CONCORD, N.C. – This weekend, No. 9 team crew chief Alan Gustafson will hit a major milestone.
Gustafson is set to make his 500th career NASCAR Cup Series start as a crew chief.
“It’s pretty crazy,” the crew chief laughed. “It doesn’t feel like 500. You’re kind of working, going along and you look up and it’s 500. It’s a big number. I think it’s a pretty big accomplishment to stay a crew chief for 500 starts, regardless. Happy to be able to do that and have some success doing it.”
He will join fellow Hendrick Motorsports crew chief Chad Knaus as the second active crew chief to hit 500 starts.
Gustafson’s first Cup Series start came in February 2005 with Kyle Busch at Daytona International Speedway. In 499 starts that have spanned 14 seasons, the crew chief has worked with five different drivers, collecting 23 wins along the way.
Those wins have come thanks to Jeff Gordon (11), Mark Martin (five), Busch (four) and Chase Elliott (three).
“There are so many races that kind of stand out, just lots of different things, the first wins with different drivers,” Gustafson said. “Then there are the races that got away that you always remember. I maybe even remember those more. You kind of count all the ones that you didn’t get that you feel like you should’ve gotten. There are just tons and tons of good memories.
“More than the races, probably, to me, the people that I’ve worked with, when you reminisce, that’s what you think about.”
Gustafson made it to the Championship 4 in the current configuration of the playoffs in 2015 with Gordon behind the wheel. Currently, he’s on a streak of three consecutive playoff appearances with Elliott as his driver.
This weekend, he has a chance to make it back to the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
If Elliott wins Sunday at ISM Raceway, the No. 9 team would be guaranteed a spot in the finale with a title on the line. Elliott can also advance on points, but would need help depending on the race winner.
“I’d love to win my 500th race – that’d be pretty special,” Gustafson said. “That’d be right up there. That’d be pretty fantastic. All those things culminating, the 500th start, punching a ticket to Homestead would be probably second only to winning Homestead and the championship. That’d be a great day.
“I think we’ve got a shot at doing it, so we’ll work hard to get that.”