Jeff Gordon’s crew chief takes blame for late-race call at Homestead


After being eliminated from the Chase in Phoenix by a single point, Jeff Gordon started the Sprint Cup season finale weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway by winning the pole.

Then, during the race, Gordon stayed at the front of the field for long stretches with help from solid pit stops that allowed him to capitalize on his No. 1 stall at pit exit.

And then…He finished 10th.

His crew chief, Alan Gustafson, has taken responsibility for that today during an interview on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Some background: Gordon stayed out on track to retain the race lead during a caution with 20 laps to go in the Ford Ecoboost 400. But when the majority of the field chose to go into the pits for service, the four-time Cup champion suddenly was in trouble.

Following a restart with 15 laps left, the caution came out again for a multi-car wreck with 13 to go. At that point, Gordon gave up second place for fresh tires and dropped all the way to 26th.

The new rubber helped Gordon rally back and eke out a Top-10 result, but it could have been so much more.

“That put us in a bad position, and that was the difficult part,” Gustafson said on SiriusXM about staying out with 20 to go. “Jeff felt like [during] the last [caution], we weren’t in a very good position to succeed, so we made the decision to come pit.

“So, really, the first stop with us and Denny [Hamlin] and I can’t remember – a few other cars – stayed out, that really hurts. That’s on me. It was a mistake that I made. I tried to keep the track position and I felt like it would be the highest-percentage decision.

“It ended up not being that. That put us behind unfortunately. I think we had the best car, and the team deserved to win the race. So, it was a bad decision on my part and I’m going to learn from it and move forward.”

During his interview with SiriusXM, Gustafson also touched on the disappointment of not being part of the Championship 4, saying that Gordon and the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team did not get “by any stretch of the imagination what [they] deserved.”

“I know in my heart this is a championship-caliber team, and we deserve the opportunity to race for that championship,” he said according to’s Dustin Long. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get to do it.

“I’m not saying that in a spiteful way, I’m using it as … a way to stay motivated to push through this offseason and come out next year better than ever.”

Of couse, he wasn’t the only crew chief that had a gamble go awry on Sunday at Homestead.

Hamlin’s crew chief, Darian Grubb, took the blame for the call to keep his driver out in that 20-to-go yellow – a decision that backfired when a rash of late yellows enabled fellow Championship 4 contenders Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman to catch up and pass him late.

Harvick won the race and the title, Newman finished second, and Hamlin faded to seventh.

Ford unveils a new Mustang for 2024 Le Mans in motorsports ‘lifestyle brand’ retooling

Ford Mustang Le Mans
Ford Performance

LE MANS, France — Ford has planned a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its iconic Mustang muscle car next year under a massive rebranding of Ford Performance aimed at bringing the automotive manufacturer “into the racing business.”

The Friday unveil of the new Mustang Dark Horse-based race car follows Ford’s announcement in February (and a ballyhooed test at Sebring in March) that it will return to Formula One in 2026 in partnership with reigning world champion Red Bull.

The Mustang will enter the GT3 category next year with at least two cars in both IMSA and the World Endurance Championship, and is hopeful to earn an invitation to next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The IMSA entries will be a factory Ford Performance program run by Multimatic, and a customer program in WEC with Proton Competition.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, also an amateur sports car racer, told The Associated Press the Mustang will be available to compete in various GT3 series across the globe to customer teams. But more important, Farley said, is the overall rebranding of Ford Performance – done by renowned motorsports designer Troy Lee – that is aimed at making Ford a lifestyle brand with a sporting mindset.

“It’s kind of like the company finding its own, and rediscovering its icons, and doubling down on them,” Farley told the AP. “And then this motorsports activity is getting serious about connecting enthusiast customers with those rediscovered icons. It’s a big switch for the company – this is really about building strong, iconic vehicles with enthusiasts at the center of our marketing.”

Ford last competed in sports car racing in 2019 as part of a three-year program with Chip Ganassi Racing. The team scored the class win at Le Mans in 2016 in a targeted performance aimed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ford snapping Ferrari’s six-year winning streak.

Ford on Friday displayed a Mustang with a Lee-designed livery that showcased the cleaner, simplified look that will soon be featured on all its racing vehicles. The traditional blue oval with Ford Performance in white lettering underneath will now be branded simply FP.

The new mark will be used across car liveries, merchandise and apparel, display assets, parts and accessories and in advertising.

Farley cited Porsche as an automaker that has successfully figured out how to sell cars to consumers and race cars in various series around the world while creating a culture of brand enthusiasts. He believes Ford’s new direction will help the company sell street cars, race cars, boost interest in driving schools, and create a merchandise line that convinces consumers that a stalwart of American automakers is a hip, cool brand.

“We’re going to build a global motorsports business off road and on road,” Farley told the AP, adding that the design of the Mustang is “unapologetically American.”

He lauded the work of Lee, who is considered the top helmet designer among race car drivers.

“We’re in the first inning of a nine inning game, and going to Le Mans is really important,” Farley said. “But for customer cars, getting the graphics right, designing race cars that win at all different levels, and then designing a racing brand for Ford Performance that gets rebranded and elevated is super important.”

He said he’s kept a close eye on how Porsche and Aston Martin have built their motorsports businesses and said Ford will be better.

“We’re going in the exact same direction. We just want to be better than them, that’s all,” Farley said. “Second is the first loser.”

Farley, an avid amateur racer himself, did not travel to Le Mans for the announcement. The race that begins Saturday features an entry from NASCAR, and Ford is the reigning Cup Series champion with Joey Logano and Team Penske.

The NASCAR “Garage 56” entry is a collaboration between Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and is being widely celebrated throughout the industry. Farley did feel left out of the party in France – a sentiment NASCAR tried to avoid by inviting many of its partners to attend the race so that it wouldn’t seem like a Chevrolet-only celebration.

“They’re going right and I’m going left – that NASCAR thing is a one-year deal, right? It’s Garage 56 and they can have their NASCAR party, but that’s a one-year party,” Farley said. “We won Le Mans outright four times, we won in the GT class, and we’re coming back with Mustang and it’s not a one-year deal.

“So they can get all excited about Garage 56. I almost see that as a marketing exercise for NASCAR, but for me, that’s a science project,” Farley continued. “I don’t live in a world of science projects. I live in the world of building a vital company that everyone is excited about. To do that, we’re not going to do a Garage 56 – I’ve got to beat Porsche and Aston Martin and Ferrari year after year after year.”

Ford’s announcement comes on the heels of General Motors changing its GT3 strategy next season and ending its factory Corvette program. GM, which unlike Ford competes in the IMSA Grand Touring Prototype division (with its Cadillac brand), will shift fully to a customer model for Corvettes in 2024 (with some factory support in the IMSA GTD Pro category).