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September 29, 2019

Alan Gustafson

Charlotte, North Carolina

THE MODERATOR: We're going to continue with our post‑race media availability here for today's Bank of America Roval 400. We're now joined by our race‑winning crew chief, Alan Gustafson. We'll take questions for Alan.

Q. What was the damage that was done when Chase plowed into the tire barrier?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Fortunately, it really wasn't much. It seemed like it pushed the hood down more than anything and kind of pushed the hood inside of the top of the fenders and kind of pushed it back into the windshield. The biggest thing that we really had to do is get that back sealed up and get it down. Having that vented isn't the greatest thing in the world for the performance of the car. Yeah, it was a biggest task. As long as the splitter was intact and in good condition, no tire rubs, we were going to be in decent shape. That was the case. We got lucky on that. I don't know how we didn't have more substantial damage than that. I think that just went our way.

Q. What did Chase say happened when he hit that tire barrier?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Well, those restarts, it's tough to time your speed when they're out there running laps. They exit that chicane pretty consistently, and then have their braking marker set up. In that situation he was carrying a bit more speed than he had at the restart before, and I haven't gone back and analyzed if he braked at the same spot or drove it in a bit deeper, but nevertheless he locked up the left front tire and couldn't get it back and just had to go straight.

Q. How surprised were you‑‑ obviously you've got to have confidence and all that when you make those repairs, but he slid into the frigging wall nose first. How surprised happily were you when he was starting‑‑ when you could see that it really didn't affect him that much?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, it was‑‑ as soon as he backed it out, I was like, man, it looks pretty good, and then NBC kind of followed us, so we had great shots of the car, and we could see that it just didn't sustain that much damage. Yeah, I mean, super surprised. I just kind of going off last year and the thing that kind of stands out is when the 2 did something similar and took half the field with him. Those cars were destroyed. You know, when you see him kind of smoking it off in there like that, you're like, yeah, that's not going to be good. But it worked out for us. I don't know if the tires‑‑ I don't know what's down there to be honest with you, if it's tire barriers or some type of foam barrier or whatever, but it seemed like it just slid up the nose of the car and ultimately didn't damage it very much.

Q. Per NASCAR's timing and scoring data, you had the second fastest car in the race today. Through the three road courses this year, your car ranked as the fastest. Over the last few years, Hendrick Motorsports has waned in terms of overall speed but you've managed to maintain really good speed on road courses. How have you been able to do this?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, who was fastest today? I'm surprised we weren't fastest. Harvick was? Gotcha.
Yeah, I think it starts with Chase. I think he's a good road racer. We were fortunate enough really where this kind of started in my opinion was we had a test at Watkins Glen in 2016 when he was a rookie, and we worked through a lot of things there, and we came up with a really good package that was really good and really fast, and something he was very comfortable with.
Unfortunately we didn't really perform that well that year, but that is the basis. That test was the basis. That's where we found the speed in the car and were able to generate a package that had a lot of pace, and we've just carried that on kind of from that point in time.
I think we've run better than it shows in '16 and even this year. Obviously we won Watkins Glen and here and then we were third at Sonoma when we had an engine failure. Yeah, I think it starts with him, and then that test rings to me as a place that since then we've just had good pace and a good package that we can build on.

Q. Alan, timing is everything, and you guys right now are showing the speed that you need to. All three Hendrick cars are into the next round. What do you guys need to move on to that round of 8, and how close are you to being where you need to be to compete for the championship?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, I mean, these rounds are tough. This round, you can get through this round with just not making mistakes. Fortunately for us we ran really well at Vegas and really good here, so‑so at Richmond, but they're going to get tougher, and with Talladega looming, you never know what's going to happen there.
We're going to have to have knockout top 5s and win, and certainly I think to get to Homestead, if we don't win and get close on bonus points to get to Homestead, we're going to have to win a round in that round of 8. I think the 4, the 19, the 18, the 11 I guess, I don't know where we stack up to all those guys now, but certainly the 19 and the 18 have a lot of bonus points, so it's tough to make up that amount on those guys in three races. Even if you outrun them, those guys are typically in the top 10 scoring stage points. For us moving forward we're going to have to be top 5 certainly this next round and then winning past that.

Q. Alan, I think at one point you or Chase might have expressed some frustration on the yellows that were called today, lack of yellows. Can you comment on that?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: I expressed some frustration on the lineup. That was really frustrating for me. I didn't see anything about the yellows. The lineup there when we had gotten tires, I can't remember, it cycled back and some guys had stayed out, and we had just pit, beat the 4 off pit road, first car off pit road, and then they were supposed to swap the 48 and the 2, and that was what was conveyed to the spotters, and then the 48 pulled down and the 2 stayed in the bottom lane, and he was supposed to swap to the top lane. So long story short, that puts us back a whole 'nother row and puts Harvick up a whole 'nother row, so a guy that we beat off pit road now is three spots in front of us, which is unbelievable to me, and I just don't see how you can start the race in that position.
Fortunately for us, we were able to win that stage, but that was going to be‑‑ that put us in a bad spot, and I feel like the team and the driver and all of us had put ourselves in position where we needed to be, and then to get kind of bumped back like that ‑‑ I don't know exactly what happened. I'm not in the tower, and I'm certainly not criticizing the job that those guys do. They've got a very, very tough job. But if the 2 was supposed to move and he didn't move, he needed to be black flagged; it's that simple. Now, if there was something that I didn't understand correctly or he wasn't supposed to move, then that's a different story but there's really no scenario that I can understand where the 4 should be in front of us when we beat him off pit road, right. There's nothing that could transpire to me that would move him up.
So that was really frustrating. And fortunately we came back from it, but you never know, right, that could have been the difference between that one stage point or that could have been the difference between getting crashed or not getting crashed, and who knows what happens.

Q. Is this a difficult race because it's so new for everybody, NASCAR included, and when spins happen, sometimes they're yellow, sometimes they're not, is it harder for you on what are going to be cautions and what aren't?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, my opinion on the cautions are, look, you don't want to throw them, and I'm assuming that's what they're trying to do. I'm not watching the race as intently as you guys are or they are for sure. My comment on the cautions is you want to delay it. I've done a lot of road racing in my life and in my career, and that's pretty standard operating procedure. They leave it green until there's a point that somebody is in harm's way, and I think that's what they tried to do, what I'm assuming they tried to do, and if somebody is in ultimate in harm's way and their safety is at risk, then the caution comes out. But there's so much space, you should allow the race to transpire, and I think that's the best philosophy and the way it should happen, and the premier road racing series will do that typically, even when cars have failures and pull off to the side, as long as they're out of harm's way, they continue to race.

Q. You've been with Chase for a little while now, and I think a lot of us and the fans have been spoiled in recent times with the chemistry developing very quickly between drivers and crew chiefs, and there were years where that would take seasons for it ever to really gel, but you guys have been together a little bit, and it seems like you're starting to get more to that almost finishing each other's sentences now. Do you feel like you're at that point where just by things like the inflection in Chase's voice lets you know what's going on even without him telling you?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, I mean, I think that relationships is kind of like an arranged marriage. You never know‑‑ you kind of don't really choose your driver and the driver doesn't really choose his crew chief in most circumstances. You never know if you're going to see it eye to eye or you're going to get along, and I think it takes a while to build trust in the relationship and to build the foundation to know that ultimately I'm looking after his best interest and he's looking after my best interest, and certainly the best interest of the team.
For us, I've been pretty fortunate with the guys I've worked with, it's not been a huge problem, and it wasn't a huge problem with Chase, and we've gotten along pretty well from the beginning. But over time as you go through different circumstances and different situations, that gets a bit stronger and stronger, and as you have success, right, you get stronger and stronger, and that forges a better relationship and puts you in a situation where you can overcome more things and you don't waver. The worst thing you can do is if things don't go your way, the worst thing I can do, right, is say he made a mistake and try to blame him, and the worst thing he can do is say, well, the car did this or that and try to blame me. That doesn't get you anywhere. I think if you've been through it enough and have trust and faith in each other and all that stuff, you just deal with it and focus on improving, and that's what we do. That's what we've always tried to do and I think it's certainly not getting worse, and I think probably getting better because we've been having some pretty reasonable success.

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