Transcript: Alan Gustafson – Talladega Superspeedway

THE MODERATOR: We’ll start with our post-race press conference. We’ve been joined by our race winning crew chief, Alan Gustafson.

We’ll take questions for Alan.

Q. Why was this race so calm by Talladega standards?

ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, it’s a great question.

It seems like kind of both the races were before it. I don’t know if maybe the stability of the car or it was just hard. We’ve seen it all year, it’s not three lanes that don’t seem to work out. There doesn’t seem to be a middle option. It doesn’t get fanned out. It’s kind of about staying in line, pushing. I think that contributes.

Yeah, it was certainly a bit tamer than I expected. I kind of expected maybe not the typical four-wide just craziness. The cars don’t seem to generate the performance, the huge runs. It’s more about that steady seesaw momentum.

Q. Yesterday your driver had some comments that were a little out the character for him, to take such a stance. Did that surprise you?

ALAN GUSTAFSON: Second time I’ve been asked about it. I don’t know what he said, so it’s hard for me to say specifically. I’m assuming he spoke out about the safety, is that correct?

Q. He said NASCAR took a step backwards.

ALAN GUSTAFSON: Look, the way I look at this is I certainly want him specifically, and all the drivers, but my concern is Chase, to be as safe as he possibly can be. We know this is an inherently dangerous sport. But I want him to be as safe as he possibly can be. From my stance, I’ll do everything I can do to make sure he’s as safe as possible.

I feel like collectively in this garage there’s a huge resource of intelligent people where we can push this forward, get to a position where it’s not a topic, not something these guys are having to worry about week in and week out.

I certainly feel terrible for Alex. Alex shouldn’t have sustained the type of injury from the hit he took. We all have to accept that, move forward, push forward, make it better. I’m very confident we can do that. That’s what we have to focus on doing together.

Collectively I think we’ve got a lot of resource to make it happen. I’m sure NASCAR will do everything in their power, as will the teams, and we’ll get past this quickly.

Q. Coming into this race, you want to win every race, but looking at the bigger picture, make sure you finish this race, get as many points as possible, what was your mindset coming in?

ALAN GUSTAFSON: I really felt like this race was crucial. I felt like we had to capitalize. We got ourselves into a hole last week, super disappointed with. We made a mistake the first round. We made a mistake the second round. You just can’t continue to do that and expect to have success.

We needed to come back and we needed to get ourselves right. I felt like we needed to level up close to the top, level with those guys. They had a points advantage on us.

Fortunately for us it wasn’t a massive points advantage. (Indiscernible) was in the 20s, other guys were 17 points, something like that. Our objective was to score as many points as we could, try to get as close to level as possible. We were able to do that.

We got really good points in both stages. I think really after that, we were in a really good position to not have to take crazy risks. But our car was really good, execution was great, strategy was good to keep us up front. Chase did an unbelievable job. It all worked out.

If we had an issue here, I know we have good performances at the Roval, but I have no interest in leaving it for the Roval. I felt like we needed to take care of business or at least get level set with those guys where we didn’t have to go out and win or have an amazing day because you just never know what can happen there.

Q. Three out of the four superspeedway races this year went to regulation and ended there. The Daytona 500 was only one lap over regulation. From a strategy standpoint, did that make war gaming the last stage of the race any easier?

ALAN GUSTAFSON: I think you still had to have a contingency plan. This is probably the oddest caution. Maybe not the oddest, but super odd caution. At the end of the race the guy comes down pit road, stops at the end of pit road, the caution for it. Super odd.

But have you to be prepared for it. That’s what you balance is ultimately we all pit under green, how long you want to take, how long do you sit there and put gas in the car. You want to take enough, at least in our opinion, to give us a slight buffer, still execute a fast enough spot, maintain track position. I feel like we did that.

Q. I’m not sure how much you take a look at tire wear during races, but overall do you feel this race was better than last week at Texas? If so, why?

ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, tire wear wasn’t the issue at Texas, for clarity. It was sidewall failure. Even though our tires would come off at Texas, you don’t look at ’em and say, Hey, they’re wore out, we’re into an issue.

Ultimately we have our tires cut apart after most every run, as we did at Texas, to see the integrity of the sidewall. At that point we got a clear report that we blew the tire.

Here I would say that tire wear was probably a little worse than in the spring than we expected. It wasn’t into a position that we felt like it was going to put us in any harm’s way. It was certainly a little bit more than we had expected, something we had to be conscious about.

We were able to double stint those first two stages with some comfort. So I don’t think it was hugely different. It just was slightly more than the spring.

Q. Sorry to ask another car question. If everyone is in agreement that the car is too stiff, what is a reasonable time frame for that to be corrected?

ALAN GUSTAFSON: I mean, I don’t know the logistics behind what all has to happen as far as manufacturing, what goes on.

I think the first step is we need a solution, right? That’s what we got to focus on. That is a good goal for us as an industry to collectively look at what’s the best solution we can come up with in the short-term. If we can get the solution figured out, implementation, you can worry about that later. That’s certainly not my area of expertise.

I think the solution is the key right now. To my knowledge, it doesn’t exist. It may exist, but we need to get that figured out, how to move forward.

I think collectively we can all work together to get — I mean, I think Hendrick Motorsports, the boss owns an amazing place, we can accomplish some amazing things. I think if we get a solution, implementation, if we all pull together, we can do a lot in a short period of time.

THE MODERATOR: Alan, thank you. Congratulations on that win.