CONCORD, N.C. – Last weekend’s win at Watkins Glen International brought more than just a celebration in Victory Lane for the No. 9 team.
From a pole, to wins in Stages 1 and 2 and 80 laps led en route to capturing the checkered flag, it provided evidence of what the group can do when everything comes together – and serves as a building block with just four races remaining before the start of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.
“Getting a clean sweep for the weekend was an amazing accomplishment and something we’re very proud of and going to remember for a while,” No. 9 team crew chief Alan Gustafson said. “It’s a huge boost for the team. We have had a really rough six weeks or so, not getting finishes or having mechanical problems. It was important for us to get back on track and get some more momentum and start building some positive energy. That was a great way to go do it.”
Along the way, Chase Elliott picked up seven playoff points from the performance, moving him to sixth in the projected playoff standings.
Accumulating those valuable markers is something Gustafson and the No. 9 team have in their sights in over the next four races.
“The playoff points are huge,” the crew chief said. “To get seven in a day is a big chunk. It’s a big step in the right direction. We just got seven, so let’s go get seven again. Just as many as we can get and keep bridging the gap.”
The next opportunity to build on the win comes this weekend at Michigan International Speedway.
Elliott and the No. 9 finished inside the top 10 in the driver’s first six Cup Series starts at the track, which tied for the series’ longest streak of starts before a finish outside of the top 10 at Michigan.
That streak included three runner-up results, which also tie for the most for a driver before capturing his first win at the track.
But earlier this year, the No. 9 team left the track with a 20th-place result, snapping the top-10 streak.
“We’re excited about Michigan,” Gustafson said. “I think in the spring we weren’t bad, but we didn’t have the right package to show off a great car.”
Elliott began that June race in 17th but ran inside the top 10 for much of the event, including leading a lap, before contact with the wall ended up relegating the No. 9 team to the 20th-place finish in overtime.
“I think we learned a lot from the spring and we’re going to try some things going back,” Gustafson said. “It’s been a good track for us in the past but we have to go back with adjustments to the rules, and the package has changed the dynamic of that racetrack.”
The group is certainly up for the challenge, and they’re approaching the track with plenty of confidence following last weekend’s dominant performance.
“We didn’t hit it just right in the spring,” the crew chief said, “but we’re looking forward to going back and making the necessary adjustments to be successful and hopefully win.”