A champion’s homecoming: Gustafson itching to get to work at Daytona

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BY GABRIELLE MCMILLEN 

Alan Gustafson is returning to his hometown track a champion. Chase Elliott’s crew chief will head to Daytona International Speedway for Speedweeks as the NASCAR Cup Series title holder after the No. 9 team earned its first championship in November.

Gustafson said he has to put the excitement and pride of winning his first title behind him so he can fully focus on the 2021 season.

“It’s always great to succeed and certainly win the championship – it was awesome,” Gustafson said. “I’ve just been focused on the DAYTONA 500. That’s something that I haven’t been able to win and would certainly love to win. Last year is last year, and I’m ready to get going this year.”

The No. 9 pit crew has been working hard during the offseason and already participated in an intense scrimmage with the other Hendrick Motorsports teams. However, Gustafson said the No. 9 team is itching to get back to the track and compete.

“It’s a long season, so we want to prepare ourselves and pace ourselves to be the best when it matters,” he said. “We’re certainly ready to go. You just got to unload, see where you’re at, see where you’re competition is at, what you need to work on, what you need to improve on.”

Aside from the urge to compete, Gustafson uses his time in Daytona Beach, Florida, to return to his old stomping grounds. He is from Ormond Beach, Florida, just down the road from Daytona International Speedway and went to Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach to study mechanical engineering.

Given how intense the Cup Series schedule is and the precautions being taken due to the coronavirus pandemic, Gustafson said being able to see his family is “the best thing” about returning to the coastal Florida town.

“I get to spend some time with my parents, and I’m looking forward to that,” he said. “Besides racing, I’m very at peace and comfortable there. The racing part of it is to win the 500 and to get down there, get going with the guys, get back with Chase and start it again.” 

Gustafson will resume his spot atop the No. 9 pit box for the Clash on Feb. 9 and the Duels on Feb. 11. He and Elliott will try to earn their first DAYTONA 500 win on Sunday. Feb. 14. The race starts at 2:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast live on FOX.

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