THE MODERATOR: We've now been joined by Alan Gustafson, the crew chief for Chase Elliott.
We'll open it up for questions for Alan.
Q. Is there anything you do differently this weekend that you wouldn't do on a normal race weekend?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Hmm... I mean, there's a little more detail to everything, a bit more communication. Obviously, everyone on the 9 team, everybody at HMS have a bit heightened, I don't know, intensity, sensitivity. Yeah, you're just trying to overcommunicate, trying to dot all Is, cross all the Ts.
I don't know that there's like, Hey, we do this this week and not the rest. You try to do everything you do normally a little bit better.
Q. Your driver said yesterday that he didn't think he would have made it to the Final 4 had it not been for winning the regular season. Is that just a testament to how important it is to gain those points, to kind of be consistently good throughout the whole season, not just the final 10 races?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, I mean, certainly you don't have to have them. But, yeah, I agree. Just haven't performed as well as we wanted to. Had to fall back on 'em.
Ideally you want to run good enough to not need any bonus points, make it through. That's not always how it goes.
For us, we needed 'em. I think, yeah, it is representative of your entire season and the work you've done. You get some payoff for that. Certainly, had to use it. We earned it.
It's good for us that we had it.
Q. This weekend there's a different kind of resin patch on each side of the track. How did that impact the changes you made? What feedback did Chase give you?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, I mean, I'm not super surprised. Nobody was really up the track in one and two just because it's cool and everybody is on good tires, decent track position. That may change on Sunday.
I think as you get into a run, you have lapped cars, guys get up the track, guys' cars start to drive worse...
For practice as cool as it was, you're nailed to the bottom. The resin doesn't really come into play.
I do think it will be a more significant impact on Sunday. For right now I can't really give you much feedback on it. Our car is decent. It's not perfect. I do feel like it's competitive, and we need to make it a little bit better. Some good attributes, some things we want to make better.
Q. I spoke with Chase earlier. I asked him about the fact that he was actually the first-time winner here at Phoenix for the championship. You have been in this situation before at this track. He seemed to think there's not a lot he can carry from that. Could you speak to the crew chief perspective there.
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, any experience is valuable, in my opinion. I think maybe all of it doesn't correlate. When you get to come race for a championship, yeah, it's been the same track obviously, but even before, when it was Homestead, I think you can draw some of your experiences.
Certainly, we've done it the last couple years. We did some things well and did some things not so well that we need to improve on.
I think all that certainly is good. It's good to have that experience. Now, is that the differentiator or is that what is going to set you apart? No, but it doesn't hurt.
Q. It's the same tire setup as was run at Richmond, New Hampshire and Gateway. Do the past notes on those tires help you at all coming back to Phoenix?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Well, not necessarily about those tracks, it's just about this track really. We raced in the spring. You know a bit what to expect.
Yeah, I think it's as similar as you're going to be able to get it, so that helps for sure.
Q. You alluded earlier to how cool it was tonight in practice. What can translate from tonight that you can apply to Sunday?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: I mean, I don't think it's going to be night-and-day different. I do feel like the track is going to have some tendencies as it rubbers in, you get cars on the track. The grip's going to degrade. I think everybody is in the same boat.
Practice is valuable. It's a good thing. It's just not an exact representation. I think we know enough that we should be able to get it pretty close, close enough just to try to adapt.
Q. With the rare opportunity to practice, tonight to think about things, are you more focused about qualifying, or are you more attune to thinking about race?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, I mean, race, for sure. Qualifying is great, but it doesn't pay the points, or you don't win the championship for qualifying first.
To me, yeah, I'd love to qualify first, great. But the top four are going to get the first four pit stalls, so pit pick... You could be 20th and still get a really good stall.
I think qualifying's value is diminished in this format with the way the top four, and fifth guy, get to pick. Stage points are kind of irrelevant to all of us. It's about the race for us, long story short.
Q. How much can you adjust with the car, make an impact on this car? Is it pretty much what you have is what you've got?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: I mean, are you referring to what we practiced or what we practiced to what we qualify?
Q. (No microphone.)
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, you could rebuild it. Right now in this format, if you weren't very good, you wanted to change everything or you had teammates you wanted to get like them, whatever it is. Yeah, I mean, there's enough to completely change the car.
Typically, on a normal weekend when we have limited adjustment, no. But with the practice schedule, ability to change the whole car, you can get from A to Z.
THE MODERATOR: Alan, thanks for your time.
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Thank you.