NASCAR CUP SERIES
DAYTONA ROAD COURSE
O’REILLY AUTO PARTS 253 AT DAYTONA
TEAM CHEVY PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
FEBRUARY 17, 2020
ALAN GUSTAFSON, CREW CHIEF, NO. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS CAMARO ZL1 1LE, Press Conference Transcript:
GOING INTO THE DAYTONA ROAD COURSE NOW WITH TWO RACES UNDER YOUR BELT, DOES COMING IN PREPPED WITH A BUNCH OF NOTES DECREASE THE PRESSURE AS A CREW CHIEF OR IS IT STILL AS HIGH AS IT’S BEEN SINCE LAST SEASON?
“I don’t think it really changes it much. I think there was maybe a little higher anxiety the first time we ran, just because you didn’t know what to expect. But certainly, having raced there, it’s proved to be a difficult track to deal with. So, it’s still a lot of pressure and certainly concerning issues with the track in trying to get ahold of it and getting your car perfect there. I don’t think it’s changed much. Before we went there, we didn’t know what to expect and after we raced here, we realized it’s a pretty tough track to get ahold of. We’ll be in the same situation on Sunday.”
WITH YOUR TEAM BEING KNOWN FOR WINNING A LOT OF THE ROAD COURSES, WITH ALL THE NEW ROAD COURSES ON THE SCHEDULE, AS A CREW CHIEF, WHICH RACE ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO CALLING THE SHOTS ON THE MOST?
“I’m a huge fan of the road courses; they’re a lot of fun and, ultimately, bring unique challenges. For me, I like the circuits we run and the new additions are great. I’m really excited to go to COTA; I’d say that’s probably at the top of my list, just because I’ve never been there and I’ve heard really good things about the facility and the track in general. So, I’m excited to get there and be able to put our cars on that track. I think that’ll be a lot of fun.”
“The Indy Road Course is going to be good; it was a great race for the Xfinity Series last year, so I’m excited to get there and try to get that going. Elkhart Lake is an iconic track, too. I was there a long time ago, when I was probably fifteen years old, for a Trans Am race. I love the place and it’s a great dedicated road circuit. That will be a lot of fun too. They’re all good, but if I have to say one, COTA.”
I ASSUME YOU’VE SEEN SOME OF THE PHOTOS OF WHAT THEY’RE DOING TO THE TRACK. DID YOU FEEL LIKE SOMETHING WAS NEEDED AND HOW MUCH DO YOU THINK IT IMPACTS WHAT THE DRIVERS ARE GOING TO DO?
“We had a really big issue with a lot of dirt on our windshield after having to start in the back. It was pretty debilitating to our efforts. I certainly think that needed to be addressed, not only for the competition, but for the safety in general. I’ve seen where they were putting the concrete in and they’re going to put the turtles on top of that; I haven’t seen the turtles yet. It looked like a good fix to me in short order. It should be good. I don’t really have any issue with guys shortening and straightening that bus stop; that’s their job and that’s what they’re supposed to do. Just the dirt was a problem. Ultimately, it was probably what caught Martin (Truex Jr.) and why he crashed, I’m guessing. You can ask him, but it looked that way to me and I know we had a lot of issue with visibility from the dirt back there.”
WHEN YOU LOOK AT WHERE YOU’RE STARTING ON SUNDAY ON THE POLE COMPARED TO PEOPLE THAT WERE IN WRECKS EARLY IN THE DAYTONA 500, HOW FORTUNATE DO YOU FEEL?
“Yeah, and it’s been that way, right. It was that way at all the races last year; Talladega was another example of that impact down the road. That’s the landscape; that’s the way it is. The rules are known ahead and I certainly feel for the No. 48, for example, getting crashed running wherever they were, in second place – not getting any points and having to come from behind. So, it is compounding with the metrics they use to set the lineup, but there’s really not much choice. I would much rather have the lineup set based on merit than I would off of a random draw. Everything has some positives and negatives, but ultimately, I think you should be responsible for your starting position and I think this is as fair of a system that you’re going to get. It’s certainly not fair in all situations, but nothing is.”
WHAT ELSE DID YOU TAKE AWAY FROM THE CLASH? EVENTUALLY YOU GUYS GOT UP THERE LATE AND WERE LEADING, BUT I THINK MANY PEOPLE WERE SURPRISED THAT PERHAPS CHASE (ELLIOTT) DIDN’T MAKE IT UP THERE OR WASN’T AS STRONG AS WE NORMALLY SEE HIM ON THE ROAD COURSES.
“Yeah, I didn’t feel like we were as good as we needed to be. We did have a lot of circumstances that prohibited us; some of our own doings and some not. The windshield was one; certainly, our strategy and execution was pretty poor. So, we had to come back from those things. We were headed to the front. I think we were probably in the best condition until Martin (Truex Jr.) and that caution we didn’t need because we were out of tires.”
“Yeah, we weren’t as good as we wanted to be, for sure. We have to try and improve a little bit and give Chase (Elliott) a better car. So, we’ll focus on trying to do that.”
THIS WEEKEND, THE TIRE I BELIEVE IS DIFFERENT. GOOD YEAR IS SWITCHING TO THE ROVAL TIRE, WHICH I BELIEVE YOU GUYS RAN IN THE CLASH. THAT TIRE SEEMED TO REALLY FALL OFF A LOT. SHOULD BE EXPECT MAYBE A LITTLE BIT OF A DIFFERENT RACE THAN WE SAW IN AUGUST WHEN IT COMES TO MAYBE MORE TIRE WEAR AND PIT STRATEGY?
“The short answer is yes – I think that tire definitely responds differently and you could kind of see that in the Clash. Even a few laps on your tires, it’s just a pretty big advantage to have new tires. Where the tire last year, it did fall off, it just didn’t seem like there was as big of a benefit. I do think the strategy will be a bit different. The Clash is a bit unique because the worst-case scenario, you go to 20th, and on Sunday, you can go much, much further back. The short field helps the ability to pit multiple times in the Clash, but I do think the tire is going to impact the strategy and yield benefits from pitting.”
THERE’S SO MUCH SAID ABOUT CHASE (ELLIOTT) BEING SO GOOD ON ROAD COURSES AND IT’S ALMOST LIKE IT’S A GIVEN – ON ROAD COURSES, IT’S GOING TO BE CHASE ELLIOTT. BUT EVERYBODY HAS BEEN WORKING ON THEIR ROAD COURSE DRIVING AND RACING. DO YOU SEE THAT AS A CHANGE? IS IT A GIVEN? WE KNOW HE’S REALLY GOOD, BUT OTHERS, AREN’T THEY GOING TO CATCH UP OR DO YOU FEEL THAT COMING?
“Oh for sure – there’s no givens, nowhere even close. Chase (Elliott) is very good, we have a great team and have had some good results and some positive things. I certainly feel like we’re positioned well when we go to road courses, but it’s not that much different than any other track. There are really good road racers, really good teams and you could certainly see that the other night. I fully expect to have our hands full as we do every time we go race.”
“I never have remotely felt like it’s a given that we’re going to win or that we’re not going to have much competition – no way. Those guys are really good. Really, I think Martin (Truex Jr.) was the best car until he crashed the other night and he was certainly very good at Daytona in 2020.”
“In response to do I think everyone is going to catch up – yeah, I think everyone is going to work hard to get better and we have to work as equally as hard.”
WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE BIGGEST CHALLENEGE AT THE ROAD COURSE THIS WEEKEND AT DAYTONA, IN GENERAL?
“The biggest challenge is – it’s like any road course, really. The uniqueness of that place is the surface is so wore out; that infield is just really wore out. It’s really hard to get ahold of. If you have an issue slowing the car down, you have an issue turning and issues accelerating. It’s a story that I’m sure that everybody has heard a million times and get tired of hearing, but that’s what happens. That place makes it worse because it’s just slick. So, you can’t get the car stopped, then you can’t get the car turned and then you have to try and accelerate and it certainly doesn’t like that. You have to be able to do a good job of all those things and that place is tough to do it.”
SINCE CHAD (KNAUS) HAS MOVED TO MORE OF AN ADVISORY ROLE, HAVE YOU NOTICED A DIFFERENCE YET IN THE CALLS OF HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS?
“Yeah, I think there’s definitely a difference, but this isn’t something that just happened when it was announced. This has been happening overtime and, certainly, he’s been here a long time and has had an influence on the organization for a while. Yeah, I do think there’s a slight difference, but I also feel like it’s been a continuous effort over a long time to kind of re-arrange and give Jeff (Gordon) the responsibilities that he’s really good at and Chad (Knaus) the ones he’s good at. Yeah, I think we’re working through that and trying to get better with it every day.”
HAVE YOU BEEN SUPPORTIVE OF ALL THE ADDITIONAL RACING CHASE (ELLIOTT) HAS BEEN DOING IN THE OFF-SEASON? DO YOU THINK THAT WILL JUST MAKE HIM A MORE WELL-ROUNDED DRIVER.
“Yeah, absolutely. I’m very supportive of it; I encourage it. He’s a race car driver – it’s what he does and I think those experiences ultimately are going to be beneficial for him. Yeah, there’s some negatives that come with it, like anything else. But I think it’s a really good thing – I think it’s good for him, I think it’s good for us, I think it’s good for the fans. I think it’s good that he goes and does those things. To me, it really shows what kind of competitor he is and person. It’d be easy for the Champion to just sit back and drink some champagne, but he was wanting to go put himself out there – put himself in situations that he knew were going to be really, really tough and difficult to succeed at. He knew it was going to be a challenge and for him to accept that and want to do that is great.”
THREE MORE RACE WINS, CHASE (ELLIOTT) WILL TIE JEFF GORDON WITH HIS ROAD COURSE WINNING STREAK. WORKING WITH JEFF FOR AWHILE ON ROAD COURSES, WHAT ARE THE SIMILARITIES YOU SEE BETWEEN JEFF AND CHASE AND WHAT DO YOU THINK CHASE DOES BETTER THAN JEFF DID IN HIS TIME ON THE ROAD COURSES?
“There’s quite a few similarities. I’ve seen this with all the good road racers I’ve worked with, and I’ve been fortunate to be around quite a few – it’s all slowed down for them. There’s so much going on road courses, between shifting, braking, turning, corners and handling in the corners. When you work with guys that are really good and successful, the level of detail they can describe and how they know what’s going on with the car and how it all just slows down for them. You see that from Chase (Elliott), for sure, and I certainly saw that from Jeff (Gordon). Jimmie, Mark, and even being able to be around Fernando a little bit that I was with Jimmie – you just realize that with those guys, things just happen at a much slower pace and it’s easier for them to process and handle all that information and everything that they’ve got to do in the car.”
“And then you see the guys that struggle just look really busy. You see the guys that are struggling and you can kind of tell that they’re always a second behind, they’re late on their down-shifts, and now they’re wheel-hopping and everything is just really frantic. You watch an in-board camera with Chase and it looks like it’s really easy because he’s really that good. I think that’s a big thing.”
“What’s different? I think Jeff attacks the track a bit more; he was a bit more aggressive and attacking. Chase, is a bit smoother and more flowy. I know that sounds kind of weird, but that’s a difference – Jeff would carry a lot of speed and then accelerate; his roll time was not very much. Where Chase is more flowy – he likes to roll and continuously carry speed and not have these big changes in speed.”
OTHER TEAMS ARE STARTING TO PRIORITIZE THE ROAD COURSES MORE WITH THE ADDITION OF MORE ON THE SCHEDULE. IS THAT ALSO SOMETHING YOU GUYS ARE DOING OR NOT SO MUCH?
“Yeah, I don’t feel like that’s a new thing, personally. There’s really no other discipline that you put that much effort into. Everybody sends their drivers, if they’re new, to Boris Said, or Ron Fellows, or Bob Bondurant or wherever, to learn road racing. So, I feel like there’s always been a big emphasis put on road racing and a lot of times, guys that drive stock cars don’t have a ton of road racing experience. So, I certainly feel like there’s always been a big emphasis put on it. Is there more emphasis put on it now? Yeah, certainly there’s just ultimately more time invested because there’s more road races; that’s just a product of running more road circuits. You’re going to race more; you’re going to develop more and put a little bit more time into it. But I think the emphasis has always been there. I think that everybody’s always known that it’s an important part of what we do and, certainly, when the ROVAL got put into the Playoffs, you can’t not be competitive. There’s no way you’re going to be successful in the Playoffs if you’re not, so I think all the top teams have had an concerted effort towards road course success. I’ve been doing this a long time and it has been ever since I’ve been here. When I first started with Kyle Busch, we went out and did quite a few – I think we did two or three road course tests in a year and then two events where we went and were basically in street cars working on road course racing. So, it’s always been a pretty big emphasis.”
Team Chevy high-resolution racing photos are available for editorial use.
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