Sunday, July 12, 2015

Right Sides Only: Quaker State 400 Winning Crew Chief, Adam Stevens

Five positions. Eighty-seven points. That's all that stands between the No. 18 Toyota team of Joe Gibbs Racing and a shot at the championship. With the win at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday night, Kyle Busch and crew chief Adam Stevens inched ever closer to their goal of being in the top 30 in points, having already secured a win two weeks earlier in Sonoma.

The rain fell again over the weekend, which seems to be the new standard for drivers and teams upon arriving at the track. With limited practice time, teams truly did begin the race on a level playing field. Stevens spoke about the team's preparedness with so little time on the track prior to the drop of the green flag.

"It was just an exceptional weekend for us," Steven said. "We unloaded with a lot of unknowns, like everybody else did. We did a lot of homework. There's a lot of smart people at Joe Gibbs Racing that dedicate their lives to making these cars go fast. And they certainly did it this weekend and with this new package and that was a pleasure to see. But the limited practice time, that didn't really bother me much, just because I knew we were all in the same boat. And I knew that our ace in the hole was Kyle Busch. I figured if I could just get him out there on the track at all we would have a shot to win it. But we did make use of the little bit of time we had and were able to get the car good. It wasn't great, but it was good. Thanks to his good information, we made some good changes for the race and definitely had a top two car and had a good race there with the No. 2 until they had a couple issues. But it was, I think, the team that made the least amount of mistakes on top of having just a competitive car was going to win this race and that's what happened tonight." 
Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images
 Much of the race coverage going into the Quaker State 400 surrounded NASCAR's decision to alter the aero package, which was designed to put more of the racing decisions into the drivers' hands as well as to give crew chiefs more opportunities to make strategic calls. Ultimately, did those changes affect the way Stevens made calls for his driver?

"It did. It certainly was going to get big there at the end if we had a caution. I think I was praying harder for no caution than about anybody on this earth those last 30 or 40 laps, because it puts you in a bad spot.

"But the cool thing about this package is the cars don't punch as big a hole in the air. So you don't lose the nose as bad when you're racing guys. Saw a lot of guys race side by side and swap positions and maybe not get clear and drift up behind them and they didn't fall six or eight or 10 car lengths back, they were still there wasn't racing distance. And I think that that's the advantage this package has right now. Now whether that advantage is still there, we get three or four or five races deep with it and everybody figures it out a little bit more, I don't know. But the surface lends itself to that too. The groove opened up really wide, which was fun. Gave the drivers a lot of options. From the word go, everybody was slipping a little bit. It makes you work hard. I think that favors the guys that can truly drive race cars, and Kyle Busch is one of those guys," Stevens explained.

There is some discussion about putting specific rules into place for other tracks on the schedule. What does Stevens think about the same aero package teams took to Kentucky Speedway being implemented at other 1.5-mile ovals?

"Oh, man, well, based on one data point I would be really excited. But it's just so hard to tell. There's a lot of nuances about Kentucky that lend it to great racing. So, I don't know that I can put it all on the package. I can certainly tell you that the package was a benefit. It was a race here. But Kentucky's a pretty racy track, and the groove opened up so wide. The tire combination had an a little bit of fall off. So I think it's a combination. But they're pushing all the right buttons, I think, but oh, hell, I would still be excited," Stevens confirmed.

With two wins in three weeks, Stevens certainly has other reasons to be excited. After all, with only eight races remaining until the Chase, it's reasonable to expect his team will make up those five positions and 87 points that will place them firmly in Chase contention. Just imagine how excited he'll be then.

    Stacey Owens lives just outside Music City USA. She's always wanted to be a NASCAR writer, so working as a columnist and support editor for Skirts and Scuffs allows her to live that dream every single weekend.
    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.


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