Alan Gustafson, crew chief for four-time Cup series champion Jeff Gordon, took questions Saturday morning about his driver's back problems, which kept the team out of Saturday's second practice.
Q: Alan, when did you get an idea of how serious this was?
A: Well, you know, I know he had some discomfort after Thursday night and he had been working on it, trying to get it fixed up. Really hadn’t put much thought into it, to be honest with you. Then after the first run, we talked about, it was pretty detrimental to him physically to continue to practice. Fortunately, the guys did a great job on the car, and I don’t think there was much we were going to learn anyway. We’ve been here for a long time. We’ve got a good idea on what we need to race with. Glad the car was good and made the decision pretty easy.
Q: Do you know what he is doing now in terms of treatment to get ready for tomorrow?
A: No, I don’t know. You’ll have to ask the doctors that. Dr. Petty is one of the best in the country. He is going to take care of him and do everything he can to get him in the best condition he can to run tomorrow.
Q: What do you guys do during the second practice?
A: We’re just going to get the car ready to race.
Q: You won’t put Regan (Smith) in there just for a few laps?
A: No, we’re pretty confident. We’ve tested a lot with Regan and have a really good baseline. Actually, Regan drove our car here during the NASCAR test in November or December, whenever that was. We’re real confident knowing what he’ll need as far as how the card drives. Don’t have any concerns about that. We’ll just spend a little time making sure he can get in there and get comfortable.
Q: You know Jeff, describe his ability to run through something like this tomorrow.
A: He’s extremely tough and extremely dedicated. I know he’s very competitive and it’s difficult anytime to have to not be able to do your job based physical requirements or something that’s personal. I know that’s not easy for him, but I know tomorrow he’ll do everything he can to get in and go. These guys go through a lot physically, and he’s done it over a long period of time. His body has taken a long toll. It’s amazing he’s in as good shape as he is, and is in as good of condition as he is week in and week out. I’m sure he’ll fight through this as best he can.
Q: He says he was feeling the pain Thursday after qualifying? Can you take us through the sequence of events?
A: Thursday night after qualifying was when he was feeling the worst. This is something he has had before. He has some experience with. He knew Thursday night, unfortunately what is a familiar feeling for him that this is not good and he needs to do everything he can. He did all he could as far as treatment and rest, and whatever is required with hopes today (he’d) be good to go. I think he felt like he thought he was going to be, and unfortunately getting back in the car triggered some discomfort.
Q: Do you have any sense if the race was right, whether or not he could go a full race?
A: I’m not focused on hypotheticals. It’s not going to do me any good.
Q: Because he’s already in the Chase, will the new points system play a role in whether or not he will start the race tomorrow?
A: Not for me, no. It’s going to be based on his condition.
Q: The plan is for him to start if he feels like it?
A: Absolutely. The plan is for him to race. Our plan is for Jeff to get in the car, start the 600 and finish it and win it. That’s what we’re going to try and do.
Q: If his back hurts, and he has to come out of the car mid-race, is that Regan Smith?
A: Yes, that would be Regan.