By any measure, Alan Gustafson is one of the most successful crew chiefs in NASCAR today. He leads the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team of driver Chase Elliott, the 2016 NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year and 2014 NASCAR XFINITY Series champion.
Growing up just down the road from historic Daytona International Speedway, Gustafson developed a passion for racing. At 8 years old, he began turning wrenches on the go-karts of childhood friend Casey Yunick, the grandson of legendary car builder and mechanic Smokey Yunick. As a mechanic, Gustafson moved quickly through the legends, late model and Sports Car Club of America ranks.
After graduating from Seabreeze High School in Daytona Beach, Florida, Gustafson enrolled at nearby Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to study mechanical engineering. During his college career, he was faced with a life-altering decision: finish his courses or relocate to North Carolina to pursue the dream of working in motor sports. Gustafson chose the latter.
After arriving in North Carolina in 1996, Gustafson teamed with driver Jimmy Foster to co-own a Goody's Dash Series team. He called the shots as crew chief and engineer, and the duo finished sixth in the standings. Gustafson became a first-time NASCAR crew chief in 1997 after joining Addington Racing’s Camping World Truck Series team and transitioned the following season to the XFINITY Series as an engineer for Diamond Ridge Motorsports.
Gustafson's big break came in 1999 after renting space from NASCAR champion crew chief Gary Dehart, who saw promise in the young Floridian and offered him a chance to work in the Hendrick Motorsports chassis department. After quickly proving himself, Gustafson in 2000 joined the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports team as shock specialist for two-time NASCAR champion driver and Hall of Famer Terry Labonte. His hard work again paid off in 2002 when he was promoted to the No. 5 team’s lead engineer, a position he held for three seasons.
Before the start of 2005, Gustafson was named crew chief for the No. 5 Chevrolet with rookie driver Kyle Busch. That year, he earned his first NASCAR victory as a crew chief at Fontana, California, and led Busch to two wins and Rookie of the Year honors. Gustafson spent 2006 and 2007 with Busch, winning at least one race each year and appearing in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs both seasons.
After a 2008 stint with Casey Mears driving the No. 5 Chevrolet, Gustafson was given the opportunity to work with his childhood hero, NASCAR legend Mark Martin. In 2009, Gustafson posted the best season of his career, finishing second in points after five wins with the future Hall of Fame driver. The duo earned five wins, 21 top-five finishes, 32 top-10s, eight pole positions and 953 laps led in two seasons together.
At the end of 2010, Gustafson was named crew chief of the iconic No. 24 Chevrolet driven by another living legend, four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon. In five seasons, he coached Gordon to several milestones, including the driver’s 85th Cup victory and first Homestead-Miami Speedway win.
In 2014, Gustafson led Gordon to four wins, including the driver’s record fifth victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Hendrick Motorsports’ 200th pole position. The No. 24 team’s 23 top-10 finishes that year rank as a career best for Gustafson. In his final full-time season in 2015, Gordon was in the title conversation until the final race at Homestead-Miami. He and Gustafson ultimately finished third, just five points back, with one win, five top-five finishes, 21 top-10s and four poles. Combined, the pair scored 11 wins, 51 top-five finishes and 97 top-10s.
2016 was a year of change for the veteran crew chief. Gustafson led rising star Elliott to the most successful rookie season in the past decade with the duo earning 10 top-five finishes and 17 top-10s at NASCAR’s highest level. They started the season with a bang by capturing the 2016 Daytona 500 pole award, and their momentum continued through to the end of the year with the No. 24 team earning a spot in NASCAR’s playoffs, with Elliott ultimately finishing 10th in the championship standings. The driver earned 2016 Rookie of the Year honors while Gustafson became the first two-time winner of the MOOG’s Problem Solver of the Year award, which recognizes the best overall performance by a crew chief in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Gustafson resides in Davidson, North Carolina, with his wife, Shannon, and two sons, John Alan and Austin. In his spare time, he enjoys mountain biking.