Monday, April 11, 2016

Right Sides Only: Notes from Duck Commander 500 Winning Crew Chief, Adam Stevens

by Stacey Owens

For the second week in a row, Adam Stevens had all his ducks in a row.

As crew chief for Kyle Busch, Stevens is part of the reason the No. 18 won its fourth consecutive race in two weeks, having won the truck and Sprint Cup races last week at Martinsville, and this week's XFINITY and Cup races at Texas. From having a race-ready car to making smart calls, Stevens is just as responsible for Busch's wins as the driver himself.

Stevens discussed the pit strategy he used toward the end of the rain-delayed Duck Commander 500.

"Well, everything was really straightforward until we had that short run there at the end and kind of hung the 78 and Martin (Truex Jr.) and Cole (Pearn) out there," Stevens said. "They were in a bad spot being the leader, having the four green flag laps on the tires."

"The thing that made that a little bit easier, obviously, was we had so many sets on the ground because we had some longer runs prior to that, so we were ahead of schedule on tire usage, and the guys behind us were really fighting their cars. So we knew most of them were going to be looking to pit road, and when we saw them all dive down, it was an easy call to come to pit road and get some tires," he explained.

Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs

Busch himself was quick to point out that Stevens is instrumental in the team's success, as are many others on the No. 18 team.

"It's not just me, it's not just Samantha, but it's Adam Stevens, it's Coach Gibbs, it's the organization and everyone rallying around us," Busch said. "It's my medical team, everyone that helped me, as well, getting me healthy, too, and forcing me to do the therapies and things like that and getting up in the morning and going and trying to get better faster.

"I think, too, things are clicking. Things are gelling, and it wouldn't be possible probably, like Joe mentioned, without the relationship that Adam and I were able to spend gathering and gaining in the XFINITY Series. If we would have came into this Cup deal not really knowing each other, it probably wouldn't have been as good as it was. So I think that has been a huge part of it, as well.
            
"It's all worked real well, and it's been exciting to have the success that we've had as of late, and let's just keep it going."

"You've got to have all the pieces of the puzzle put together, but I think more importantly we've got good cars," Busch continued. "The crew chiefs are just doing a really good job right now, I think, just being able to apply all the things that we've learned over the couple of years. When we were struggling a couple years ago when we were behind, we were working in all areas of the race car and trying to make it better, and we knew TRD was behind a little bit, and when those guys caught up, man, it was easy. It was easy for us to gain speed because that's a huge proponent of what we do each and every weekend, which is that engine.
            
"You know, now I feel like the TRD guys are on top of their game, as well. We've got everything going for us. The cars are good, engines are good, and crew chiefs are smart. Again, whole puzzle."

The No. 18 team definitely has all the puzzle pieces put together lately. Do the other teams have the ability to catch up? The series travels to Bristol Motor Speedway next week. We'll see if anyone else has what it takes to beat them.

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   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.
    This self-admitted grammar nerd also loves 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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