Crew chief Adam Stevens didn't mince words when asked what the win in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma meant to him.
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Upon his return to the Cup Series, Busch was granted a waiver that states he will be eligible for the Chase if he wins a race and is in the top 30 in points when the playoff format begins mid-September. He and the No. 18 team are halfway to that goal with their win in Sunday's road race at California's wine country track. Stevens wants to help make that other half a reality, too.
"I'm so focused on getting this team in the Chase, but it's big. Joe and J.D. and everybody gave me a chance and this opportunity to come crew chief a Cup car, and that's not something that anybody can take lightly. I can't say enough about everything that he [Busch] put in to getting back here and getting ready and giving all of us this opportunity," Stevens said after the win.
During those first few races, Stevens worked with several other drivers selected to fill in for the ailing Busch, but working to get "his" driver a shot at the championship is what fuels him.
"This sport is built around competitive drivers, so you know, I come to work every day to do my best to get Kyle in victory lane and to get Kyle a championship," Stevens explained.
He certainly did his best to get his driver to Victory Lane, using a strategic approach as the laps wound down.
"At the end, it just kind of fell into the strategy that we wanted to run anyway, and we knew that we didn't have what we needed to outrun them on old tires, so it was a no-brainer call for me to come down and do everything we could to put him in a position where he could drive to the front," Stevens said.
Busch started the race in the eleventh position because of an issue in his qualifying run, but was able to rely on Stevens' strategy and a little luck over the course of the race.
"We just tried our best in practice, and we had decent short run speed and were able to show it on some mock runs and not too bad in qualifying until we had a little slip-up there, and it just fell off after maybe 15 laps, 20 laps for sure," Stevens said. "We kind of built our strategy around that and were able to catch some timely cautions and pay good attention there and had some good fortune, too, to be quite honest."
The No. 18 team currently sits 37th in points with 10 more races before the Chase begins. Can the younger Busch perform well enough to secure a spot in the playoffs? One thing is certain. Stevens is going to do everything he can to help his driver get there.
The sole NASCAR enthusiast in her home, she's hopeful that one of her three daughters might also harbor an appreciation for NASCAR, but it isn't looking good so far.
Her other interests include country music, though she can't carry a tune; collegiate football, though she needs a lot of work on her spiral; and Kentucky basketball, even though at 6' tall, she's never played a day in her life.