Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Coca-Cola 600 Winning Crew Chief, Adam Stevens

by Stacey Owens

Crew chief Adam Stevens can't do a cartwheel or a back flip, but he was doing both of them on the inside on Sunday night.

After Kyle Busch won the Coca-Cola 600, Stevens discussed the team's domination at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

"Yeah, I mean, just for me, as a team here, we've been so close to getting Kyle a victory at Charlotte. I feel like we had the car to beat this race last year and got snookered on fuel mileage there, and today to come out in a dominant fashion and win all the stages from the pole and keep him out front and the pit crew to do such a good job and be able to keep up with the track and kind of close that gap maybe that we've been missing some speed here to some of our competitors, it felt really good. It's important for me to help Kyle accomplish his goals, and this was a big one for him and makes the victory a little bit... sweeter.

"I really don't know how to do cartwheels or back flips. On the inside I was. But part of it is we were so good all day, you know, you're constantly thinking of how -- what could go wrong or if the caution comes out how am I going to manage this pit strategy? A lot of times when you're that strong, it's more of a sense of a relief as it is celebration. It's more a sense of that. We'll do some celebrating later," Stevens said.

Because the Coca-Cola 600 is the longest race of the season, it presents unique challenges that other races don't. Specifically, drivers and crew chiefs must prepare for the transition from daylight to darkness. How did Busch and Stevens set up the No. 18 for that transition?

"I think this weekend what made it a little bit different than some other 600-mile races here were the clouds. We started green flag at 6:15, 6:20, and it was pretty cloudy. We didn't have the sun beating down on the racetrack all day with a major 30- or 35-degree track temperature swing. We only saw eight- or ten-degree difference, so that really lessened the transition into the evening. Made it more like the daytime I should say. On top of that, KB is one of the best if not the best of being able to put his car in different positions and find whatever grip is out there, and he's not scared to move off a line if it's not working for him anymore or just to do it to try something different so he knows what he's got when he has to, passing lap cars or racing somebody for the lead.

"A lot of things played into our favor, and I don't think it hurt that he ran the Xfinity race, too, just getting some more laps with the PJ-1 treatment and the upper grooves and knowing how many laps it takes for that to come in and how that changes with the life of the tire," Stevens explained.
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Busch started from the pole, won stages one and two, led the most laps, and won the race. Surely, Stevens thought that his driver would dominate from start to finish, right?

"No, that thought never, ever crosses your mind. You're just -- anything can go wrong. Hang a lug nut on a pit stop, we can make a bad adjustment, we could hit pit road under green and the caution could come out immediately. There's plenty of ways to lose track position or even lose a lap when you don't deserve it. There's plenty of ways for me to screw it up. I've done my fair share of that, too. You never feel like it's in the bag until -- the first sense of relief you have is when you see the white flag. But until the checkered falls, it's never done," Stevens said.

Busch led all but 23 laps on Sunday night. That's dominance by any standard. Stevens may have thought it wasn't done until the checkered flag fell, but everyone watching that race, including the drivers who fought to catch him all night, knew it long before that final flag waved.

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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... as long as she allows him to obsess over college football every fall.

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