Jeff Gordon picked up 38 positions after an early-race penalty to finish second and his crew chief, Alan Gustafson, was named Federal-Mogul’s Moog Steering and Suspension “Problem Solver of the Race” in Sunday’s Toyota – Save Mart 350 NASCAR Sprint Cup contest at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway. Gustafson is the 13th crew chief in 16 Sprint Cup starts to earn weekly Moog Problem Solver honours.
The Moog Problem Solver of the Race Award is presented following each Sprint Cup event to the crew chief whose car posts the greatest improvement in average lap time over the second half of the race. Gordon and Gustafson’s Moog-equipped No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet SS improved by a race-best 0.923-second per lap over the final 55 circuits of Sonoma’s 10-turn, 1.99-mile road course.
Gordon, a nine-time Sprint Cup road course winner, was running near the front when rain brought out the yellow flag on Lap 24. The Hendrick Motorsports-owned Chevrolet was penalized for entering the pits after the red light came on signaling that pit road was closed. Gordon was forced to restart in 39th position seven laps later. But the driver and Gustafson methodically reclaimed track position through a series of enhancements to the 24 car’s handling combined with smart pit strategy. Gordon was up to 26th within 10 laps and second by Lap 77 before briefly claiming the lead on Lap 79. He was running third on Lap 100 and was able to pass Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Chevrolet) for second place with two laps remaining.
“Alan had the 24 running the fastest laps on the track at the end,” said Federal-Mogul motorsports director Tim Nelson. “The penalty was a huge setback, but the team stayed focused and Alan kept finding more speed in that Moog-equipped chassis as the day went on. It was a great team effort and a clear example of Moog problem solving expertise.”
With his first weekly Moog Problem Solver award of the year, Gustafson is one of 13 crew chiefs now in the running for the $100,000 MOoog “Problem Solver of the Year Award.” He won the prestigious Moog year-end award in 2011.