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November 14, 2018

Adam Stevens

THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by Adam Stevens, crew chief of the No. 18 M&M's Toyota. Kyle has accumulated eight wins this season, six in the regular season and two in the playoffs. Can you talk a little bit about what has led Kyle and your team to be so dominant this season?
ADAM STEVENS: I think the biggest difference for us this year as opposed to the previous years we've been together, we've just been a lot more able as a team to capitalize on the opportunities in front of us. You know, last year stands out because it took us all the way until second Pocono, I believe, before we found our way to Victory Lane. But there were a number of races where we put the best car on the track and led the most laps and had it slip through our fingers at some point in time during the race weekend.
You know, this year, by and large, when we've put ourselves in proximity to the front late in the race and had an opportunity to capitalize, we've been able to do it.

Q. Are you guys the championship favorite this year? I had asked Joey Logano after the comments he made last week, but do you guys feel with Kyle where you are right now as you're performing on the racetrack the championship favorites this year?
ADAM STEVENS: Oh, I would never say that about us. It's hard for me to say if there is a favorite. You know, week in and week out, especially at the intermediates, it seems like one team hits it a little better than another. It hasn't been dominated in my mind at the intermediates by a single team consistently through the year.
This last few intermediates that we've had are probably the biggest reflection upon what you might expect at Homestead, and I just didn't see anybody drive away from the field on pure speed in the last few races. You know, Harvick won Texas, but we had some issues that trapped us a lap down, and lap time wise and speed wise, I felt like we were right there with him. And Joey was fast, too. I wouldn't pin the favorite label on us, and equally I wouldn't put it on anybody else.

Q. Adam, I wanted to know if your Homestead car this weekend is a previously used chassis or if you guys built a brand new car.
ADAM STEVENS: Yes, it is a car that we've raced. Typically this late in the season we are recycling cars. I can't tell you exactly where we raced it, but it has been to the track a time or two.

Q. Kyle after this race last year, Kyle felt that you guys were better than Truex, that Joey had been blocking. Is there any sense of maybe a chip on the team's shoulder to go down there and right a wrong that happened last year to go out and win the championship?
ADAM STEVENS: I mean, we're not hurting for motivation to go win a championship. That's what we do. But you know, I did feel like as a team we did put the best car on the racetrack last year. But you know, I wouldn't pin not winning that on somebody else racing us hard. The cautions didn't fall our way when we split strategies with the rest of the group.
But you know, we want to go down there and win because that's what Joe pays us to do, and we feel like we have all the tools and everything we need to go do that, and when you're presented with that opportunity, you're just not going to get that opportunity too many times in your life. So when it's right there in front of you, you need to capitalize.

Q. This past weekend if I'm not mistaken you had a new fueler in John, that was his first race; is that correct? And why the change, and any other changes for this week with your pit crew?
ADAM STEVENS: Well, you are partially correct. John Eicher, we borrowed him from the 20 team, and we had a fill‑in guy backfill on the 20 because our primary fueler, Matt Terrell, was on baby watch, and we didn't feel comfortable sending him across the country and putting him and his family in that situation. He was not‑‑ John was not new to fueling. He's been a gas man for a long, long time. I even worked with him on the Xfinity side. But it was just a company decision to let our primary guy stay home and see if they could have a baby.
But he is coming‑‑ our primary guy is coming this weekend regardless, and I have not got the update yet today of where they are in their baby watch.

Q. You had talked earlier about last season, like you mentioned, just all the opportunities, things slipping away. What did you feel like you guys as a team, a group have cleaned up since last year to take more advantages of those opportunities this year and not let as many opportunities slip away as what happened last year?
ADAM STEVENS: That's a great question, and I wish I could answer it in one sentence. The reasons why we‑‑ some of those opportunities got away from us last year, every situation was different. Some were pit strategies or pit calls. Some were restart lanes late in the race. Some were inopportune cautions. I don't know that we repeated any of the things that kept us out of Victory Lane, but man, that was a long list.
It's not like we really did anything different. That's what's so odd. And if we did, it wasn't a conscious effort to clean anything up or do anything different. I think it was just executing at a higher level and having a little bit of luck go your way. You can't discount how that can play into the outcome of a single event when you can run over a piece of debris, which happened last year. You can knock a hole in the nose, things that nobody can plan for factor into every single weekend.
You know, just constantly putting yourself in the right situation and having the approach that you're not always trying to hit a home run, sometimes you're just trying to get a base hit and let everything unfold the way it unfolds.
Maybe there's been a little bit of a mental approach that, hey, it's going to be okay, just do what you know how to do, but man, beyond that, I couldn't really put my finger on it.

Q. I'm curious with Kyle, he really seems like he's super, super comfortable in his own skin and he's really‑‑ it seems like at least he's opened up a little bit on social and really kind of giving fans a look into his day‑to‑day life. I'm curious what's different about Kyle Busch, the man, the person today than in 2015 going into Miami for his championship season.
ADAM STEVENS: Honestly, it feels really similar to 2015. You know, we were operating at a pretty high level that year, as well, especially late in the season. And he was just really at peace with where he was in his life and his professional life.
For as much as maybe the media or the fans think that he's up and down or they see a different Kyle here and there, the Kyle that I see in my office and at the racetrack and hanging out with him on occasion when we do outside of the track, it's pretty much the same all the time. You know, he's a pretty special person. He's very fiery and has a will to win that probably isn't matched.
You know, when you get glimpses of that in the heat of battle, that's not who he is day in and day out. You know, that fire is still inside there, but as far as his demeanor and his personality and his approach, there is very, very, very little wavering or up and down in that, that I see from my end. I don't know that it's a whole lot different for me.

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