CONCORD, N.C. -- Chase Elliott and Alan Gustafson have been down this road before. The No. 9 driver and crew chief combo were considered underdogs during last year’s NASCAR Cup Series title run entering the Championship 4 event at Phoenix Raceway. While they had a slightly easier time punching their ticket into the final round of the playoffs this year, they are approaching this weekend with the “all or nothing” attitude that helped them clinch the 2020 title.

However, they are not living in the glory of 2020 – Gustafson has made it very clear that this is a new season and last year’s title needs to remain firmly in the past as they prepare for this weekend.

“I’ve just been focused on trying to get in a position where we can do that again,” he said. “I really haven’t had a chance to reflect on last year much or really even think about it. We are just focused on this season and trying to get ourselves and our team in the best position we can for this weekend. Certainly, there’s some things we learned going through last year and this season so far that we can apply, but as far as anything else, it’s just been keeping our eyes forward."

Elliott echoed Gustafson in keeping his mind in 2021 rather than focusing on 2020. He said there are lessons from last year’s Phoenix run that they No. 9 team will apply to this Sunday, but he’s preparing for the Cup finale the same way he prepared every week this season.

“We will look at how we raced (at Phoenix) the last few years, not just that particular race last year. Then obviously the spring race, we have some things to look back at,” Elliott explained. “From the mental side, having that knowledge of going and experiencing the emotions of the week and leading up to it and all those things, it is kind of nice to have been through that before. … I don’t know whether really affects your performance or not, but certainly there were things and experiences that I learned last year that I'll try to carry forward to better myself and to better our team.”

All things considered, the No. 9 team will go up against Martin Truex Jr., who already has a Cup Series title; Denny Hamlin, who has the most experience out of the Championship 4 drivers and teammate Kyle Larson, who dominated the field this year with nine victories. Larson and Elliott account for five 1-2 finishes this season, an impressive feat for the Hendrick Motorsports duo. In fact, this will be the first time Hendrick Motorsports has two drivers in the Championship 4 race since its inception in 2014.

“We have had a great season as far as just Hendrick Motorsports as a whole, has had a fantastic year with having really all four of our cars running well,” Elliott said. “We've, at times, all competed against one another for race wins and I feel like you're likely going to have to win this race this weekend when the championship. So, I hope Kyle and I are racing for it, and we can put on a good show and a good race and see where we end up.”