Right Sides Only: Notes from the South Point 400 Winning Crew Chief, Chris Gabehart


Pardon the pun, but Las Vegas Motor Speedway was the track that Denny Hamlin and his crew chief, Chris Gabehart, decided last year would be the one on which they would roll the dice this year.

"Vegas, reaching back to the spring race in 2020, was really kind of the last track that he and I hadn’t hit on together. I just hadn’t found exactly what we needed. It was definitely a struggle for us, excluding like Charlotte road course, those kind of things. It was kind of, of the meat and potato tracks, the last one we haven’t got hold of.

"We came back in the fall with a game plan, really worked on certain areas of simulation, things that I really felt like we needed to be good at to be good here. It panned out.

"Since then it’s been our north star. With Denny and I and this race team at every track, once we lock in on whatever it is we need, we’ve been fortunate to duplicate that for the most part. Now it’s been so different at Vegas," Gabehart said.

Many thought that Hamlin would be the driver to skate through the regular season and perhaps even enter the playoffs as the regular season champion. Even though the No. 11 team qualified for the playoffs, they didn't enjoy any regular season wins. They have, however, started winning when it really counts. With two wins in the playoffs so far, the team has advanced into the next round and leads the points race, poised to make a serious run for the championship. 

"Well, it’s just such an advantage to win any race in the Playoffs, but certainly the first race of any round because, especially this round, you look at Talladega and Charlotte, you can’t stress enough. Every one of these race teams are professional so they deal with the stress and the pressure. They handle it. But it’s there. It exists. You can’t look past it, it’s real. We’ve only had to deal with that for what will be two of the first six races of the Playoffs.

"Certainly our team’s been really capable all year long. Every metric other than the win column has been astounding for our team. It’s really been our best year together thus far. You stay up front as much as we have, the wins are going to finally come. They’re coming at the right time," Gabehart explained.

Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs

Advancing to the next round allows Gabehart to take a breath and not worry about the wild cards that are next on the schedule: Talladega and the Charlotte ROVAL.

"[The] race teams at this level, they’re all professionals. They deal with pressure so well. It’s just part of the job in pro sports. If there’s a competitor out there, a team out there, that’s not having to deal with that pressure [of the next two races], it’s a big advantage. I’m happy it’s the 11 car," Gabehart said.

At what point in the playoffs, with two wins to their credit, will the No. 11 team begin thinking about and planning for the final race at Phoenix?

"Well, I think every major organization looks to Phoenix. We’re blessed to have a lot of capable people in our company that can multi-task, I guess we’ll say. Certainly through the first six races our team’s only going to — only being stressed for two of them, are able to take some more focus and put it elsewhere. That’s a huge advantage. Can’t be understated. Definitely looking forward to doing it at that time, I can tell you that" Gabehart explained.


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 most weekends throughout the season.
This self-admitted grammar nerd loves reading mysteries, playing with her dogs, and binge-watching programs with her husband.


Right Sides Only: Notes from the South Point 400 Winning Crew Chief, Chris Gabehart Right Sides Only: Notes from the South Point 400 Winning Crew Chief, Chris Gabehart Reviewed by Stacey Owens on Monday, September 27, 2021 Rating: 5