Chase Elliott has had himself a rough 2023, as he had to miss six races while recovering from a broken leg he suffered earlier in the year.
He was also suspended for a race after intentionally wrecking Denny Hamlin earlier in the season, putting him even further behind in the points.
In fact, the missed time has put the 2020 champion and NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver in danger of missing out on the playoffs for the first time in his career, with Elliott needing a win at either Watkins Glen this past weekend or Daytona this coming weekend in order to make the playoffs.
So entering Watkins Glen, there was a lot on the line for Elliott, who’s proven himself to be one of the best road course racers in the Cup Series.
Things started off solid for Elliott, who started the race in 15th place.
He was having a good run, making his way through the field, when that all went south during the final stage.
Five laps into the stage three, Elliott radioed to his team that he was out of gas and was switching to the reserve tank. His crew chief Alan Gustafson told him that once he switched to the reserve, he had three laps of gas left, so he should run two more laps and then bring the car to pit road for fuel the third time around.
But he didn’t make it that far…
Elliott ended up running out of gas in the bus stop, nearly half a lap away from pit road, ending any chance of a win and making next week’s race at Daytona his final chance to get into the playoffs.
Needless to say, a ton of blame has been put on Elliott’s crew chief Alan Gustafson for the miscue, and a ton of fans have been calling for his firing.
Gustafson admitted on the radio that he had “bad information” when he told Elliott that they could make it three laps on the reserve fuel, a rare mistake by one of the best crew chiefs in NASCAR. The Hendrick Motorsports crew chief previously worked with Jeff Gordon until the four-time Cup Series champion’s retirement, and Gustafson’s driver hasn’t finished lower than 10th in points since 2010.
Nevertheless, this was a critical error in arguably the most critical point of the season for Elliott, as he now has to win at Daytona next weekend to get in.
Bottom line, the fans are FUMING on Twitter:
Fire Alan Gustafson. NOW! I'm done with this fraud of a crew chief. He's been carried by elite drivers his entire career and hasn't done jack shit to show for it. I'm over it.
The idea of replacing Gustafson would have been ridiculous to Chase Elliott fans at the beginning of the season, but with their driver struggling and on the verge of missing the playoffs for the first time in his career, things have gotten pretty rough in the #9 camp…