Monday, April 23, 2018

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Toyota Owners 400 Winning Crew Chief, Adam Stevens

by Stacey Owens

It's difficult to win a race. It's even more difficult to win two races. Winning three consecutive races puts a driver in a different league altogether. Yet this weekend marked the second time this season that a team has won three races in a row. Adam Stevens, crew chief for Kyle Busch, is the first one to explain that the level on which they're competing starts, not at the track, but at the race shop.

"To win races at this level, you really can't have any weak links. Sometimes you have to have good fortune. The key to that is preparing good cars and making good decisions. That all starts back at the shop. The hard work and dedication of all the men and women at Joe Gibbs Racing that put their heart and soul into these cars, give us something we can be competitive with. Then it's up to us at the tracks to make good decisions, have good practices, make good changes, not make any mistakes.

"A huge part of that tonight was pit stops. Didn't have green-flag runs early. Late we started getting some cautions. We were able to rachet it forward by virtue of some strong pit stops. The cleaner the air got for us, the better our car got. We were able to make a couple adjustments late and were able to win this thing," Stevens said.

Carol D"Agostino for Skirts and Scuffs
Stevens would also be the first one to say that he's the reason the race didn't start so well for the No. 18 team.

"We started in the back because I screwed up qualifying. It was a crew chief error. I told him to run two laps. He took that at face value. By the time I realized that our second lap wasn't good enough, he had already crossed the line, shut it off. There wasn't enough time to get it fired back up and try again. You wouldn't want to put another heat cycle on them any.

"We didn't make (indiscernible) with a tight practice schedule, only having three sets of tires. We didn't have the tires up to temperature when it was time to go. That was all on me. We started in the back and only had two laps on our tires. A lot of those guys had five, six, seven laps. That was part of the advantage moving forward.

"I think we made really good changes. Going into the race, probably had a little bit more motivation to probably maybe be a little bit more aggressive than what we would if we would have qualified in the top six or seven like we probably should have. We had to make bigger changes to make sure that we were going to have what we needed in the race. Paced himself. Didn't have too much coming up through traffic, which is what you need to do," Stevens explained.


Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
Changes aside, Stevens also discussed how the track at Richmond changes from day-to-day.

"Richmond, it's always a little bit different. The setups change. What it takes to be fast tonight might not be what it takes to be fast even tomorrow night, let alone a few months from now.

"It wasn't a dominant effort. Nobody dominated really. You saw four-car races for the lead pretty much the entirety of the race. It's all about the little things at Richmond. You have to have all the details right, and small adjustments can show up big on the stopwatch.

"Sometimes it's easy as driver and crew chief to forget that. Sometimes you're a little closer than you think you are when you're far off," Stevens explained.

They may have started far off, but this team has been a little closer than everyone else for three weeks in a row. How long can they keep this streak alive? Tune in next week when teams travel to Talladega Superspeedway where anything can happen.

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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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