JOLIET, ILL – Before NASCAR's announcement to add the No. 24 team into the Chase for the Sprint Cup field, the team's crew chief remained optimistic that justice would be served.
Alan Gustafson knew that "with less than seven laps" remaining in the race -- or when Clint Bowyer's spin ignited the final caution -- Jeff Gordon was in the Chase. Gustafson was aware of where his competition was in the field and where the No. 24 Chevy needed to finish.
"Even after the restart we were in -- and I was confused," Gustafson said. "I knew that after the restart the last two laps, I knew Joey (Logano, 25th at the time) was on the lap of the 38 (David Gilliland). So if we ran eighth, like we did, there was no way he could pass us. Then I looked down when we crossed the line and he went from 25th to 22nd and I was like, 'How did that happen?'
"It was so chaotic, I don't know who he passed until I got home and it was probably like three, four in the morning."
As FOX Sports revealed on Wednesday, team communication between David Gilliland No. 38 Front Row Motorsports crew and the No. 22 Penske Racing Ford suggested assistance in track position for Chase contender Joey Logano. After deliberation and meetings with both crews on Friday at Chicagoland Speedway, NASCAR ascertained there was nothing either team did to alter the event. However, both teams were put on probation for the remainder of the year.
"The idea of a bargain -- that is completely off limits in our view," said NASCAR chairman Brian France. "But we don't believe that bargain ever happened -- and we don't believe anything happened other than the discussion about it."
"I can't speak for anybody else but I feel we did what it took to race our way in," Gustafson said. "It wasn't easy. We had a real difficult night. I was proud of the team for overcoming what they did. I felt like we raced our way in and if you look at how those three spots transpired at the end, it proves my point that we raced the way in -- the way you should do it."
Gustafson said the No. 24 team was never brought to the NASCAR hauler to discuss the situation. He didn't envy the sanctioning body's position in having to sift through all the information to come to their conclusion. However, Gustafson also didn't agree with the practice of pitting cars in the closing laps to offer another driver an advantage.
"If you're out there racing and your teammate is faster than you and he needs positions -- we were struggling at the beginning of the race and the 5 and the 88 had no reservations blowing right by us," Gustafson said. "At some point in time, you have to prove it on the race track. You don't need to dictate positions by how many teammates you have.
"I don't disagree that (the practice of giving up spots) is not a new phenomenon or it's not a new circumstance, but I would say that in my time in this sport I haven't seen anything like that. That's way to a new level."
Whether or not NASCAR had added Gordon as the 13th Chase contestant, Gustafson felt his team was worthy.
"Maybe it wasn't the greatest run in the world, but we did what we had to do to get in," he said. "In certain situations like this, you can get inspiration in a lot of different ways. You can get motivation in a lot of different ways that you need. To see the fan support and everything that's gone on and how much us going out there and potentially winning the championship could do, yeah, the number 13 could be very lucky."