CONCORD, N.C. -- After an eventful NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL last Sunday, teammates Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott both managed to keep their championship dreams alive after Larson won the 400-mile event and Elliott transferred by way of points thanks to their pit crews.
Both the No. 5 and No. 9 teams had their fair share of challenges during the race. Larson battled an alternator issue and was forced to change the battery and replace the alternator belt under different pit stops during the event. Elliott was caught in an on-track accident with the No. 4 car in stage three but quick thinking by his pit crew got the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE repaired and back on track. Despite starting at the rear of the pack more than halfway through the race, Elliott rallied for a 12th-place result.
“Every time something like this happens and you are able to come through and win the race, that really motivates you to go to the next one and do the same thing,” said Steven Legendre, the engine tuner for the No. 5 team. “It would have been one thing to come out and just barely make it through; moving on would have been not on the high we are on now. To be on that high and leading into tracks we know we are good at, and we know we have a shot at every track we are going to go to, I think that is a propellor to get us going.”
Since the No. 9 team advanced by way of points, the team was unsure if they had transferred until the race was over and their spot in the Round of 8 was confirmed. Once the news came down to the team on pit road, they all felt solace that the work the put into Elliott’s car paid off.
“It definitely was a sigh of relief,” said Nick O’Dell, the tire changer for the No. 9 team. “We weren’t 100% sure we advanced even with the No. 4 wrecking because we still had to finish the race and finish in a decent spot, so it was kind of a waiting game. We were able to repair our car and capitalize on the points we were able to make it up. We were in a tough hole for a little while but the fact that it all worked out was great.”
While it would be easy to panic under that pressure, learning from past adversities have helped prepare the teams to remain calm and levelheaded under these intense situations. Taking a methodical approach to fixing their issues allowed both teams to adjust the cars properly and give their drivers a winning chance.
“I think experience is what prepares you for those situations and then staying calm in the moment; not getting excited about a situation,” said Jesse Saunders, the car chief of the No. 5 team. “You are just troubleshooting a problem. It would be no different than if it were during practice or here in the shop; you are just troubleshooting it and trying to come up with the best solution for that situation.
“I think, good or bad, we have had some growing years the past couple of years and that has only hardened us for these situations to be more on our feet, be calm in tough situations and just be aware of the big picture. For once, it paid off.”
With the Charlotte ROVAL under in the rearview mirror, both teams are looking forward to making the most of their momentum as they get prepare for the final four playoff races of the season. Tune in this Sunday, Oct. 17 at 2 p.m. ET on NBC to see Elliott, Larson and their crews try to lock themselves into the Championship 4 race with a win at Texas Motor Speedway.