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August 4, 2019

Alan Gustafson

Watkins Glen, New York

THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by our race‑winning crew chief, Alan Gustafson. We'll go ahead and open it up for questions.

Q. Alan, how long did you hold your breath in the last 35 laps? Was there any point at which you were concerned, especially when he reported the left rear might be going down?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, I think the left rear damage was probably the biggest concern that I had through the whole experience. It was pretty significant damage, and it did look like it was kind of protruding through the side wall, through the side wall of the tire. That's a tough one for sure. Some concern over that.
And then I knew lap traffic was going to be a bit dodgy, and sure enough, we caught I don't know who it was, but they were two wide down the straightaway into 10 there. That got a bit dodgy.
But yeah, there's nothing you can do. There's no reason to hold your breath or panic about it. I mean, we had done the best job we could all weekend long and put ourselves in position, and certainly Martin is an extremely good road racer and has a really good car and was really fast. I knew Chase was up for the chase, and Chase was going to have a run a perfect race at that point in time, and he did, so fortunately for us we got the win.

Q. Chase said that after the contact he was pretty worried and it felt soft, that the tire did. When you hear that, are you like, oh, it's definitely down, or do drivers often kind of‑‑ I don't want to say imagine things, but are quick to worry when you've led the whole race?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, certainly that's‑‑ I mean, not only drivers but anybody in that circumstance when you've led the whole race and you know you've had some pretty hard contact, you're going to be hypersensitive to any little slide or any little thing on that left rear tire. I wasn't surprised that he had felt it was going soft. Lap times were still good, and fortunately for me Martin had an in‑car camera so I could watch, no significant smoke, and you could actually see it on some of the shots exiting the corner the way the light would hit, and it looked like it was up. But certainly there was concern for a slow leak. But yeah, I think in that situation you're going to be really hypersensitive to that corner, and certainly I'm sure he was.

Q. Alan, despite him winning here last year, at what point did you know you had a good little road course racer on your hands because guys who grow up on short tracks, it would be one thing if he was like Cindric and he ran sports cars and the like, but it just seemed to click so naturally for him, and to us at least it was kind of unexpected. When did you first see that?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: We tested here in 2016, I think, if I remember correctly. There was a test, and we were here, and we started out kind of average, and as we ran, he got better, and we improved the car, he got better, and really at the end of that test, we had speeds that could win the race.
And unfortunately for us, when we came back, we had some braking issues and just couldn't consistently carry that pace, but I think that was the first time that I saw he's extremely competent on a road course.
The other thing to me that was a pretty big indicator, we weren't very good at Sonoma our first time, which I'm not surprised. To me that's probably the toughest track we race. But the second time we came back, he was really good. He just needed an opportunity to run that race, and we came back the second time and were really, really competitive.
I knew right away that he's really talented when it comes to road courses. I think this track‑‑ everybody has‑‑ even Lewis Hamilton has tracks that suit him better than others, and Chase is no different. This track certainly suits Chase a little bit better than the other two, but I think he can win at the other road courses, too.

Q. Were the nerves more or less or the same compared to last year, because last year you were worried about fuel mileage, and this year you were concerned about a flat tire.
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, last‑‑ I mean, you don't want to say last because you're not demeaning the pressure. But last year fuel mileage is something that I'm strategizing for, calculating for and responsible for, so yeah, that was a bit tougher for me. As hard as we try to predict that and as much work as goes into it, it's not an exact science.
Regardless of what goes on, you always know there's a little bit of a fudge factor in there for your fuel mileage, so last year was tough because you just need to know‑‑ I think it was evidenced by Martin running out last year right behind us, so it was close for everybody last year and we were able to make it. And this year we knew we had a little bit of a pad there, so a little less nerve‑racking because of the fuel situation.

Q. On the final restart it seemed like there was contact obviously past the finish line. Did it appear to you like Truex was trying to side‑draft Chase?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, I don't have a good angle at it. I wasn't watching. The TV feed I was watching right in front of me, and being in pit stall, I couldn't ‑‑ I'm basically looking dead beside him. Actually the restart before they had touched, too. I kind of took it as Chase was wanting to open up his entry to the corner as much as he could and Martin was not wanting to let him open up his entry into the corner as much as he could, and they got together fairly significantly. That's all ‑‑ I don't have a great view. I'm really curious to go back and look at it. But yeah, I think they both knew that that was probably going to be it.

Q. Just generally did it seem like aero was more of a factor? Was aero more of a factor with this package this year?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Any time you‑‑ yes. I think the turbulence is a little bit worse, and it's a tough thing because if you have enough downforce that you're kind of having an abundance of grip and you can run flat through the corners then that would make closer racing than if you have more downforce, but you still don't go flat I think it kind of separates it. There's some corners here that it probably made the racing a bit closer, but I think some corners it makes it a bit more difficult to pass.
To be honest with you, I thought it was going to be tougher than it was after the race. There's a lot of guys that jumped us on that lap 17 before the stage, and we were a bit further back than I had expected and wanted to be, so I was concerned there, and he drove right past them. You certainly could pass, but when it comes to cars‑‑ the fastest cars, like our car and the 19 or the 11, the 18, one of those cars out front probably wasn't going to get past unless they made a mistake.

Q. You guys have had a couple tough weeks the last several weeks‑‑
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Six or seven, right?

Q. I know it's a road course, not necessarily reflective of a lot you'll see going forward, but getting the win and showing again that you guys‑‑ what you're capable of at a good time as you approach the playoffs.
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, absolutely, that's probably the biggest takeaway for me from the weekend is for as difficult as times‑‑ I don't really feel like our performance has been‑‑ our speed has been terrible. Kentucky we were terrible but that's no surprise, it's just not a good track for me or really for Chase. But our speed has been decent, we just have not executed the races for mechanicals or crashes or different issues. That's the biggest thing I wanted to do this weekend is perform to the potential to the team and the car and get back on track, and certainly we did that in style, which was fantastic. But yeah, we needed to get out of that rut to get back on track and get focused on competing and improving and get some confidence back.
It couldn't come at a better time, and certainly these things come and go. It happens to everybody, I think, and you can use those last weeks that we had to kind of reflect on what we could do better and improve, and I feel like we've done that. So all in all, it certainly hurt us in the points, but I think it's probably going to make our team a bit stronger.

Q. I was curious how you approach Michigan next week or how you feel about going to Michigan, too.
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, Michigan is interesting. Going there in the spring with the new package, I was a bit unsure. I think everybody was a bit unsure, how trimmed out do you want to race your cars. It's obviously a big track, largest corner radius in the series, so we didn't know. Although we had a good car and had a part failure, we went probably not trimmed out enough, and the 22 obviously did a great job, and they qualified on the pole and kind of dominated that race.
We're excited to go back and give that another shot. I think we've learned from the spring for sure and look forward to applying those things and going back and having a bit more speed in our NAPA Chevy and contending to win there at Michigan.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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