CONCORD, N.C. – Standing in Victory Lane at Talladega Superspeedway, Chase Elliott had a lot of people to thank.
From his partners to his crew chief to his teammate, Alex Bowman, who helped push him into the lead and finished right behind him in second, Elliott was quick to show gratitude all around.
He also shared the celebration with the person in his ear throughout the race, No. 9 team spotter Eddie D'Hondt.
"He deserves a lot of credit," Elliott said. "He did a good job today."
D'Hondt and Elliott have worked together for the past four seasons after the spotter transitioned from NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon's No. 24 team, which was also crew chiefed by Alan Gustafson.
In that time, the two have formed a strong rapport on the racetrack that certainly played a role in Sunday's exhilarating win.
“I think it takes a lot of years of seeing different scenarios that you keep in your pocket so when they flash themselves, you’re aware what’s going on, and we're prepared for it,” D’Hondt said. “It’s a long journey to get to where you’re comfortable and you can go to every track and understand things.”
The spotter came to Elliott's team with decades of experience in the sport, coincidentally even previously working with the driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1's father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott.
"I'm very familiar with the Elliott family," D'Hondt smiled.
All that wisdom built up over the years helped as he grew into a new role with the younger Elliott and the No. 9 team, and now they have four wins in the past 25 races to show for it.
After the most recent win, D’Hondt was praised by both Elliott and Gustafson for his ability to adapt his style to meet the needs of so many different drivers over the years and help guide them to Victory Lane.
“The biggest accolade I want to give Eddie, he really had a good cadence and a good kind of plan or mode of execution the way he did his job with Jeff,” Gustafson said. “It worked out. Then when we got Chase, Chase wanted something completely different. Eddie had to adjust what he did to supply Chase with what he needed. It's significantly different. That's not an easy thing to do when you've done this for a long time and you have your system kind of worked out.
"He was able to adapt to what Chase needed. I think that helped Chase get comfortable and confident, be in a position to be successful."
The hard work D’Hondt put into the three-plus hour race was surely taxing. But the finale on Sunday often isn't even the first race he'll work in a weekend, a practice common among spotters.
“Most of us do every race, every weekend, the Truck Series, Xfinity Series and then Cup Series," he said. “I probably do around 100 races a year. I also do the Rolex 24 with a couple guys there. Starting a race is always kind of natural but being mentally locked in, three hours at a time, it has to happen.”
After winning the race, which was the first superspeedway victory for both Elliott and Gustafson, D’Hondt headed to Victory Lane to join the party.
“We went to Victory Lane and I high-fived and hugged all my boys that work with us here,” the spotter said. “(No. 88 team spotter) Kevin Hamlin and I took a selfie, which is kind of cool because I felt like Alex and him worked really hard to help us and were selfless as well as all the Chevrolet teams. We really orchestrated something pretty special.
"Then when I got home, my whole family who just wrap their arms around what I do, they had checkered flags and banners all over the house. So, that was kind of cool.”