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October 29, 2017

Adam Stevens

Martinsville, Virginia

THE MODERATOR: We are going to continue with our post‑race media availabilities following today's First Data 500, and we've now been joined by our race‑winning crew chief of the No.18 M&M's Toyota, and that is Adam Stevens. I think it's safe to say you are most likely the happiest crew chief that will leave here tonight at Martinsville. Congratulations. You guys officially locked your spot into Homestead. You have the opportunity to go back and try to capture another championship.
But before we get too deep into that, talk a little bit about today's race and ultimately the kind of crazy finish there at the end.
ADAM STEVENS: 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.

Q. Adam, with the way this playoff format and especially this third round is set up, I mean, how important is it for the driver who can win this first race of the round and know that literally no matter what happens the next two weeks, all they have to worry about is Homestead?
ADAM STEVENS: Sure. 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.

Q. How much do you expect there to be kind of bumping and wrecking of each other when this is the way the format is and there's so much reward for a win?
ADAM STEVENS: Yeah, I think you saw what you're going to see these next coming events. The only difference would be when you're going 180, 185 miles an hour, it's just harder to get to somebody's bumper, but you can certainly do it when you're going 60 mid‑corner at Martinsville and it's not different than we've seen, but certainly the three‑race format and the pressure to win is so high that you see guys make some pretty desperate moves, pretty high‑risk moves, and you saw a lot of that today.

Q. What's your perspective on what's acceptable and what's not in that last 10‑lap scenario? Is it okay to bump‑and‑run but not okay to slam somebody into the outside wall and crash their car? Is there some kind of line there or not?
ADAM STEVENS: Yeah, of course there is. But your version of bump‑and‑run might be my version of slam, and you ask somebody else, and that's just racing to somebody else. You know, that's kind of up to the drivers to sort out. They're probably going to have a lot of conversations in the near future and maybe some payback, too. I don't really know. But thankfully we're not a part of that. We have been a part of it in the past on both the giving and probably the receiving side, so it's part of the sport, and when you amp up the pressure, you're going to get more of it.

Q. I asked Truex and Bowyer, they were in here before you, it's more of a philosophy question. Let's say you had not been‑‑ you had already been eliminated from the playoffs, and you were the 22 situation, got that tire rub. Would you have come in if your teammate was leading under green to fix that? Instead he brought the caution out and it sort of changed the whole‑‑ what's the thinking there?
ADAM STEVENS: I mean, certainly if you felt like your opportunity to win was gone, then I would say yes, because the last thing you want to do as a competitor is to put your own teammate at a disadvantage. If you were still in a position where you could win the race, then I think you would have to take the chance that that tire was going to be okay.
I've seen tires smoke egregiously and not blow out, it's just a matter of where they're rubbing and how hard they're rubbing. I think you kind of have to evaluate it that way.

Q. When you talk to the fans out there, they say what they saw at the end was a little dirty. Do you think it was dirty?
ADAM STEVENS: You're going to have to be more specific because there were so many people hitting each other, I don't really know.

Q. What Denny Hamlin did.
ADAM STEVENS: You know, you really have to see the steering and throttle trace to really know what was going on. You know, I'm not an expert, and I wasn't driving either car, but I definitely saw the 24 not leave the 11 lane and kind of chop him on exit, and then it looked like he really slowed down an amount that Denny wasn't expecting getting into the corner. That's what I saw. But them two will have to go over that. I honestly don't know if that's what happened, but that's what it looked like to me.

Q. What are you going to do the next two weeks?
ADAM STEVENS: 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.

Q. A lot of effort has been done to get these lights up. How was it racing under the lights for the first time?
ADAM STEVENS: It was really cool. If it was June or August or something and it was 75 or 80 outside, I'd say I absolutely loved it. The two‑day show I thought was great. It was packed. For a crew chief and a team, there was a lot going on. I did like the lights. They were certainly bright enough, and I thought it was a pretty cool show, just a little chilly.

Q. In 2015 you didn't have that win to get into Homestead, so you had to hustle it through each of the three rounds. Even as you still want to continue that momentum, how does that change things? How does that change how you approach, and is there anything you can take from that 2015 experience?
ADAM STEVENS: Yeah, I mean, there's something you learn every time you go to the racetrack, but certainly having been part of the playoffs the previous two years and making it all the way to Homestead, they were both very different. But we had to get in on points both times. In '15 we had to get through the first round and the second round by the skin of our teeth, and then the third round was actually the easiest round as far as pressure just by the way it played out.
You know, last year it came down to the wire, came down to the finish at Phoenix if I recall, and that's going to be the same this year for the rest of the competitors I would say. Just not having that stress and being able to focus on the big picture and the task at hand is a huge relief, and hopefully that bears some fruit for us at Homestead?

Q. How much do you spend on Homestead (indiscernible)?
ADAM STEVENS: 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.
THE MODERATOR: Adam, we appreciate your time.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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