February 21, 2021
Daytona, Florida, USA
Daytona Road Course
An Interview with:
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by our race-winning crew chief, Adam Stevens. Congratulations and thank you for taking some time with us. We'll get right into questions for you.
Q. How important is it to get off on the right foot and get a win early with a new driver?
ADAM STEVENS: Well, it's extremely important to get off on the right foot. We spent a lot of time this off-season talking about building a foundation, scoring some points, getting the finishes that we have coming to us. I didn't imagine we'd win our second race together, but happy to do so. It definitely changes the whole season, how you approach the season, what your obstacles might be.
Now that we have one under our belt, I think we can get a few more.
Q. The caution about 15 to go for rain, what was going through your mind there in terms of strategy? You pitted for tires, which set you back a little bit.
ADAM STEVENS: It was after green flag stops, right? We had five laps on our tires. We stopped a few laps -- maybe we had four laps on our tires, but we stopped two or three laps later than a lot of the cars we were racing. We really felt like they were going to come.
The rain didn't really play much of a factor into the track conditions. It kind of skirted the track there, that was good. We saw tires probably be more powerful than what you might think, certainly more than what I thought in the first stage when I stayed there trying to score stage points. The whole field pitted behind us and we got run over. We were able to recover from that.
We learned our lesson that if you go a good five, six laps, most of the field is going to come get tires. It was time at that point.
Q. You mentioned over the radio how proud you are of Christopher for the work he's put in. What have you seen from him and his prep work for this season in the amount of time you two have been together?
ADAM STEVENS: It's just a whole different situation for me. It's different for him, too. I'm so used to having a veteran. The things that he knows and understands about racing and race weekends, what makes a team fast, what makes a car fast, are different than what Bell knows and understands. We have to spend a lot of time talking about how we're going to operate and what makes a good weekend, what makes a bad weekend, lessons we can learn from.
You can learn from bad days just as easy as you can learn from a good day. You have to be ready to pull those lessons out. Just a lot of time communicating, laying the foundation for us to do great things in the future.
He is just always available. He is always pushing all of us to be our best. That's not different than what I was used to. Just the overall commitment and availability and willingness, everything that's in front of him. He enjoys the task at hand.
Q. You talked about working with a younger driver. This is a big swing in a week's time. Last week the accident, different style racing, he was part of triggering that. What did you do or how do you work through that from finishing that up off last week and looking ahead to this week, the differences in the two weeks, working with a younger driver after being in a spotlight for something they certainly don't want to do, to building their confidence up for something like this?
ADAM STEVENS: Sure, you have to keep it in perspective. Pushing at speedway races is part of the deal. Knowing how to do it separates cars that win races from cars that don't win races.
I don't think he did anything wrong, but he was a part of it. You have to learn from it. You can learn from things you do well, and you can learn from things you don't do well. That's speedway racing. We'll see that every race that we run as long as we have plates on the cars. We've seen it every race we have run.
I think you have to kind of analyze it, which we did, and look and see if there was anything we could have done better behind the wheel or just that whole weekend in general, then move on. That's exactly what he did.
Once we moved on, we moved on.
Q. Going for the stage points at the end of stage one not working out, how much did that change the strategy moving forward? Would that have changed anyway with the difference in tires?
ADAM STEVENS: Well, I honestly expected probably five or six cars to stay out with us. I thought that we would be able to hold onto a top two or three spot. I wanted the points because I felt like going into this season that it could be very easy for us to get to the Playoffs and need those points. Nobody else thought that way, just me. We were the only one out there. It cost us some spots.
Thankfully everybody ran hard to the actual stage. Most people decided to come back and put tires on. Instead of restarting 25th or so, we ended up restarting 16th or 17th, were able to make up from there. He did such a good job of taking care of the car on restarts and minimizing the damage so we had something to race with at the end.
Q. When we talked about you pairing up with Christopher last year, you talked about how good he was and how mature he was. On the final laps running Joey down, what were your thoughts on how he handled himself getting around him and through the chicanes as he finally overtook him?
ADAM STEVENS: I don't think anybody could have done it any better than what he did. When we were closing that gap, we were still two or three seconds back. I was worried he was going to press too hard, try to get too much too soon, lock a tire or miss a corner. He absolutely did not. He stayed right under the limit of his tires and saw that Joey was coming back. He got what he could get without pressing too hard.
Then when he got close enough, he just took the first available opportunity. Didn't have to force it too hard, but let him know he was there, got up beside him. Just a masterful job of executing those last four or five laps.
Q. What does this win do for you personally? Do you feel any sort of redemption, extra confidence after maybe the last 18 months?
ADAM STEVENS: Wow, I'd have to think about that. I generally don't self-analyze career milestones or achievements. I can tell you it felt really good. I'm beyond thrilled for Bell and beyond thrilled for all my team guys. It's a complete new over-the-wall group. They had phenomenal pit stops today. New car chief, we're all learning each other. Everyone is doing such a good job with such a good attitude. That's what feels good to me. Certainly less about me.
It always feels good to win. It's nice to be reminded we're doing the right things and we're doing them the right way, to get that reminder very early in the season.
Q. How many approvals do you need to allow him to burn down the engine when you're planning to use it again?
ADAM STEVENS: Well, every week they tell us if that's an option or not an option. Generally I try to listen to it. We haven't won in a while so it hasn't been an issue. We have to rerun these engines and get to our seal count, and that's important. This engine is on the schedule to rerun again. That's what the sheet said. That's what I said.
Christopher, like you would expect, he listened to what his crew chief said and he didn't do it. I felt bad, but that's what the sheet said.
Q. When you look at entering this race today, did you expect a good performance from Christopher today, knowing he had some decent runs in Xfinity on the road courses? What did you anticipate from him today on the road course?
ADAM STEVENS: I was honestly hoping for a top five. I thought that was achievable. I thought that the 9 would be good and the 19. I felt we'd be in the mix with probably the next group. We were a little bit better than what I anticipated. We didn't make many mistakes, took advantage of everybody else's mistakes.
But he was really good in the Cup car at the two road course races last year. Didn't see it in the finish, but in the lap times you could see it. What he was doing behind the wheel, he was doing a lot of the right things and learning as the races went on. We ran those races with no practice, too.
Just the results didn't show it because the pit stops weren't good, and they had some damage early in one of the races. He knows how to get around a road course. I will say that is a mark of a talented race car driver that can learn how to get around a road course and finish road course races and win road course races very early in their career.
He didn't grow up doing any of that. To come out here with the best in the business and hang with them says a lot about how talented he really is.
Q. You said you thought maybe top five today, but you won instead. When did you think this team could win?
ADAM STEVENS: I knew in the off-season that this team could win, but I wasn't putting any of that pressure on us so early in the season. Like I said, my goal was to build a foundation and show the depth of the team with finishing where we're running and minimizing our mistakes, having solid pit stops and solid weekends.
It just so happens we were able to do that better than anyone this weekend. But the talent is there. A new pit crew coming together, busting off those stops in their second race is almost impossible to do. The work that they put in is a testament to those results. No different than with Bell. All of us working together, figuring it out.
I think having that in our pocket now is going to change things for the better going forward and free us up to really push hard.
Q. You have a Playoff berth. Do you see the complexion changing for the race for the other 14 spots?
ADAM STEVENS: Probably not for the teams that we all expect to win, but for some of those fringe cars it will. The number of unique winners is really going to change how many cars get in on points, right? It's pretty obvious.
I'm sure that the 9 and the 19 and the 11 and the 18, 22, the 2, are all going to win a race before that time. Some of that next batch of cars is really needing to be thinking about if they're swinging for the fence or if they're racing for points. Maybe one more winner that somebody didn't expect pretty early in the season could really change the complexion.
THE MODERATOR: Adam, thank you so much for taking some time with us. Congratulations on the win and we will see you at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
ADAM STEVENS: Can't wait. Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports