Monday, July 31, 2017

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Overton's 400 Winning Crew Chief, Adam Stevens

by Stacey Owens

Fans have learned that sometimes a driver can have the best car, lead the most laps and somehow still not win the race. That has been the case for many drivers over the years, and it's frustrating for those drivers and their fans. Both parties walk away at the end of the day just wishing for a little luck to come their way.

At the Overton's 400 at Pocono Raceway, luck finally decided to ride along with Kyle Busch.

Crew chief, Adam Stevens, talked about his team's weekend, which began with his driver winning the pole.

"That's the kind of weekend we all hope for. It's rare to get one," Stevens said. "Just goes to show you the kind of stuff that's coming out of Joe Gibbs Racing, everybody working so hard with their heads down, so many dedicated employees there.
           
"We've just had fast cars for so long and nothing to show for it. It's nice to finally put a weekend together and have a little bit of luck go your way, which we certainly did today," Stevens said.

With things finally going their way, the last thing Stevens wanted to see was a late-race caution. Once again, luck was on his side.

"I was thankful there wasn't a late race caution today. We had such a tire advantage on them, we knew they would come anyway, so we had the lead, we were in a good spot either way.
           
"Late race cautions are never fun. They always set up an opportunity for somebody to do something completely different and beat the dominant car. Been a part of those on both sides. I just rather the dominant car win in my mind."
Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs

There are times, of course, when a crew chief must make calls that benefit his driver instead of relying on luck. Stevens, fortunately, is pretty good at making those decisions.

"Whenever you're forced into a position to make a decision, which happens three or four times a race, you make the best call you can with all the information available. You don't get the benefit of deciding if that was a good call or not until you come off pit road and see what everybody else did. I don't really beat myself too much over those unless it's egregiously wrong, which happens sometimes.
           
"Today our car was fast, super fast in clean air. When we lost that track position, when those guys stayed out, had to restart fourth, got into one just a little bit too hot, slipped our rear tires, it really threw the balance off for the rest of that run.
           
"We didn't make a lot of adjustments. We didn't compensate for that at all. It was just a deal where he got himself in a little bit of a bad spot. Maybe that set of tires wasn't lined up great with the other ones. It looked like it was on paper. Once we got those off there, it was back to normal," Stevens explained.

Though the No. 18 team has run well this season, they haven't scored a win until this weekend. In fact, they scored almost as many playoff points in the Overton's 400 as they'd scored all season. Because their points position has been squarely inside the top 16, the team hasn't been concerned about whether they would make the playoffs, which begin in a little more than a month, but with this victory, they're all breathing a little easier.

"I didn't really have any fears that we wouldn't make the Chase with our points position. So it was all about the Playoff points. You only get 'em one at a time when you win the stage. We've won the second most stages. But the 78 has won a bunch.
           
"Those add up, but they add up slowly. You have guys that busted off a couple wins. You get in these short three-race segments, those Playoff points are going to be colossal. The sooner we can start racking them up, the better. There's no better way to do that than to get to Victory Lane," Stevens said.

Part of Stevens' pit strategy was to pit later than most other drivers. He talked about that decision in the post-race media conference.

"It was a matter of doing something different than those guys because we were far enough back that we weren't going to be able to jump them by short-pitting them. They could just come the next step and still be in front of us when we cycled through. We had to get ourselves in the spot where we had a tire advantage. Plus they came out in some traffic. We waited until we weren't going to come out in traffic. We had a little bit cleaner air. It definitely paid off for us," Stevens explained.

Yes, it definitely paid off for them. Now that they're locked in to the playoffs, they know what they need to do for an even bigger payoff in November. 


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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; Kentucky basketball, even though at 6' tall, she's never played a day in her life; and her husband who's supportive of her NASCAR obsession and tunes in with her every week... even if it's just to watch the flyover



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