Monday, October 30, 2017

Right Sides Only: Notes from the First Data 500 Winning Crew Chief, Adam Stevens

by Stacey Owens

One crew chief knows he will contend for a championship in three weeks. Three others, as yet, do not know they will also vie for the first Monster Energy Cup. With Kyle Busch's win, Adam Stevens is the first crew chief to advance to the final round of the playoffs. Can he coach Busch to his second championship?

In post-race media discussions, Stevens addressed the Martinsville race finish before he talked about his team's championship hopes.

"Gosh, I don't even know where to start. It was a crazy race. You know, we had a good car. I don't feel like we had the best car. There were stretches where we were certainly capable of leading some laps and definitely top two, but we just kind of lost our track position there late with a bad pit stop after having just stellar pit stops all day long and had a slow one there at the end and got us back in traffic and really fought the balance late. Kind of fought it all weekend, really.
           
"But the last run of the race there, everybody was just set on kill and trading paint and using the bumper and short on tempers, and it got pretty exciting, like these Martinsville races usually do," Stevens explained.

The crew chief was asked about the merit of winning this particular race, the same race that 2016 eventual champion, Jimmie Johnson, won in the Round of 8 to advance to Homestead's finale.

"You know, it's important. You saw the guy that did it last year went and won the championship. I don't know if that bore any fruit for that, but that's what happened. We have the luxury of being able to focus on Homestead, think about Homestead, plan setups, plan practice and think about that weekend solely. But saying that, we still need to go these next two weeks and execute and perform and keep some momentum. You don't want to go and perform poorly and have bad days on pit road and think you're going to flip a light switch when you get to Homestead just because you got to look at a notebook longer than somebody else.
           
"The biggest thing is with only taking four cars there and three races in this round, you can have three Chase winners and only have one car get in on points, and with the bonus point advantage that the 78 has, you know, if he goes and finishes top six or seven, which would be hard to imagine that he wouldn't do that, you know, you're going to get locked out.
           
"You really need to focus on winning a race, and we were able to do that today," Stevens said.
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Since the No. 18 team is locked into the final race, does Stevens have any plans for the next two weeks?

"Ooh, that's a great question. I'm going to find a cup of coffee and see if I can get warm immediately is what I'm going to do. And then I'm going to work, going to work my guts out like I do every week, and we've only got three weeks to go. We're going to go try to build some momentum, have some strong finishes and good pit stops, really focus on pit practice, really focus on Homestead, review the notes from the 78 and the 11 test and our past notes and see if we can put a setup together and a practice plan and a race plan and go down there and race for a championship," Stevens explained.

Does he know how to get his team and his driver ready for that last race?

" Well, we're still trying to get the 11 down there, too. It's week to week. But certainly you'll have to kind of -- you're always looking forward, even through the season, you're not just looking at next week, you're looking two and three and four weeks ahead. So you know, I'm just going to have to carve a little time out of the next two and push that to the Homestead side. I couldn't really give you a percentage at this point, but definitely be thinking about Homestead," Stevens said.

Of course, he's thinking about Homestead. And after the next two races, three more crew chiefs will join him in thinking about Homestead, but only one will hoist that cup. Who will it be? We'll have to wait just a little while longer.

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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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