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NASCAR Cup Series

Fill-In Crew Chief Achieves Career Moment

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After Tony Gibson was suspended for a loose lug nut violation following the Coca-Cola 600, Johnny Klausmeier filled in at Pocono on Monday as Kurt Busch’s crew chief.

Busch won the AXALTA 400 on fuel strategy, holding off Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski. Klausmeier, who is the race engineer for the No. 41 team, admitted it was difficult to stay calm in the final laps, but handled the race and his driver like a veteran.

“I was definitely nervous,” Klausmeier said. “You know how the deal goes. You can be a hero or zero really quick. I knew once we took the white flag we would be in good shape, and once we got to that milestone, I felt pretty confident in it.”

With less than 10 laps to go, Busch killed the engine and coasted on the straightaways to conserve fuel. Dale Jr., who finished second, was far enough behind and trying to save fuel too, so the No. 88’s reduced speed allowed Busch to do the same.

Although Klausmeier realizes the win is a big career moment, he was happier that the No 41 team will compete in the Chase.

“The biggest thing for me is just the relief of being into the Chase with one win,” Klausmeier said. “I think that’s huge. Like I said, we’ve been so close, it’s just a matter of getting that off our shoulders, and now we can just build our notebook for the Chase.”

Gibson’s suspension ends June 8, so he’ll be back atop the pit box at Michigan. Busch said he felt unflustered listening to Klausmeier’s voice over the radio rather than Gibson’s voice.

“His voice was way more calming than Gibson,” Busch jokingly said. “When you have an engineer calculating your fuel, I mean, it’s a calculator. I know Gibson can do it just the same, but when you have a new guy or somebody different, and you’re not at your full strength, there’s something that happens to everybody on the team — everybody digs a little deeper.”

Busch said he would speak to Gibson on the phone to discuss the win. Even with Klausmeier calling the race, the SHR driver feels Gibson is a part of the victory, too.

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John Haverlin

John Haverlin is currently studying Communication at Arizona State University. He has been a reporter at Phoenix International Raceway for three years and has written news stories for the track's official site. Born and raised in Long Island, N.Y., Haverlin has lived in Arizona the past three years.