Skip to main content

Chase Elliott knew coming into the NASCAR Cup Series race at Watkins Glen he was in a must-win situation. After finishing second last week on the Indianapolis Road Course, the Hendrick Motorsports driver and his team were feeling good about their chances.

Things looked positive for the sport’s most popular driver during the first half of the race as he ran inside the top 10, but then disaster struck in a most embarrassing way when the car inexplicably ran out of fuel. On the NBC broadcast, former HMS crew chief Steve Letarte didn’t hold back in what he thought about the costly mistake and who was to blame.

Chase Elliott is aggressive early and moves into top 10

After a poor qualifying effort that resulted in the No. 9 team starting 15th, Chase Elliott made it clear before the race in his interviews and over the team’s radio that he would have to be aggressive. And that’s what he tried to do at the drop of the green flag.

The 27-year-old moved forward with moderate success, and with three laps remaining in Stage 1, had gained a couple of spots to 13th. That’s when the team made a pit stop before the stage end and ahead of the leaders in an effort to try and gain more positions. 

After completing the pit cycle, the HMS car blended in and was running eighth in the second stage. With passing hard to come by, he gained another position and finished the stage in seventh. 

Steve Letarte calls out Alan Gustafson for critical miscalculation


Frustrated Chase Elliott Doesn’t Sugarcoat His Feelings and Sums Up His 2023 Season in Three Words

In the final stage and still running inside the top 10, with 34 laps remaining, Elliott radioed to his team that his car was sputtering and he’d run out of gas in Turn 2. While watching the car get pushed back to pit road, the NBC broadcast played the radio transmission between the driver and crew chief Alan Gustafson, where he told Elliott he had the wrong information.

After showing how the fuel system works in a virtual car, Steve Letarte addressed the situation and pointed the finger directly at Gustafson.

“Now, the misinformation, Marty, to the whole crux of this, has to be how far you can go,” Letarte said, responding to a previous question from NBC pit reporter Marty Snider. “Three laps at Watkins Glen is basically two gallons, just shy, 1.7 gallons of gas, 1.7 laps per gallon. There is zero chance that box holds that much fuel. Three laps at Charlotte maybe. Three laps at Richmond, maybe four laps. 

“But at one of the largest racetracks we race at, as our most road courses, and north of two miles, 2.5 miles really, that has to be the misinformation. To think that they could run three laps on the reserve. A simple miscommunication. 

“We talk about pressure. Pressure to make the playoffs. Pressure of a season where you’ve lost your driver for a bunch of races. There are so many details these crew chiefs have to go through. Alan rarely makes a mistake but this is a mistake by the No. 9 team.”

And then there was one. Elliott has one more chance to make the playoffs and it comes at one of the most unpredictable tracks at Daytona on Saturday. Win and you’re in.

And if doesn’t happen, fans of the No. 9 team can expect changes in the offseason because not making the playoffs will undeniably be a massive disappointment and necessitate something different for 2024.

To stay up to date on the latest happenings in NASCAR, including breaking stories you can’t find anywhere else, follow Kyle on YouTube and Twitter.