CONCORD, N.C. -- Less than two weeks after winning his first NASCAR Cup Series title, Alan Gustafson still is on cloud 9. Chase Elliott’s crew chief celebrated with the No. 9 team on Nov. 8 after the pair took the checkered flag at Phoenix Raceway, giving Hendrick Motorsports its record-extending 13th title.
Gustafson praised Elliott’s poise and drive heading into the final race of the Round of 8 at Martinsville Speedway. He said winning that race is what primed the team to take on the Championship 4 head on.
“I’m super proud of all the NAPA guys,” Gustafson said during the 2020 NASCAR Awards Show. “They did an amazing job, and we knew going into Martinsville it was a must-win. I think going through that situation and overcoming that challenge gave us a lot of confidence moving forward.
"Phoenix was certainly not any easier, but it was just a different feel because you felt like, ‘Hey, we just did it. We know how to do it and we can go do it again.’ That was a huge confidence boost to make that happen at Martinsville.”
Gustafson has been close to winning the championship before and has been the crew chief for drivers such as Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch and Mark Martin. He said all of his drivers have certain similarities but Elliott’s tenacity at 24 has him primed to be a future NASCAR Hall of Famer.
“He’s got all the attributes,” Gustafson said of Elliott. “I think he’s got a unique package of incredible skill and intelligence. To have that at a young age and to be such a smart person and such a grounded, level-headed guy, I think he’s set up well to do good in the future for a long time to come.”
As for Gustafson finally getting an elusive championship, it boiled down to always trying to improve himself and his team. He said the team mentality and support system at Hendrick Motorsports was the perfect foundation to create a championship-winning crew.
"A lot of great people certainly have influenced me along the way and helped me, helped this team,” Gustafson said. “It’s a culmination of a lot of effort. A lot of effort here from (Hendrick Motorsports) that goes back a long time.”