Trending
Newsletter Signup

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- One of the most iconic venues in all of motor sports, Daytona International Speedway means so much to so many.

No. 24 team crew chief Alan Gustafson even credits his career path to the track.

"Really I probably owe my passion for racing to this speedway," he said. "This is what started my love affair with motor sports, I think, being able to come here and watch races."

Growing up just down the road in Ormond Beach, Florida -- known as the "Birthplace of Speed" -- Gustafson reminisced about making the trek to the speedway as a 5-year-old to watch the 24 Hours of Daytona and soaking in all the experiences that came with it.

"After that race they open up the grandstands and you can come into the track," he recalled. "The teams were down here, they were loading up these cars and they were just amazing."

Gustafson has a history with Daytona International Speedway, but it's not the hometown feel that drives him when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visits twice a year.

"It's a very tough place to have success at, so that I think probably fuels me the most, not having won a race here," he said. "That trumps everything else."


He'll look to find that first Daytona win as a Sprint Cup crew chief this Sunday with rookie Chase Elliott, who will start the race from the pole position.

It's a situation with which Gustafson is familiar, as just last season the No. 24 Chevrolet SS was also on the pole for the Daytona 500 in Jeff Gordon's final full-time year behind the wheel.

"The pole is nice," the crew chief said. "The pole is a lot about the team and the effort from the shop and what they've been able to accomplish, and that's very rewarding for that reason, for sure. But winning the race is the key, and winning the race is the focus."

Gustafson has set the expectations high as he returns to his hometown track to kick off the season. And with the green flag less than 48 hours away, one thing is certain.

"2016," Gustafson said, "is going to be a lot of fun."