Mission accomplished for Chevrolet.
The manufacturer put added emphasis on its teams working together with the goal of getting one of its cars in victory lane at Talladega Superspeedway. So much so that Jim Campbell, Chevrolet’s U.S. Vice President of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports, had a meeting with Chevy drivers on Saturday.
Chase Elliott won the GEICO 500 with Chevy drivers Alex Bowman and Ryan Preece behind him. Elliott also won Stage 2 after Chevy driver Ty Dillon won Stage 1. And during the race, Chevrolet drivers stuck together by lining up in the draft and not hanging each other out to dry.
“I felt like it was a team win, for sure,” said Elliott. “The large majority of the day we were working together as a bowtie group, as Team Chevy. I felt like we executed that well.
“I think we could make it better too just because it worked out, I don’t think we need to be content in the results. I think we need to realize we can do a better job. There’s certainly power in numbers at these races. When you have guys being selfless, wanting to push and make the lane go, it makes a difference. Certainly, worked out for us today. I know it didn’t work out for some.”
Said Elliott’s crew chief, Alan Gustafson: “I think orchestrating it and the communication up front, laying out the plan was the majority of the hard work. The execution today was just staying calm and sticking to our guns and staying committed to the cause.
“Fortunately, everybody did that and it worked really, really well. The plan went really pretty much how we laid it out. You don’t get those all the time, so we’ll certainly take it. Proud of everybody at Chevrolet and all the Chevrolet team members. We needed to win this. We needed to consolidate our efforts. We needed to break the streak that one of our rivals has here.”
Talladega is the first win for Chevrolet this season and first since Elliott had won at Kansas last May.
Chevy’s teamwork didn’t go unnoticed by the competition. Ford driver Joey Logano said the numbers were stacked against him as the leader on the race’s final restart before being ganged up on by Elliott and Bowman.
“They changed their plan,” said Logano. “They watched us and changed their plan, and it was successful for them today.”
In the last few Daytona and Talladega races the teamwork of the Ford and Toyota drivers had been the name of the game. Dating back to 2016 when Joe Gibbs Racing had its drivers stick together throughout the Daytona 500, teams took notice that strength in numbers was the way to success.
On the Ford front, it had become commonplace to see them running together and toward the front of the field. Together they were always faster than those around them.
Last fall, Stewart-Haas Racing whipped the field at Talladega by having all four of its cars fast enough to line up and break away from the pack. Aric Almirola won the race with teammate Clint Bowyer second and Ford driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. third. That was the seventh straight Talladega win for Ford.
Sunday Chevrolet drivers led 78 of 188 laps and placed six drivers in the top 10.
“It was cool to see people put the effort in and then us do our jobs on the track and stay committed to each other,” said Daniel Hemric. “That’s special. It’s hard to take a lot of drivers’ egos and put them to the side and try to look for the bigger cause, which was to get Chevrolet to victory lane. That’s what happened, and I’m happy for that.”
Kurt Busch called it a great day for Chevrolet.
“Chase Elliott deserves the win — he did everything you would need a teammate from a brand to do,” he said. “He put himself in position at the end. I just didn’t know what lane I needed to pick going into Turn 3 and I got swallowed up in the draft.”
Added Ty Dillon, “For (Chevy officials) to step up and say, ‘This is what we want’… we’ve all been looking for that in little ways. I appreciate Jim Campbell and all the Chevrolet staff leading us. That was awesome. Hopefully, we can do that more.”