Monday, October 2, 2017

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Apache Warrior 400 Winning Crew Chief, Adam Stevens

by Stacey Owens

When it comes to the playoffs, some weekends aren't about getting a win. Some weekends are simply about earning enough playoff points to move to the next round. Of course, actually getting a win is just icing on the cake. Such was the weekend for Kyle Busch and Adam Stevens.

Stevens spoke after the race about his expectations for the final race of the opening round of the playoffs.

"Yeah, you know, the goal this weekend was just to come here and score some bonus points, and we had high hopes coming in, but we just didn't give KB the best car to go out there and do it, so it was kind of up to him to give us some feedback and up to us to make some good adjustments, and thankfully we had some long runs there at the end and were able to close that gap. We were best when it mattered most, and that was the story of our day."

Stevens looks forward to carrying the momentum of those playoff points into the next round.

"You know, you can't put a price tag on the bonus points for sure, but it shows that this team is performing at a high level even when we're not our best. You know, nobody got down, nobody made any mistakes, and KB was able to kind of put the team on his back there and close that gap. You know, that gives me a lot of encouragement to see the effort that he put in and the focus and determination that he had to really grind it out," Stevens explained.

Photo credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

In the closing laps of the race, Busch got around Chase Elliott, the driver many thought would win his first Monster Energy Series race at the Monster Mile. Current series champion, Jimmie Johnson, who has won at the Dover track a record 11 times, remarked after the race that almost nine times out of 10, the race is won on the bottom of the track. Busch, however, is one of the few drivers who could make the top line work to his advantage.

"These concrete tracks, it's a new tire combination. We haven't been on this tire before, and you have to be willing to move around. The preferred line is going to depend on your balance and what you've got and what you're fighting. The best guys at these type of tracks aren't scared to move around, and even if they're making decent lap time. You're not going to pass the guy if you're running in his tire tracks, so you have to be able to move and find something different, and he was able to do that all day today," Stevens said.

Stevens also talked about the next round of playoffs, which includes every driver's biggest concern--Talladega.

"You know, Talladega is just a crapshoot, kind of like playing bingo. Bingo is not really fun for me, so you need to have all the bonus points you can going into that, and NASCAR was smart to put it in the middle of the segment. Everybody is going to have to race their guts out all day long. But as far as the next round, any time you eliminate four drivers, the field gets thinner and the points you need to score to advance are even more. You know, you're going to have to be that much sharper, that much better, and that many fewer mistakes. Aside from winning, you just have to perform each and every week, and it just ramps up each time we go to a new round," Stevens explained.

If any driver has learned how to ramp things up, it's Kyle Busch. As the next few weeks slice the field from 12 to nine, it will be interesting to watch and see just how much Busch ramps things up.

In addition to Kyle Busch, look for the following 11 drivers to do everything they can to earn playoff points and win races in the next three weeks:

Martin Truex Jr.
Kyle Larson
Brad Keselowski
Jimmie Johnson
Kevin Harvick
Denny Hamlin
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Ryan Blaney
Chase Elliott
Matt Kenseth
Jamie McMurray

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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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