Transcript: Adam Stevens & Joe Gibbs – 5.26.24

THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by the winning crew chief of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry SSE, Mr. Adam Stevens.

Q. Adam, in a 600 that you usually prepare for as a marathon that ends up turning into a shortened race like this, from your vantage point, how difficult is it to call when you’re playing with the weather and you just don’t know if you’re going to hit it on the nose?

ADAM STEVENS: Yeah, it can be tough. The size of that storm was big enough that it wasn’t really confusing the radar. So I think everybody had a pretty good handle on about when it was going to get here.

But it does change the dynamics of the race. You can’t afford to make a long pit stop if you really need an adjustment, and you can’t afford to really plug the second can in if you need the second can because you just can’t lose the track position with these shorter races.

It was different. It had a different feel to it, a lot more intensity at the front of the pack. I think you saw that on the restarts, and a lot more pressure on the guys on pit road for sure.

Q. Did you communicate with Christopher at what point you felt like he was racing the rain, or if you did, when did that communication —

ADAM STEVENS: Yeah, we did. It was at the start of the second stage, I guess. We all thought we had X amount of minutes until the rain got there, and everybody I was scanning and my team was scanning kind of was arriving at the same number.

Yeah, then we started getting those short runs, and the last thing you wanted to do is get a caution maybe five or ten laps before the rain was going to get there and then have to come down pit road or make a decision there that could flip the field.

Thankfully it came in between cautions and we all stayed in a competitive running order.

Q. Adam, with Kyle Larson not making a lap, in terms of the driver’s regular season points championship, does that open it up any more than it was previously considering he had a 30-point lead coming into the night?

ADAM STEVENS: I mean, it will on the driver’s side but not on the owner’s side. I think owner’s points-wise they still finished 13th or 14th. Yeah, it depends on how you want to keep track of it, but it could split the field from an owner’s points and driver’s points standpoint. But it was a great points day for us. We’ve had a few lackluster weeks here the last month or two, and happy to get into the month of May and start scoring some points again. Hopefully we moved up.

Yeah, it’s been quite a year as far as that goes, but happy to have a great finish today.

Q. I talked to Christopher yesterday about what it would take to win this race, especially with how many winners there have been in the past seven trips here. He said the two biggest factors were mistakes on pit road and then obviously the speed in the car. How big was it that your crew was spot on all night long while a bunch of other teams were making a ton of mistakes?

ADAM STEVENS: You know, it was huge. Like I said, it was such an intense race at the front of the field and such a premium on keeping that track position. You even saw six-, seven-, eight-lap runs where some cars would elect to stay out and they would get manhandled and it just put a real premium on four tires and a real premium on solid pit stops. Our guys rose to the occasion, much like they did at the pit crew competition last week, and hopefully we’re hitting our stride.

Q. This team seems streaky at times and I was wondering why that is the case. You go on these runs where it’s knocking out good runs, and then other times it’s not there. Curious why you think that is.

ADAM STEVENS: I don’t know. I would say the majority of times that it’s not there, things compound on him. Like Martinsville we weren’t very good, and whatever was around Martinsville, we got in a couple wrecks. We had a flat tire at Vegas on the pace lap that blew a couple laps later, initial start wreck at Atlanta, and it seems like when we have a bad week or two that we find a new way to have a bad week the next week.

Happy to be out of that stretch now it feels like, and hopefully start stringing together some more top 5s. I wish I had an answer, though.

Q. Along those same lines, Christopher talked about how the last month has been kind of — he’s been a little down in the dumps about it in the sense of it’s just not jiving. Can you shed any insight into that of what the last month or so has been like of trying to get those finishes, and this team has been normally so good in the regular season and then it just — like Jordan was saying, you hit this rough patch and then that chance at the regular season championship goes away?

ADAM STEVENS: Yeah, it’s just professional sports. You see it all the time. If you could bottle it up when it’s easy, you certainly could. If you could make it go away when it’s not, you’d do that, too. You just have to keep your focus.

If you’re confident you’re doing all the right things that you need to be doing, which I am and I know that we are, you can have nights like this just as easy as you can have days like we had a couple weeks ago.

But you’ve got to stay upbeat, you have to focus on your strengths and work on your weaknesses and take it as it comes. You can’t make it happen a lot of times. You have to let it happen.

It’s a testament to Christopher and the team for believing in themselves so when they do have an opportunity they can seize it.

Q. What are the strengths and weaknesses right now do you feel with the team?

ADAM STEVENS: I mean, I guess that’s a fair question. I think all around we have what it takes to win. Joe Gibbs Racing equipment is strong right now. If we’re not up front, certainly one of our teammates is.

The pit department has just done such a phenomenal job stepping up, and certainly we have an elite crew, and they’re just getting better. It’s just a matter of making good decisions and putting a good car under him. The closer we can unload, the better chance we have to have nights like tonight, and we unloaded really close this weekend, and this is a track that he loves, and he knows exactly what he’s looking for.

When we don’t have what he’s looking for, he’s able to articulate what he’s missing. I think you saw some of that.

Q. When you had that rough patch in the four weeks where it’s like you were — whatever happened, you guys wrecked, wrecked, wrecked, you really put a toll on the team and the baby-faced assassin was getting a little bit down, too. How do you keep them upbeat because you know that the goal is to get to Phoenix?

ADAM STEVENS: Well, yeah, I think you have to focus on the bigger picture and the season as a whole, and you have to go week by week at some of those that have gotten away from you and talk about what went wrong and talk about what went right and keep it in perspective of the whole season.

We had a couple chances to win races that slipped away, as well, not just dismal wrecks and poor runs. But we did win a race early and certainly were close enough to win a couple more, and it just didn’t happen.

Sometimes when it’s easy, it just goes your way. Sometimes the harder you work, it seems like the further away it gets.

It’s just the nature of professional sports, and I think we have a strong enough crew that have enough faith in themselves and enough faith in each other to get through those times.

THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by the winning owner of today’s No. 20 car, Mr. Joe Gibbs.

Q. We all know what this race means being the longest night and one of the crown jewels. Even though it’s rain shortened, does that take any of the luster away from winning a race like this?

JOE GIBBS: I think all of us, the fans, when you get a packed house like that, you’d like to see it go the whole way, but it seemed like Mother Nature had the 500 over there at Indy, well, we had everything that happened there, and then of course to have this race shortened.

But I just appreciate Adam and Christopher and the whole team, and I think what Adam was maybe mentioning there when I came in, in pro sports, man, it’s hard, and the hardest thing is to stay up there.

We’ve gone through about four or five tough weeks. To see the 20 team bounce back after all that, Adam’s leadership and Christopher, it’s just a huge deal for us.

Every time I’m in that winner’s circle, I think about all the CEOs I got a chance to call. Right there it was J.R. at Rheem, it was Don at Stanley Black & Decker, you get a chance to call them, Norm at Interstate Batteries. Our sport is totally different in that you’ve got to have partners that are sponsors, and that’s really what they are, they’re partners.

It gives you a chance to call them and say thanks. It’s just a huge deal. I just appreciate a night like tonight and we’re going to enjoy it.

Q. Adam alluded to it, Coach, but what’s impressed you about Christopher’s resiliency in the face of these last four or five weeks where things haven’t been going quite right?

JOE GIBBS: Yeah, and what happens during that time, it is a tough time. It’s tough for Adam. You think about all the work that they put in, they bust their butt. They’re on the simulator and all this all week, and you get ready for a race, and sometimes it’s just oddball stuff that happens. You break something or whatever.

You really feel for them. It’s a lot to go through. It takes a lot of guts and determination, and the great thing with Adam leading it, he set records as far as going to the Final Four, and I just appreciate the leadership that we have with our crew chiefs and Adam certainly is kind of a leader over there for us.

Q. For Adam, were you surprised that they tried drying the track for so long, and were you saying, hey, it’s too wet, and for Joe, since you might not be as biased as Adam on that, did you hope that they would continue to dry it and were you ready to race at 1:00 or 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning?

ADAM STEVENS: To answer your question, honestly, yes, I was surprised. We saw the radar looking like it was going to clear up, and it did. They started the Air Titans, and at the point that that happened, I resigned myself that we were going to go back racing. Trying to think — talk to Bell and figure out what adjustments we were going to need for a green racetrack, and making sure everybody had their ducks in a row, the radio is charged and a plan to get a pit stall dry, all the boxes you have to check.

Then when we were starting to hear the rumblings that maybe they were going to call it after all that, I wasn’t expecting that, either. It’s kind of a bit of a swing of emotions there, but you know, it was one you have to be prepared for, I guess.

JOE GIBBS: I think, too, for me, I was in the motor home, and I was told that they’re going to call the drivers in 15 minutes, so I got my jacket on, I was going out the door. But you’re never quite sure, too. I’d be willing to bet on the part of the track there was either weeping and a lot of things — that was a heavy rain, and I’d be willing to bet they reached the conclusion they weren’t going to be able to get it dry.

Also the other thing is lightning. Anyway, I didn’t know what all took place, but we were thrilled to go to the winner’s circle, I’ll put it that way.