Monday, August 21, 2017

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race Winning Crew Chief, Adam Stevens

by Stacey Owens

Only two races remain until the 2017 playoffs for the Monster Energy Series Cup championship begin, and Kyle Busch is just now hitting his stride. Busch may only have two wins this season, but they couldn't have come at a better time.

With Busch doing well, his crew chief, Adam Stevens, is also feeling pretty confident. Stevens talked about the team's perceived struggles earlier this season.

"Traditionally as a team, I feel like we come out of the box strong each year, are able to chip away a couple wins early. We had the speed to do it earlier this year. But dag-gone it, we just couldn't capitalize. ... 
           
"Still showed the speed here through the summer stretch. But we're starting to be able to put some races together, and that feels really good," Stevens said.

The closer teams get to the playoffs, the more some drivers change their focus. Busch, for instance, is calm and laser-focused as he approaches the 10 races that could lead him to a second championship, but he's also willing to try anything that Stevens suggests in the car.

"... you know, as the races go on and we get closer and closer to the Chase, he seems to find another level of focus. I think we saw a little bit of that tonight.
           
"This is a big deal to him. Winning the race is a big deal. He definitely was focused and had his eyes on the prize," Stevens explained.

As focused as his driver is, Stevens talked a bit about how his crew needs to make some adjustments prior to the start of the playoffs since it seemed that the pit stops were a bit "off" on Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.

"... the car pit fine. I mean, pit ability-wise. We keep up with that, check it at the shop, check it again on the track. Everybody was happy with how it drew out, how the tires came out. We just missed a little something on pit road. One time we had an issue on the front, one time on the back. You know, I feel like we're about half a step off there and we're going to have to clean that up heading into the Chase, for sure," Stevens explained.
Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images

The win on Saturday night was just another win for Busch. It capped off a sweep of the Bristol weekend. Stevens discussed how the attempt at the sweep affected Busch's approach of the race.

"You know, that's something you worry about when you have an extra layer on top of a normal race.  As a crew chief, you need to keep him focused, make sure that he's not elevating his risk level too much, making mistakes.
           
"I think he did a really good job of being aggressive, but really mitigating the risk. There was [sic]times that he could have pushed, and he may have given somebody an inch.
           
"So he really did a great job of keeping the big picture in mind," Stevens said.

If Busch is laser-focused on the playoffs, what will be Stevens' strategy for the final 10 races?

"We've had good speed and prepared good cars. Like Coach says, everybody back at the shop doing all the right things. And we're just starting to put the whole race together. Kyle is doing a great job behind the wheel, really focusing on the finish of the race, making sure we have what we need with our adjustments, all the fenders on the car, all the brakes on the car that we can go out there and run hard at the end. The pit crew didn't start off that great, but they were able to shake it off and rebound from that. I think that bodes well for us heading into the Chase," Stevens explained.

Busch and Stevens will ride their momentum into Darlington Raceway on September 3 following a short break before drivers finish out the season in mid-November. So Busch is going to have a couple of weeks to rest before hitting the track in Darlington? Whew. I'm glad I'm not a driver. 

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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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