Alan Gustafson: Meet Chase Elliott’s Crew Chief at Hendrick Motorsports

Published 03/14/2024, 10:55 AM EDT

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The success of a driver in any NASCAR competition largely depends on their car, their team, and not to forget the crew chief. Over the years, there have been several great driver-crew chief pairings that will go down in history as some of the greatest of all time. From Richard Petty and Dale Inman to Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus, there have been some legendary pairings. One that could be legendary in the future is that of Chase Elliott and Alan Gustafsson.

Who is Chase Elliott?

The Hendrick Motorsports racer needs no introduction for NASCAR fans. After all, he is one of the Cup Series‘ most popular drivers. The driver of the #9 car won his first Cup Series championship in 2020, becoming one of the youngest ever to do it. Of late, his form has fallen by quite a bit, but one can always count on Bill Elliott‘s kid to make a comeback out of nowhere.

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USA Today via Reuters

Who is Chase Elliott’s crew chief Alan Gustafson?

The 48-year-old is an esteemed member of Hendrick Motorsports and rightfully so. Just look at the drivers he has on his resume – Kyle Busch, Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, and now Chase Elliott. In his illustrious career, Gustafsson has led his drivers to several race victories and one Cup Series championship in 2020. According to reports, the crew chief of the #9 car has a net worth in the range of $1 million to $5 million.

Alan Gustafson’s Early Life

Like a lot of crew chiefs, Alan Gustafson began his career as a race car driver way back in 1975 with Go-karts before moving to Legend cars and late models. Despite being a fairly good racer, his talents lay in the engineering aspect of the sport and it was not long before he made the switch. His first job as a crew chief came in 1996 with driver Jimmy Foster. The 48-year-old served as his crew chief that year for GEM Motorsports in the Goody’s Dash Series, winning one race in the competition. He then moved to the NASCAR Truck Series for Addington Racing and it was not long before Hendrick Motorsports picked up on his talents and hired him as the #5 car’s shock specialist.

Alan Gustafson’s Debut as a Crew Chief

Technically, he made his debut as a crew chief for Jimmy Foster in 1996. But, when he moved to NASCAR, it came in 1997 when he became Andy Houston’s crew chief in the Truck Series. He then went to HMS and after working for six years as an engineer. In 2005, He was promoted to the role of crew chief for a man who would eventually be known as one of the greatest race car drivers of the modern era.

Alan Gustafson as a crew chief of Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch

The man in question is none other than Kyle Busch. With Rowdy, Gustafson worked from 2005 to 2007 and won four races in that time. Their best performance was during Rowdy’s final season with Rick Hendrick’s organization when he finished the year P5 on points. The next driver in line was Mark Martin, and the duo won 5 races together and finished the 2008 NASCAR Cup Series season in P2. And then came the biggest driver Gustafson had ever worked with.

Jeff Gordon might have been towards the end of his career, but working with a legend like that must have felt incredible for the Hendrick Motorsports crew chief. Despite not winning the Cup Series, it was an incredible driver-crew chief pairing. The two worked together from 2011 to 2015 and in that time, won 11 races and achieved 51 top 5 finishes. And then came along the kid of Bill Elliott.

Alan Gustafson as a crew chief of Chase Elliott

The two began working together in 2016 and it only took them a few years to gel and win the NASCAR Cup Series. When Elliott drove the #24, he did not win any races, but in 2018 he stepped into the #9. It was like he was a different person. Since then, the pair has been able to win 18 races, achieve 152 top-10 finishes, and 1 Cup Series championship. Today, the Chase Elliott-Alan Gustafson duo is seen as one of the best. The two are a perfect mix of youth and experience with Elliott bringing that youthful vigor and Gustafson being the skilled veteran.

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Alan Gustafson 600 Cup Series starts

Today, the 48-year-old Hendrick Motorsports crew chief is the on of the most experienced in the Cup Series. Three years ago, he completed an incredible milestone. When he took part in the Federated Auto Parts Salute to First Responders 400 in 2021, he became a man with 600 Cup Series starts. It was an incredible achievement that humbled Gustafson, who did not hide his emotions.

He said, “When I reflect back, I just think of the different drivers and situations with the different drivers, the personalities, pit-crew members and different things. I think when you start at one, you‘re just hoping to get to two. And then you‘re maybe kind of hoping to get to get to 30 and then you‘re trying to make it two years. As you go, you‘re just really trying to survive. This sport is obviously super competitive and a lot of times it‘s more bad news than good news. So, you‘re trying to do the best you can to prosper and survive.”

Alan Gustafson Cup Series Championships

It has been a long road to the top for Alan Gustafson, who tasted Cup Series success in 2020 with Chase Elliott after an incredible season. The #9 car was on victory lane 5 times at some of the most iconic tracks – Daytona, Charlotte, Martinsville, and Phoenix. That was undoubtedly the highest point in his career but after the 2023 season, fans were left questioning his talent as a crew chief.

Alan Gustafson under fire for Chase Elliott’s 2023 dismal year

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The driver of the #9, Chase Elliott, broke his left leg after a snowboarding accident, missed 6 races, and was suspended for another one later on. It turned out to be the worst season of his career so far as he failed to make the playoffs. Talks of a change at the Hendrick Motorsports crew chief position for the #9 were in discussion from the year before and 2023 just pegged it on. A 2022 Frontstretch article claimed that Gustafson did not have what it took to make Eliott win anything apart from road course races. 2024 will probably be the make-or-break season for Alan Gustafson as he searches for his second Cup Series title.

Will the 2024 Cup Series season be a turnaround for the Alan Gustafson and Chase Elliott duo?

That’s a tough prediction to make. NASCAR is a sport where you can’t call anything. Fortunes change at the drop of a dime. However, after 2023, Chase Elliott will have a hunger inside him that perhaps has not been there ever since he won the championship. Going winless for a whole season is embarrassing for a driver of Hendrick Motorsports. But winning races is easier said than done and the Cup Series field today is far more competitive than it was in 2020. It certainly will be interesting to see how Alan Gustafson leads the former champion through the season, but will they make a significant turnaround? It’s hard to see that at the moment.

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Read More – Chase Elliott Unsure of His Success in New Season as He Aims to Mend the Damage Done in the Previous Season

 

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Written by:

Nilavro Ghosh

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Nilavro Ghosh is a NASCAR Writer at EssentiallySports, where he is known for his creative yet easy-to-read writing style. Before taking up his role as a sports journalist at ES, Nilavro has written for some of the top publishing houses, like The Telegraph. While most journalists stop at covering live events and taking the news to the readers, Nilavro goes the extra mile to give fans a platform for them to express their thoughts through his 'race reaction' pieces.
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Edited by:

Shreya Singh