going to be really tough, and I think most likely to transfer out of that round we're going to have to win one of those three races, so I certainly think those are tracks that we can win at.
Now we've got a little bit of time to gear up for that, so I think we're positioned well. But as you saw today, anything can happen at any point in time. The points are so close, and the speed of the cars are so close, it's just a really volatile situation.
I think we're in as good a position‑‑ I don't want to say as anybody. Probably the 4 and the 18 with all the stage points they have, probably in slightly better shape than us, but I think we're in pretty good shape.

Q. Alan, describe how Chase handled that final restart where Denny had fresh tires on his outside and it seemed like there was debate all day over whether the inside or the outside line was best on restarts.
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, he just asked myself and Eddie, and I think we both felt like the top was better, and he didn't get a chance to restart at all in either lane. We'd had an opportunity to watch. But I think the key is you've just got to get rolling and then I think if you can either clear them before Turn 1 or be really close to it, you can take away their line on exit and clear them. He did that. He did a great job of it and executed it perfectly. Could have went really bad if he spins the tires or doesn't get going. I think he did a little better job the first time. There wasn't‑‑ I think the guys behind him maybe didn't have as good a tires, I don't remember, and the 20 gave us a shot, but it was a pretty square shove, so that was good, and just got us out there.

Q. Can you describe how Chase has matured as a driver from this place a year ago? Obviously things got away last year in this race, and today he was able to execute.
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, I think it's just‑‑ you just have to go through those situations, and last year we had a shot to win, and unfortunately didn't win. You know, you can second‑guess a lot of things, and you can always say, hey, man, I'd do this different or that different, but all in all, I think we all learned from that experience, and certainly I think he learned from that experience, and that enabled him to race a little bit better today. I think he did a better job passing today and really what got us last year is just the lap cars and not working lap traffic as good as we needed to, and I think he did a good job with that today.
So there's all those little lessons. It takes putting it all together to win these races, and he certainly did that today, and I don't know that there was anything last year with the restarts; it was pretty much a green flag run. But I think he's constantly maturing, and you've got to go through those situations. Anybody‑‑ he's way above the curve, but anybody, when you're in those situations you've got to go through. I think to be honest with you, the 10 went through it a little bit today because they were in position to win it and didn't win it.

Q. This year 14th year as a crew chief in the Cup Series; do you feel like this is your best chance to win a championship?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: I don't know, maybe. Whatever year, '09 with Mark, I thought we were really, really good there, and I think we won at least one race in the Chase, one or two, and that was a really good opportunity, ended up second. And then '14, I think '14 is probably the strongest cars we've ever had, and that was a big heartbreaker not making it to Homestead. Certainly we should have‑‑ there was two races we really should have won, two seconds, and whatever the crash was at Texas.
I don't know, we'll see. I think we're still getting better. I think Chase is getting better, and I think we're getting better as a team. Our NAPA Chevys are getting better, so you never know. It's about taking advantage of your opportunities, and we've been able to create some lately, so we'll just keep grinding and see where the chips fall.

Q. Alan, do you as a crew chief now feel a tremendous weight lifted off your shoulders knowing that now you don't have to worry about Talladega and Kansas for this round?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Not really. You know, I'm sure when we're at Talladega and the race is going on, I'll feel a lot better. Same thing at Kansas because the chaos is sure to ensue there, also. But we're going to have to be right in the middle of it, too. We can't just write those races off. We've got to use that as an opportunity to go try to gain some more stage points and bonus points to put us in a better position for the Round of Eight.
I'm looking forward to Talladega. We always have super fast superspeedway cars, and as you mentioned, I've been doing this for 14 years and not won one of those races, which is something that bothers me. I'd love to win at Talladega.

Q. Alan, you're talking about the things that Chase has learned from through the last year and the past years and the disappointments. How do you work with him to learn from those experiences? It's one thing to go through those, but how do you help somebody not repeat the same mistakes, not get caught in a similar situation, and not repeat the same thing over and over so where you're not winning those races when you're back in those opportunities?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, that's a good question. I think that the only thing you can do is just really look at the situation without bias. I think it's kind of human nature to make excuses or say, oh, this, that or the other circumstances. But not only him‑‑ he gets the magnifying glass put on him a lot, which I don't know if it's fair or not, but everybody goes through that. The team goes through that. I go through that. Everybody goes through those situations, and we've got some things to learn from today from our pit road miscue and some different things we did.
All we try to do is look at it with really clear vision, without bias, and just be accountable for our actions and say, hey, this is the reality of what happened, this is why it happened, and this is potentially what we could have done to improve. I think where that benefits you is when you get back in that situation, then you've got a little bit in your playbook to say, yeah, when I did this last time, this was a problem, or I didn't do this, this was a problem. You're just quicker and more apt to do it and you're quicker and more apt to adjust, and you're quicker and more apt to not be complacent.
It's kind of like life in general. You just kind of keep working at it, and certainly we support him and think the world of him and think he's as good as anybody out there, and I feel like he does for us, too.
If you have that mindset going in, you just focus on what you can do to improve and move on.

Q. You just mentioned how much you want to win at Talladega; with kind of the opposite question of Tim's a while ago, with this cushion, do you go out there and take every chance you can for you guys to get that victory?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Well, there's a couple things on my mind right now. One, I want to win that race, but certainly the other one is I want Alex to transfer. My desire to win that race is probably second to that. So we'll do what we can to help Alex, and he's going to have a really good car, and we'll have a really good car, and if we can do anything we can‑‑ those races, obviously we've all seen them. You're going to need someone to help you. If we can do that, you know, put ourselves in position, we'll see how it goes. But yeah, there's no taking‑‑ we've pulled the pin. Like there's no getting off the gas now. It's wound up and going. It's running. We won't slow down.

Q. When we talked earlier this weekend, you talked about the 9 team, Chase Elliott, all you guys, not being consumed by pressure and keeping positive energy and being relaxed. How much does that help you when you go to make a call to stay out or any situation like that?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, you know, that's exactly what we talked about, so kudos to you, you had a crystal ball, you saw it kind of transformed throughout the weekend. So yeah, that's exactly what we talked about.
Not only at the end with the call but even the penalty and going to the back, that's when guys kind of typically‑‑ it's easy to melt down and it's easy to have damage, it's easy to hurt your car, it's easy to burn your tires off, it's easy to get frustrated, and then it's easy‑‑ in the situation we were at the end for Chase to say, I don't have as good a tires or I don't have as good a‑‑ there's a lot of negatives you can look and say, hey, these are reasons we can't, but certainly on the other hand there's things that you can say we do have, right, we have track position, we control the restart. We've got a good car, we've got a good pit crew, we can bounce back from the issues. Yeah, exactly, we just try not to get consumed by the things that we can't control that are done and over with and just focus on getting the best out of what we can and making it happen.
There was a point in that race that it certainly looked like if you were going to poll the people in the stands, we wouldn't have been high up on the list to win it, but I think we clawed back from that and just stayed focused on the goal.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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