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Gustafson Learning as First-Year Crew Chief

CONCORD, N.C. (Jan. 21, 2005) – Alan Gustafson is living his dream.

The Ormond Beach native went to school for racing, has been involved with the sport his entire life, and just last week concluded his first Daytona International Speedway test session as a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series crew chief with driver Kyle Busch and the No. 5 Kellogg’s team.

It’s been a whirlwind for the 29-year-old since being offered his new position late last year.  When everything became official, his reaction—excited, yet somewhat overwhelmed—was understandable.

“When they told me I was going to be the crew chief, probably the first thing that popped into my head was, ‘Wow, I have 27 employees I have to take care of and we have a lot of work to do,’” he said.

Luckily, the youngest crew chief on pit road has the opportunity to learn from some of the best in the business—his Hendrick Motorsports colleagues.

“I have watched Chad (Knaus) and Robbie (Loomis) lead both Jimmie (Johnson) and Jeff (Gordon) through some great seasons,” Gustafson said.  “I have also seen them have some down times and, honestly, the way a crew chief deals with those down times is almost more important than how they handle the success.”

Gustafson realizes the success will only come after he learns to manage the added pressure and responsibility that goes hand-in-hand with being a crew chief at this level of racing.  Thankfully, he has been able to rely on the sage advice of Loomis, the championship-winning leader of Gordon’s No. 24 DuPont team.

Loomis was especially helpful during the No. 5 team’s test at Daytona last week.

“Robbie has been a great supporter since I was selected to be the crew chief on the No. 5 car, and this past week in Daytona,” Gustafson said.

With his role as team engineer fresh in his memory, Gustafson has a keen understanding of what it’s like to be a NASCAR crew member—something he thinks will be a benefit in his new role.

“Being a member of the No. 5 team since 2001 has helped me understand what a team wants and needs,” he said.  “I have been around a great bunch of guys and some really talented crew chiefs, so I guess I’ve learned from the best.

“With all the time we put in, both on the road and at the shop, it’s important that these guys have someone to lead and guide them.  They also need someone who will listen.”

Gustafson will now take all the information and feedback collected throughout the three-day Daytona test back to the Kellogg’s Racing shop.  From there, he will share information with the other Hendrick teams, make changes and adjust the car for the upcoming Speedweeks.

“We will take all the information we learned back to the shop and run the numbers,” Gustafson said.  “From there, we will work on what we need to and come back here to Speedweeks with something for the competition.”

And you can bet he learned a lot.

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