In the early part of the 2010 season, Jeff Dickerson was on the spotter’s stand for driver Kyle Busch, a former Hendrick Motorsport team member. But a change was made midway in the season and Dickerson returned home to HMS to spot for four-time champion Jeff Gordon.
[media-credit id=22 align=”alignright” width=”267″][/media-credit]Dickerson is most excited to be reunited with crew chief Alan Gustafson, Busch’s former crew chief while at Hendrick. Gustafson was part of the major crew chief swap at Hendrick Motorsports, moving from the pit box of Mark Martin to Jeff Gordon.
“Alan Gustafson is one of my true loves in that garage,” Dickerson said. “He is responsible for my success in this sport as much as anybody. So to be reunited with him and those guys, it’s kind of like going home.”
“It didn’t really take much to get re-acclimated with those guys because those relationships never really ended,” Dickerson continued. “That’s really just been a lot of fun.”
“Alan and I approach the race the same,” Dickerson said. “He taught me everything I know.”
As far as working with driver Jeff Gordon, Dickerson is feeling equally at home on the spotter’s stand.
“Everything’s been good,” Dickerson said. “I’m obviously excited as everybody to get a chance at that championship. But we have to close some races out.”
“Last year, we were so close to winning some races and we couldn’t close them out. Hopefully we can get that monkey off our back.”
Dickerson said that his transition to Gordon was made most easy by the driver himself.
“Jeff basically said for me to do my deal and he would figure it out,” Dickerson said. “When they came and got me Jeff was looking for something different so he has done a really good job adapting to me. He’s really made a nice soft landing for me.”
“Any feedback that he has for me is in real time,” Dickerson continued. “He is very open as far as feedback from me as far as what he needs to be doing. No one is worried about hurting anyone’s feelings. We’re just always trying to learn.”
As at home with Jeff Gordon that Dickerson feels, he is definitely not feeling comfortable quite yet with the style of racing that has presented itself so far at Daytona.
“We’re all still learning about this tandem racing,” Dickerson said. “I’m as curious as anybody how this is going to go with 43 of us out there. The cars on the race track are also still trying to figure that out.”
Dickerson is also trying to figure out just how to make the appropriate deals up on the spotters’ stand that will most benefit his driver and team.
“In the past, it was let’s make a deal, but you knew you were going to get screwed,” Dickerson said. “If it was one big pack, you could jump in and jump out and everything was great.”
“But now when you make a deal with someone, you sit in tandem and it’s a deal,” Dickerson continued. “Now you need somebody more than you needed them before.”
Dickerson described the spotters’ stand at Daytona as basically a “train wreck” given this new style of racing.
“You’re running around making deals with whoever the guy is that’s ahead or behind or who is lined up behind you,” Dickerson said. “We’re all running into each other just trying to adapt.”
Dickerson also predicted that the partnerships that are formed in the Daytona 500 will last throughout most of the race. This very situation occurred in Gordon’s duel, where he worked with young Trevor Bayne throughout, only to get caught up in a wreck at the end of the race.
“I think Trevor Bayne did a great job,” Dickerson said. “Can you only imagine being that old and having Jeff Gordon coming to you saying ‘Hey bud, we’re going to be working together today?’ It was just unfortunate that we all got caught up there in the end but he kept his poise.”
“It could have been David Pearson in the car,” Dickerson continued. “He looked beyond his years. There’s been a lot of great guys that have run that car and it looked like anyone of them was in there. He did a great job.”
“Jeff would have no problem working with him again.”
Unfortunately the two working together did not last during the final laps of the race. Both Bayne and Gordon wrecked, with Bayne finishing 19th and Gordon finishing in the 12th position.
“We were very fortunate to get through that with what we got,” Dickerson said. “We’re really lucky because we could have been in the same position that the 88 is having to start at the back. And that’s not what you want to do when you’re guaranteed a starting spot from the front row in this deal.”
When Sunday rolls around and the Daytona 500 gets underway, Dickerson said that what he will be most surprised about is if the cars can really run like they did in the duel races for 500 miles.
“I will be surprised if these guys can do this for 500 miles,” Dickerson said. “I am also curious to see how we are going to do that with 43 guys out there.”
“It’s going to be as intense and crazy as you’ve ever seen.”
Dickerson will get the opportunity to see just how intense the racing will be when he takes the spotter’s stand for America’s Super Bowl of racing.
Until then, he will continue to savor his homecoming with the No. 24 team and his Hendrick Motorsports family.