Gustafson: 'It was a Mistake I Made'

Alan Gustafson

Crew chief Alan Gustafson said his mistake with late-race strategy cost Jeff Gordon a chance to win last weekend's race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. (Photo: Getty Images)

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Crew chief Alan Gustafson said his mistake late in Sunday’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway cost Jeff Gordon a chance to win.

Gustafson discussed his late-race strategy Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive.’’

Gustafson told Gordon not pit during a caution 19 laps from the finish. The move kept Gordon first but with most of the field taking tires, it left him at a disadvantage. During the next caution a few laps later, Gordon pitted from second to get four new tires. He didn’t have time to recover. Gordon finished 10th despite leading a race-high 161 laps.

So what happened?

“Really, the error was made, I stayed out when the majority of the field pitted and that put us in a bad situation,’’ Gustafson said of the caution 19 laps from the finish. “Jeff felt like (on the following caution) we weren’t in a very good position to succeed, so we made a decision to come pit.

“Really the first stop, when us and Denny (Hamlin) and ... a few other cars stayed out, that was the one that really hurt us. That’s on me. It was a mistake I made. I tried to keep the track position. I felt like that was going to be the highest percentage decision and it ended up not being. That put us behind unfortunately. I think we had the best car. The team deserved to win the race. It was a bad decision from my part and I’m going to learn from it.

“It would be really easy for me to make a lot of excuses and say, ‘Hey there’s a lot of circumstances that play into it - and there are and it is a very tough thing to do - but that’s my job and in that situation I feel like I didn’t do it to the best of my capabilities.’’

Gustafson also discussed on “The Morning Drive” his disappointment of not advancing from the Eliminator Round to the Championship Round. Gordon missed transferring to the championship race by one point.

“I’m still not at piece at what happened in that final segment (of the Chase),’‘ Gustafson said. “I don’t think we got by any stretch of the imagination what we deserved. That’s something that I’m just going to try to work through in the offseason and get to a point to accept it and use it as motivation moving forward.

“I know in my heart this is a championship-caliber team, and we deserve the opportunity to race for that championship. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to do it. I’m not saying that in a spiteful way, I’m using it as ... a way to stay motivated to push through this offseason and come out next year better than ever.’’

 

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