CONCORD, N.C. – With fewer than 10 laps remaining in Sunday’s race at Dover International Speedway, No. 9 team crew chief Alan Gustafson made the call to keep Chase Elliott on the track.
It put Elliott in the lead, and the driver rewarded that decision. On old tires, he maintained the lead through two restarts, including the final one in overtime, en route to Victory Lane.
Jeff Gordon saw the win in that situation as a pivotal moment for both Elliott and Gustafson.
“That now tells a crew chief when I'm in this situation I can take more risks because I have a young guy that's going to put it on the line, that's going to push the limit and do what he has to do to get those wins,” the NASCAR Hall of Famer said. “These days, crew chiefs have to be able to make those gutsy calls because track position is so, so important. That's what made me really happy for both of them, for Chase and for Alan.”
Gordon was right there alongside Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick to greet Elliott at the pit wall after the driver climbed out of his No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 victorious.
He could sense what the second career NASCAR Cup Series win meant to Elliott and the entire No. 9 team moving forward.
“With Chase, I mean, you think about how many second‑place finishes he's had, how close he's been, and I think to Watkins Glen, just getting that monkey off his back, just being able to get into Victory Lane, recognizing that all the ingredients that it takes to finally pull it off is such a huge relief as a driver,” he said. “And now to be able to follow up that Watkins Glen win with a win here in the closing laps on a restart against a guy that had a little bit fresher tires, a guy you have some history with, I think this only elevates up his game and the whole team's game of being capable of now going and closing the deal.”
The win only builds the entire team’s confidence and momentum, and he noted that the timing couldn’t be better for the No. 9 team with a spot in the Round of 8 already locked up.
In his time spent with Elliott and his teammates, Gordon said he can see how much trust the No. 9 team puts in its driver. And he expects that to continue to pay off for the remainder of the playoffs.
“The team loves him, they believed in him, and now things are starting to click,” Gordon said. “It's great momentum, and that's all you need as a confidence booster, as a driver, is just to start getting the W's and getting the things you worked so hard for to start going your way.
“I'm a big believer that it doesn't happen on sheer luck – it happens through hard work, commitment and dedication. I think this team is very committed and dedicated, and they'll show that over the next several weeks.”