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November 18, 2015

Adam Stevens

THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to today's NASCAR teleconference. We are joined by our 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship contender crew chiefs, Adam Stevens, the crew chief of the No.18 M&M's Crispy Toyota; Rodney Childers, crew chief of the No.4 Jimmy John's Chevrolet; Alan Gustafson, crew chief of the No. 24 AXALTA Chevrolet; and Cole Pearn, crew chief of the No.78 Furniture Row Precision Chevrolet.
The slates have been wiped clean as we head into this weekend's championship race, and whoever finishes best among these four teams in Miami will be crowned the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. We'll start off with Adam and then we'll move to Rodney, followed by Alan and then Cole. Adam, to start off, talk about what your No.18 team has accomplished this season to come out of such adversity in the beginning of the year and now have a chance to race for the championship at Homestead.
ADAM STEVENS: Well, it's been a wild year, starting with Kyle's accident. That's not something that any of us had planned or prepared for, and it was such a devastating crash that none of us knew if he was going to recover this year at all, and certainly what state he would come back in.
But due to his perseverance and determination, he was able to get back in a time schedule that was even not predicted by his doctors, you know, and certainly not predicted by any of us on the race team, and get himself in a spot where he at least had the potential to score enough points to get Chase eligible.
You know, we started off with high hopes putting the team together in the off‑season and wanting to be in this position, and then before we even left Daytona, that was all taken away from us. So to battle back from that and all the wins that we've had along the way and good runs in competitive cars is remarkable at this stage.
THE MODERATOR: Adam, you're no stranger to championship competition. You've had a lot of experience in those scenarios with the NASCAR XFINITY Series. Talk about if that gives you any extra confidence heading into this weekend's race at Homestead.
ADAM STEVENS: Well, I think it does. I've been to Homestead the last three years in the championship hunt, running for XFINITY Series owner's championships, and fortunate enough to walk away with one of those a few years ago, so I know a little bit about what that's about and have had championship experience as a race engineer on the 20 Cup car in 2005 with Zippy and Tony. I'm not a complete stranger to it, but still, you know, up there on the box and doing it for yourself is a whole different animal.
But certainly Homestead is a race that we all look forward to every year, and there's a lot that goes with that, and to be part of that situation and in the championship mix is what we all strive for every day.

Q. I'm curious when Kyle came back in May, how far behind did you feel you were behind the other teams considering he hadn't run the first 11 races?
ADAM STEVENS: That's a really good question. You know, I felt like we were making progress with David and then getting Erik in there and having a good run with Erik, although we didn't get the finish for it, but it's hard to really know the slope of that curve until you get your guy back, and there was no guarantee that the things that they were learning were going to directly apply to Kyle when he got back in the car.
But I think a big key to making that transition a quick one was Kyle's continued participation in the team meetings and visiting with Matt and Carl and Denny and spending time in my office each and every week, a couple days a week, and staying in touch and up to speed with what we were working on and how it was affecting the cars.
But certainly it was a huge unknown, and those first few laps at Charlotte at the All‑Star Race were with much trepidation on my part, just wanting to know what he felt of our cars and our setups and where he was at in his recovery.

Q. I also just wanted to check, do you know how many warnings you have in this new accumulated system? Are you close to having to worry about anything this weekend?
ADAM STEVENS: Yes, they are. We got our third warning pre‑race with an LIS issue at wherever we just were, Phoenix, so yeah, so if we get another warning before qualifying, we would lose pit selection for this weekend.

Q. So does that mean you have to be a little bit more‑‑ does that put you behind at all for qualifying?
ADAM STEVENS: I don't think it puts us behind, but certainly we'll make a couple extra trips across the platform before practice starts to make sure that we know exactly where our stuff is, and if there's anything that's marginal or a number we're chasing, we'll make sure that we're on the short side of it rather than taking a chance of having to go around.

Q. I just wondered if you could comment, I think it's pretty interesting how new most of you crew chief/driver pairings are in the big scheme of things. Three of the four of you are really rather new and just maybe if you could address that a little bit, that the success has come rather quickly for the pairings?
ADAM STEVENS: Well, I guess as far as the Cup side is concerned, Kyle and I, this is our first year. But we did have two strong years together on the XFINITY side. So you know, we have a lot of races we've run together and a lot of experiences we've been through together. So it's not all that new. You know, it's not like we were both new to a new company. We've worked around each other. Since he started at Gibbs I've been here. We've known each other and spent a lot of time together, even before our first races together on the XFINITY side a few years ago. But certainly on the Cup side, it is a new relationship.

Q. It's not just the two of you but Cole and Martin, but I'm talking across the board it's relatively new, it's not a 10‑year relationship that any of you have together?
ADAM STEVENS: Yeah, I guess. I mean, I don't know about the other people's relationships to be honest, but you know, Cole had a working relationship with Martin as a race engineer, too, and that's pretty close to the fire, so you get to know each other pretty well as a race engineer. That's really all I can say.

Q. Adam, you say you've got experience at Homestead, but this will be the first time in the Cup Series as a crew chief calling this race. As you look back at the history of this race, what are the things that kind of stand out or the issues or concerns that you might have, not that everything that happened in the past is going to happen coming up, but what are the trends that you see. And also while the forecast can change many times and probably will between now and Sunday, there's the possibility of rain on Sunday. How much could that drive you nuts this weekend?
ADAM STEVENS: The weather is always a constant worry. You know, if you don't know if you're going to get practice on Saturday, it'll really affect how long you stay in race trim or how quickly you swap to qualifying trim on Friday. You know, that could have major bearings on the weekend, so you're always keeping an eye on the weather, which is tough to do in southern Florida.
And as far as the general history of the race and concerns I might have, you know, if you look at the caution history, there were a ton of cautions last year, and guys really went through their tires quickly. And now that we are‑‑ there's a hard limit basically on the tires, you could put yourself in a spot where you run out of tires, and it would be very easy to do. But you never know when they're going to have a long green flag run, and if you're coming off a ten‑lap run and you elected not to put tires and then it goes 60 or 70 laps green, you're going to be in bad shape.
You know, tire usage on a track that has a lot of tire falloff is always a concern, and in looking at the caution history, I don't think that it's as cut‑and‑dry. You go to a lot of places, you're going to have a lot of cautions, but we've seen Homestead with very few cautions or very many cautions, so it's really hard to say how that's going to shake out.
But as a crew chief, those are two things that you don't want to be on the short side of. You don't ever want to run out of tires and you don't ever want to be caught by surprise by a late race caution.
THE MODERATOR: Adam, we thank you for joining us today, and we wish you the best of luck this weekend in Miami.
ADAM STEVENS: Thank you very much.

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