Right Sides Only: Notes from the Daytona 500 Winning Crew Chief, Chris Gabehart

by Stacey Owens

First race of the season. Check. First race as a Cup crew chief. Check. First win. Check. There are certain boxes that teams like to check off throughout the season, and Chris Gabehart, new crew chief for the No. 11 FedEx team of Joe Gibbs Racing, has already checked off some of the biggest boxes.

Now that Gabehart has checked off "hoist the Harley J. Earl Trophy at Daytona" from his bucket list, what's next? Since the next race is completely different than the season opener, well, he has more to do than most teams, but he's all right with that.

"Yeah, well, I can tell you the unfortunate truth is we probably just lost the day preparing because we're going to be here putting a car in a museum, and that's okay with us. But you're right, with all the unknowns in NASCAR right now, with the rules package, I think you guys are in for a treat week to week. You're never going to know -- everybody is trying to figure it out and every racetrack is going to be a little bit different. There's going to be a lot of comers and goers to start the season, but I have so much confidence in the people around us, Joe Gibbs Racing and FedEx and Denny trusting in me to allow me to do this, and we've just got such a strong group around us. I'm just the lucky guy that every now and then gets to jump up and call the play.

"But in the past three months it's become so evident to me that it's about the people around you, and I'm just a very small part of that, and let me tell you, this 11 team, FedEx team has a very good group around them, and I couldn't be more excited to get going," Gabehart said.

Many teams have yet to win the Daytona 500, even after years of racing. Most teams would consider a win at the Great American Race to be their peak performance. Gabehart, however, is after more than a win to kick off the season and a spot in the playoffs.

"We're going to go win 35 more races, the way I look at it. People say you can't win every race, and I disagree. I show up every weekend to win, and I know Joe Gibbs expects that of us, I know Denny does, and I know my race team does. My intent is to win 35 more times, and we may fall short, but I'm going to Atlanta to get another one," Gabehart explained. 

Credit: 360272Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Hamlin's crew chief has bigger plans for 2019 than winning a ton of races. He wants the big prize for his driver.

"I mean, this guy is the winningest driver on today's Cup circuit who has not won a championship, and he's come close so many times, and we're going to get him there. But Denny Hamlin not capable of winning with Joe Gibbs Racing behind him and FedEx behind him? I mean, I'm the lucky guy.  They asked me to come in and try to shake it up and put a fresh perspective on it, and I said, sure, I'll jump at the chance, because this guy has got what it takes to win at Homestead and win it all. No question about it.

"If I can be the guy to help provide the spark to get that done, then strap on and let's do it," Gabehart said.

Well, one down, 35 to go. Let's see how many races the No. 11 team can win with Gabehart calling the shots. 

  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... as long as she allows him to obsess over college football every fall.

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Daytona 500 Winning Crew Chief, Chris Gabehart Right Sides Only: Notes from the Daytona 500 Winning Crew Chief, Chris Gabehart Reviewed by Stacey Owens on Monday, February 18, 2019 Rating: 5

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