Monday, February 19, 2018

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Daytona 500 Winning Crew Chief, Justin Alexander



by Stacey Owens

Austin Dillon may have had a lucky penny in his car, but fortunately, he also had crew chief Justin Alexander on his pit box as he won the Great American Race in historic fashion.

On the 20th anniversary of Dale Earnhardt Sr.'s only Daytona 500 win in the iconic No. 3, Dillon, grandson of team owner, Richard Childress, drove that same iconic No. 3 back to Victory Lane in NASCAR's most prestigious race.

Prior to the race, a young fan gave Dillon a "lucky penny," which the driver carried with him throughout the long afternoon of racing. Managing to avoid a number of wrecks that collected a laundry list of drivers, Dillon only led one lap on his way to the record books -- the last one. Luck may have helped Dillon avoid the on-track carnage, but Alexander brought a little more than luck to the team's big win.


Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs

Dillon was confident throughout the 500 miles as well as during the overtime laps that he had a car capable of winning the race. Alexander, however, said that he and the pit crew weren't quite as confident.

"No, we had some struggling, some handling issues, not bad, a little bit early in the race," Alexander explained.

He and the pit crew rallied and made the necessary adjustments to keep Dillon in contention for the win.

"We had to make some adjustments. It wasn't just our car, it was all the cars I was scanning. All the guys out there it seemed like they were having handling issues. We made some decent adjustments on the car, and I think we got it to where he wanted it, and about the second stage, we had made some adjustments that he liked, and he was pretty happy with the car. It definitely took some work for sure on our end, and he did a heck of a job," Alexander said.

Alexander also admitted that the last-lap push for the win was a little nerve-racking.

"Man, it was like slow motion, really. Austin did everything he needed to do. He stayed in the outside line. He side drafted when he needed to. The 43 helped us out there. To win these races, you've got to put yourself in position to be there at the right time, and Austin did what it took. I don't know, it was crazy. It was kind of surreal. Still surreal," Alexander explained.

Surreal. Yep. Winning the biggest race of the year will do that to you.

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Stacey Owens lives just outside Music City USA. She's always wanted to be a NASCAR writer, so working as a columnist and support editor for Skirts and Scuffs allows her to live that dream every single weekend.
    The sole NASCAR enthusiast in her home, she's hopeful that one of her three daughters might also harbor an appreciation for NASCAR, but it isn't looking good so far.
    This self-admitted grammar nerd also loves country music, though she can't carry a tune; Kentucky basketball, even though at 6' tall, she's never played a day in her life; and her husband who's supportive of her NASCAR obsession and tunes in with her every week... even if it's just to watch the flyover

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