CONCORD, N.C. – From the very beginning of his relationship with Chase Elliott, No. 9 team crew chief Alan Gustafson knew their team had the potential to get to Victory Lane.
“From the first race we had him, we felt like we could win,” the No. 9 team crew chief said.
That came to fruition last season, when Elliott captured the checkered flag on three separate occasions – the first three wins of his NASCAR Cup Series career.
Now, entering 2019, Gustafson said the No. 9 team won’t rest on its laurels.
“We always try to adapt and improve,” he said. “We try to challenge ourselves every day to get better. We certainly can’t do the same thing we did and be successful – we are going to have to improve on that. I think that is our mindset, as always.”
Gustafson pointed to a slow start to 2018 as an aspect on which to focus early in 2019. And in order to put together a stronger jump out of the gate, the group will need to work to keep up its performances from the latter part of last season.
“If I look back on last year, that is one thing we did on the No. 9 really well, we got better every week,” the crew chief said. “Ultimately it showed up at the end of the season when we were able to come from really a pretty dismal start to a pretty decent finish. And we just did that by improving every day. There wasn’t one thing. We didn’t wake up one day and say, ‘This is what we were missing’. We just got a little bit every day.”
One of the challenges early this season will be tackling the new rules package in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Gustafson said that his job is to find what it takes to gain an advantage on the track by creating the ideal setup in the car.
“I am 100 percent confident if we give Chase a car that he wants, he will win the race with it,” he said. “He can adapt really well.”
The crew chief expects that there will be plenty of adjustments in the early goings of the campaign as teams get a better feel for the new package. But after what the team was able to accomplish last season, he said he’s confident in the direction the group is headed regardless of rules.
It all comes down to “maintaining.”
“Where the momentum came from at the end of 2018 was performing, and you’ve got to perform to start the season,” Gustafson said. “If we do that, I think it will carry over.”