CONCORD, N.C. -- Alan Gustafson is confident he has a championship-caliber team with Chase Elliott and the No. 9 crew. The veteran crew chief said the formula to make it to the final round of the playoffs is simple – win in every segment to ensure the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE is standing strong in the Championship 4 round.
“I think Chase is in a great position to be able to succeed,” Gustafson said on SiriusXM. “I feel like there are a couple years, certainly last year stands out, that we were in a great position to make it to the (Championship 4) and in the Round of 8 we had some unforced errors and issues that got us out.
“We need to get to the final race. That’s our objective, and he is certainly capable of it and ready to do it. He is a marquee driver and he does a great job and has very little weaknesses. We just need to make sure that we exploit that, he brings his A-game and we can get to Phoenix.”
Gustafson has the second-most playoff race appearances with 13 and is tied for second in playoff wins (nine). Only fellow Hendrick Motorsports crew chief Chad Knaus has more appearances and wins.
“I’m excited it add to it,” Gustafson said of his record. “That’s the goal – to try to add as many playoff wins as we can. That usually results in a really good team. You’re going have to win in the playoffs. That’s the key to getting to Phoenix and being in the (Championship 4).”
How Elliott drives and how Gustafson makes certain calls are both detrimental to the team’s placement, but the pit crew also is also crucial in how a car performs. Every second counts and the No. 9 team currently averages a 13.93 four-tire pit stop time through 27 races.
“We have a really good pit crew. Those guys have done a great job for us,” Gustafson said. “They put us in position and some of that pit stop time is impacted by the performance of the car if you are having to make a lot of adjustments or a lot on your car, it’s not going to yield a great pit stop time. I think the pit crew is a strength for us and it is going to be an opportunity for us to take advantage of some guys on pit road.”
Elliott was in the top position to win at Darlington last week, but in a battle for the No. 1 spot in the waning laps he was tapped and hit the wall. Elliott finished in 20th but will have a fresh start this week as the field heads to Richmond Raceway for the second playoff race of the year.
“I do think when you get down to the end, you got to win – that’s a huge part of being able to move on is to win,” Gustafson said. “When you look at the guys who usually make it, they start with a bunch of bonus points and they have the ability to win.”
The event at Richmond will start at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, Sept. 12 on NBCSN.