Transcripts – Adam Stevens, Heather Gibbs – Bristol

THE MODERATOR: We’ve been joined by our race-winning crew chief, Adam Stevens, and our owner representative in Heather Gibbs.

Adam, obviously Christopher is a natural dirt racer, but this is a race that he’s not necessarily been in a position to win in the final laps. Talk about those final laps tonight from your standpoint.

ADAM STEVENS: Yeah, the race doesn’t really get going there until probably a third of the way through the final stage. That’s when the track seems like it really slicks off and comes together. You can run top to bottom.

There was a lot of grip out there for a long time, longer than I thought there was going to be. Once it slicked off, you could see it was a lot racier. Maybe harder to move up through the field, but the good cars found their way to the front.

We’ve only raced on the dirt twice here, two not very stellar efforts, lots of extenuating circumstances. It’s nice to put a whole weekend together here.

Probably didn’t have the best car here but we made it work. If you can get Bell out front, I like his chances.

THE MODERATOR: Heather, obviously it’s always nice to win. What does this win mean to the Gibbs organization but Christopher having the opportunity to check that box for the Playoffs?

HEATHER GIBBS: Well, he’s been so close so many times. We’re thrilled to have the win. It means so much to our family just being able to come here. Bristol, Easter Sunday, being with family at the track, it means a lot to us.

Coach wasn’t feeling great. Obviously all of our situation, I was able to step in and be here. Wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

THE MODERATOR: We’ll open it up for questions.

Q. Adam, way early in the race, Bell said, I am in the way, holy crap. How did you talk him off the ledge?

ADAM STEVENS: He’s got a good head on his shoulders. Sometimes you just need to blow off a little steam. Believe it or not I’m used to that through my career (smiling).

We just weren’t set up properly for the first part of the race. Like I said, it was pretty gripped up early. It stayed that way for longer than I anticipated it.

We freed up a good chunk on that first stop. It made a small difference in the balance. But the biggest thing was the track coming to us. The conditions we had there the last two-thirds of that final stage is kind of what I thought we’d have a little bit sooner in the race. It just came to us.

He knew it was going to. He just wanted it to happen a little sooner.

Q. The top six raced on dirt all of their careers. What favored those guys tonight?

ADAM STEVENS: I think the biggest thing is the way the track changes. When this cushion got built up late in the third stage or pretty much the whole third stage, that groove started to come in, you had to be able to adapt to that line quickly.

Every restart the preferred line was slightly different for a few laps. You had to be able to run that groove. It takes a special skill to match that entry speed with the amount of grip that you know you’re going to have in the center. If you overdo it, it can get away from you. You if you underdo it, you’re going to get passed.

The dirt drivers can do that while dodging the little spots where the track is coming apart, make those microscopic changes to the line, driving style, to keep the car under them and to keep them going forward.

Q. Obviously Christopher is talented. The short track with Richmond, tonight, you go into Martinsville as the most recent winner. How important of a stretch is this, take advantage of this things at this point?

ADAM STEVENS: That’s a good point. It’s very important because once we get into the Playoffs, it’s all about bonus points to get through these rounds.

We were fortunate last year when our backs were up against the wall to be able to transfer. But you can’t rely on that. That’s tough. It took some situations and a little bit of a luck for that to happen.

If you have a big old stockpile of bonus points, you get in that spot, maybe it’s not as foreboding as it was. Hopefully we don’t put ourselves in that spot. To do that, we need to capitalize on our strengths and we need to minimize our weaknesses.

Your other point of these short tracks being a strength of his and the team, I agree. All the tracks are strengths. We just haven’t been able to show it as much. We haven’t won on an intermediate yet, but I could rattle off 10 or 12 if you had time that we were so close.

If we’re capable as a team to give him the balance he needs, with the equipment that we’re producing at Joe Gibbs Racing, he’ll take us through the front, and he’s proven that. He’s probably proven it a couple more times on the short tracks, but it’s probably our deficit that you’re seeing and not his deficit. He’s that good. I would expect to be winning at any track we go to.

Q. Heather, Ty gets a 10th-place finish. What has the adjustment been like and how is he getting adjusted to the Cup Series a little bit more now?

HEATHER GIBBS: I think his relationship with Gayle obviously has been fantastic. But really just having the guidance of all the other drivers: Martin, Denny, Christopher. All have been great sharing information, helping him, letting him come to them any time. Just learning as you go. But I think just the support of the whole team has been really what’s helped him.

They’re like a family, they have our back all the time and we have their back. That’s been the biggest support.

Q. (No microphone.)

HEATHER GIBBS: It was a rough night, but it was really good. It ended well. It’s kind of like you can’t give up and you don’t know what happens, you got to be ready at any second and capitalize on it. I think that’s what he’s done. Hopefully he’ll continue to learn and just get better with experience and seat time.

Q. Adam, how much different is it to win this early in the season compared to last year at New Hampshire?

ADAM STEVENS: Well, it’s a little different. The thing that makes it the most different is we dug such a points hole at the beginning of the year. We really struggled to finish a race the first seven or eight races.

You have to fact check me here. I think we were all the way back to 30th or 32nd in points coming into COTA last year. That on top of not winning can be stressful. It’s really hard to divide your strategy between getting the best finish possible and putting yourself in position to win.

But this year we’ve done a really good job ever finishing. Except for the two DNF’s. Generally had good cars and maximized our days. We’re up towards the front of the points. There wasn’t as much stress to win a race here right off the bat, but we’re certainly happy to do so.

To the point earlier, we need to be scoring bonus points and stockpiling those to go make a deep run in the Playoffs.

Q. Adam, does Christopher get enough credit for his ability behind the wheel? Seems like he’s often overlooked.

ADAM STEVENS: I don’t know. I don’t know how to justify that or quantify that, to be honest with you.

Do I feel a little bit of that? I’d say probably. But you have to produce the results, right? Do I think that we’re consistently producing the results? Yes. Do I think we need more wins to go with it? I do. Is he capable of it? Certainly.

We have to do everything right as a team. We have to have good pit stops, we have to have good strategy. He’s got to do his job, which by and large he does. We have to bring good cars.

When we can check those boxes, he proves that he can lead laps and win races.

Q. With North Wilkesboro coming up, how critical is going to be for the pit crew and the preparations and nailing everything down?

ADAM STEVENS: That’s a good question. The short answer is I’m not really sure. I’ve never raced there. I did watch a race there when I was eight years old, so…

I didn’t take very good notes, but it’s been a while. They had a test there. A couple cars got to go. The amount of lap time falloff with laps on tires was just staggering. I don’t know if it will be a track position race. I don’t know how many lanes there are to pass.

But you always want to be out front. If there’s a lot of contact, beating and banging, you want to be in front of it. If you find a little clean air, you want it. It’s always important.

It’s an important night for the pit crews to take that money down and win that pit crew challenge.

Q. (No microphone.)

ADAM STEVENS: Mark Martin, yep. Still got a soft spot for him.