Q&A: Jeff Gordon’s Martinsville win creates ‘a lot of positive energy’

Jeff Gordon celebrates with the crowd at Martinsville, Va., after winning there on Nov. 1 and clinching a spot in the Chase championship round at Homestead, Fla.
Jeff Gordon celebrates with the crowd at Martinsville, Va., after winning there on Nov. 1 and clinching a spot in the Chase championship round at Homestead, Fla. AP

Crew chief Alan Gustafson will spend the next two NASCAR races with an eye on the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Gustafson, crew chief for Jeff Gordon’s No. 24 Chevy, has that luxury after Gordon won the Goody’s 500 last week at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, clinching a spot in the championship round in South Florida on Nov. 22.

Gustafson, who has been Gordon’s crew chief since 2011, answered questions from reporters and the Observer’s David Scott after the triumph at Martinsville, Gordon’s first of his final season:

Q. How much has your team believed that if you could make it to Homestead, you could win this championship?

A. That’s kind of how it all started. That’s really what we had to believe in. We didn’t have the season we wanted to leading up. We didn’t have the performance. We just knew we had to come together and just fight and claw for eighths, sixths, sevenths, whatever it is, not make mistakes and transfer.

Getting to Homestead, there’s a lot to momentum. There’s a lot to the positive energy. Anything can happen. We saw that (at Martinsville). I know we can run competitively enough to be right in the middle of the mix.

Q. What did you think of the response from the Martinsville crowd after Jeff won?

A. It’s really probably the coolest thing about it. Even the last couple of years, the success we’ve had. The one that kind of stands out to me is when you win a pole, even Talladega, as big as Talladega is, we qualify on the pole, you can just hear the place erupt.

I don’t know how to describe the sensation. It’s just an amazing feeling. You can hear the crowd. You don’t even have to really know what’s going on. You can hear the crowd and you can kind of figure it out.

Jeff deserves that. I’m so happy for him that he’s having that response. He can remember these special moments in his career for everything he’s done and all he’s accomplished. That’s the one thing that no matter how many times you hear it or see it, it sends chills down your spine. It’s just a great feeling.

Q. How much pressure has there been trying to send Jeff out the way so many fans and you guys want to send him out?

A. It’s tough because there is pressure there. I don’t really put any more pressure on myself this year than I do any time. You try to win. You want to win for a lot of reasons. You want to win for Hendrick Motorsports. You want to win for Jeff, surely on his last year. You want to win for our team. You want to win for yourself. There’s a lot that goes into it.

I think the thing that’s probably been more of an impact on me is just when we haven’t performed the way that we want to, the way that I feel like we should, you just feel like you’re disappointing people. That’s tough. That weighs on you.

It’s like your father when you’re a kid, you want to please him, do everything you can to make everybody happy. We weren’t doing a great job of it. Hopefully everybody’s a little bit happier now and we can give everybody something to cheer about at Homestead.