THE MODERATOR: We are joined by the crew chief from the race-winning team, which was the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, and we have Adam Stevens here. Adam, your first win of the season. Why don't you talk a little bit about what this means for you guys.
ADAM STEVENS: Man, it really means a lot. We had a couple we felt slip away from us early in the year, certainly race-winning cars and race-winning efforts and weren't able to put it all together. Today I'll be the first to admit I don't think we had the best car, but you can't make mistakes and you have to make the right calls at the right times, and you have to have a couple breaks go your way.
We checked all those boxes today and were able to be our best at the end after a few adjustments and Christopher's feedback, and we knew we had a good long-run car, so it was definitely key that that last run stayed green and we were able to show it.
Q. What was the biggest thing that you felt like either the 20 team or others that you were listening to or getting feedback from were fighting because it looked like it was really hard to drive out there.
ADAM STEVENS: Yeah, these cars aren't easy to drive, and this place is super bumpy. We don't come here twice a year. Obviously it's the first time we've been here with this car. There's lots of things about this car setup-wise that make it hard to handle.
All setups are a compromise and there's some pretty big compromises here.
The entry bumps are something that plays a major factor in the setup and controls the rest of the corner, and it just seemed like to rotate the center, you were on edge of being too free on the exit, which is pretty normal for Loudon. But it was probably magnified since this was our first rip at it as a series coming here with these cars.
Q. Did you think you had a better car than the 9?
ADAM STEVENS: I thought we did on the long run. There were multiple times in the race with shorter runs that we were racing him and not quite able to clear him, and I really felt like with laps on tires, we were as good as anyone, so it was just key to get that long run.
Then clearly we drove away from him at the end there.
It seemed like we needed a good 40 laps on our tires to really show our strength.
Q. NASCAR to make a decision on the wheel coming off last week, they said no penalty, do you feel like -- do you win this race if you're not here and you have to make changes to your crew?
ADAM STEVENS: Yeah, it would have been a bigger factor with the over the wall guys than it would be without my physical presence here. With all the tools and communication, ways to communicate that we have, me sitting in Huntersville wouldn't have been the end of the world, and certainly my two engineers are very, very capable, and they could probably answer the questions that I would need to answer without my input.
That wouldn't slow us down I don't think.
But if you're going back to the drawing board with the pit crew roster, we just had one week to gel in Atlanta, and this was our second week for them to gel. I don't think you can in a couple practices work all those kinks out, and obviously we feel like we're putting our best foot forward there. To bring a couple new guys in would have been tough. I think that would have been the story.
Q. Adam, another dominating performance by JGR today. Martin led a lot of the race and then Christopher won. What makes JGR do so well up here and with the limited amount of practice how did you think the new car was going to react to this track in particular?
ADAM STEVENS: Man, I was as much at a loss the weeks leading up thinking about setups and using all our tools and simulations, and like I said, everything is such a compromise. It's really tough to know if you're making the right decisions. I would say if it was a short-run race that we wouldn't have been the best, but thankfully it was a long-run race at the end.
Why JGR is good up here, I don't know, we've been good up here for years with different rules packages and even different drivers. I think just about all of our drivers have dominated a race up here. I guess Martin hasn't won, but he's been good enough to win I can't tell you how many times, and certainly he was today.
I think sometimes success breeds on success, and when you're good and everybody else is good, you're finding those little ways to get better. You look at our road course program now and we're not very good, and it's tough to find ways to get better. You kind of need that setup or that team that's doing a better job and you can pick out what the differences are, and then you can exploit those and keep kicking the can down the road.
I think that as a group, we just hit on something years ago and have been able to duplicate it with all the different tire combinations and rules packages.
Q. 14 different winners, you're in the playoffs at this particular point. How do you view your situation now and do you start to dare to peek ahead to what you need to do for the playoff?
ADAM STEVENS: Well, now we clearly need bonus points. I think we've shown all year that we have probably top-5 speed week in and week out, we just dug such a deep hole at the beginning of the season. At one point four, five, six races in, we were like 32nd in the points, and I think we're somewhere around eighth right now, far enough away from the back end of the playoff qualified cars now that we don't have to sweat that for these next few weeks. It was getting to the point with Daytona and Indy Road Course still on the schedule it was pretty clear that it was going to take a win to get in.
Thankfully we had just enough capability in our car and situations played out and we could get it done today.
Q. What do you think, do we see 15, 16 different winners? Are we at the max? What do you think?
ADAM STEVENS: I think we will see at least one more. I really do. The fact that the 12 and the 19 and the 4 haven't won is astonishing to me. Certainly I think we all had them on our potential winners list at the beginning of the year, and they've shown the speed, maybe not every weekend, but certainly they have weekends where they're as good as anyone, all three of them.
I would expect one of them in Victory Lane, and anything can happen at Indy. We saw the finish of that race last year. Brutal. Clearly anything can happen and usually does at Daytona.
Q. Both you and Christopher are cool, calm, collected, but how close are you guys to hitting the panic button, not having a playoff spot until right now?
ADAM STEVENS: We haven't even really talked about it. We felt like that our speed week in and week out is good enough to put us in position to win races, and we've been in that position plenty of times this year, and we felt like if we do our jobs on the weekend that we're scoring plenty of points. I didn't feel like the 19 was out of reach point-wise. The 12 is now. But we felt like there was still an off chance that we could point our way in, and a very good chance that we could win a race.
Q. When you're in that situation, how much do you coach Christopher versus maybe how much you'd coach Kyle in that situation from two years ago?
ADAM STEVENS: Are you talking in the shop or on the racetrack?
Q. Going down the stretch, on the racetrack.
ADAM STEVENS: Yeah, on the racetrack I tried to coach Christopher a little bit, and he told me he had it under control, and clearly he did. I thought that was a little surprising.
KB, we worked together for I don't know how many years, a lot, so we knew how to push each other's buttons the right way and what each one needed to hear. I've got to beat a little bit different drum for Christopher but we're going to need to get in that situation more to figure out what information he needs to do his best.
The last thing you want to do as a crew chief is have the driver misunderstand the situation and make an aggressive mistake when maybe he doesn't need to. Those are conversations that we'll have, and we'll look through the data and I'll figure out what he wants to hear in that situation.
KB and I had it from all the Xfinity days and the six years, I guess, on the Cup side together that we just -- it was like second nature to us. We've got some learning to do. We've got to get in this situation a little bit more often.
Q. I meant to ask, I know fuel mileage has always been a big thing at this particular track. Talk about how you were telling Christopher to save fuel because was fuel a worry?
ADAM STEVENS: No, we were only telling him that under caution because clearly we had the opportunity to save fuel and be easy on the fuel under caution. The lap that the caution came out we knew that we were on edge, and by the lap that we pitted we knew that we were going to be fine. But if they don't have a clean plug and you don't have as much fuel in there as maybe you thought you did or if for some reason the track would grip up and the lap times would drop later in the run, it's just good practice. But we weren't on edge by the time we went green.
Q. When Christopher said, "I got it," not to coach him anymore, did that surprise you, and did that make you feel like, oh, he's seeing something and has that confidence we're going to win this thing?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I think he understood that he was driving away, and he just wanted his radio a little bit quieter. No, I was happy to hear it. I chuckled. I looked at Morgan and just kind of laughed and had a conversation with my engineers on the radio. But yeah, and clearly he did have it. Kudos to him.
THE MODERATOR: Adam, congratulations on the win.