THE MODERATOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to today's NASCAR video teleconference. The slates have been wiped clean as we head into this weekend's championship race, and whoever finishes the best among these four teams in Miami will be crowned the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion. We will start off with Adam, then we'll move to Cole, followed by Rodney and Paul.
Adam, to start off, talk about your team's success this season and how you plan to approach this race this weekend in Homestead.
ADAM STEVENS: Well, 2017 for the M&M's Camry has been an interesting one. We've had a lot of speed all year but haven't had too many opportunities to really capitalize on it. We had a couple slip away from us early in the year and finally started to right the ship about mid-season and cranking off some wins. Built a little momentum here in the Chase, and really looking forward to getting to Homestead and letting it loose.
Q. Adam, is it any different trying to figure out strategy for this race knowing that there will be two stage cautions in there?
ADAM STEVENS: Yeah, it's going to be a lot different. You know, a couple things going into this race strategy wise really have to put some thought into. First thing is we have a lot less tire sets on the ground this race than we had last year, two or three less sets. Homestead is so hard on the tires, any time the caution comes out you're going to want to put them on, and this is the first Homestead race we've had with the stages, so you know when you're going to get two of those cautions, and you're going to want to have tires. You go two or three laps you're going to want to have tires. But you can't put yourself in a spot where at the end of the race you don't have any. A lot of guys are still racing for stage points, and the four of us aren't. We might be on an island at some point in time with having to save a set of tires or having to use a set of tires to make sure we have the track position later in the race. It's really going to mix things up for us.
Q. Would the leader of the four of you dictate whether you come in or not?
ADAM STEVENS: Certainly that's a major factor. I think the other factors you're going to have is how many cars are on the lead lap, so if you choose to maybe save a set, are you going to restart 10th or 12th or are you going to restart 25th or 30th. It all depends on how many cautions we have and how quickly they fall together, how many cars are on the lead lap. But those are all things you have to kind of weigh out on the fly and kind of be prepped for those situations, but you just don't know how the race is going to shake out until we get going.
Q. Just talking about tires, I know you talk about the reduction, but looking over the last couple years there's only been seven cautions in each of the last couple Homestead races. If you have a reduction of tire sets, how significant is that based off the last couple years where there's only been seven cautions? It would still seem like there's still enough room for you to kind of do things. How do you look at it in that sense?
ADAM STEVENS: Well, I mean, that's very true, but we haven't had the stages the last couple years, and having the stages we know that they're going to bunch the field up at least twice and pretty much make you take tires at those two times. You factor that in to the previous two years, and now you're out of sets again. When you bunch it up, get these drivers all hot and bothered and stuff them in there on a restart, they tend to have a couple more cautions. There's just no telling. Past history has always been a good indication, but without having a stage race yet at Homestead, we just don't know.
Q. Also your team was one that made the pit crew change at the beginning of the playoffs; how do you feel like that's worked out and how that adjusted -- obviously that's a significant move, and that can have impact in various ways and how you guys have gotten through that to get to this point with this group.
ADAM STEVENS: Sure. You know, over the wall in pit stops is a huge part of our sport and has been forever, and we felt like we were underperforming there, and we had an opportunity to swap teams with the 19 since they didn't make the Chase, and they were performing at a higher level than our guys were. It wasn't something we took lightly. We didn't do it for fun. We did it for performance, and we owe it to everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing to make our best effort to win every single race, and that's what that was all about.
You know, how has it gone? We had a couple growing pains on the front side, but by and large we've been top two or three every week on pit times. I feel like we made the right decision. It was a difficult one, but it's been paying off, and I expect to see that again this weekend.
Q. Obviously, this race could come down to a restart with two or four or six or ten laps to go. Is there any way to prepare for that, or is that just something you kind of leave in Kyle's hands?
ADAM STEVENS: It's tough. You know, there's not a great way to practice restarts on a weekend. You can't go out there half throttle and roll around and warm your tires and do all the stuff you need to do when people are flying by at 180 miles an hour. I think NASCAR would frown on that. It's all about experience, and experience on this tire, experience on this racetrack and experience in racing in general. You've kind of got to leave it up to the drivers at that point.
Q. What's the most special memory from the 2015 race, and what's the most special thing, memorabilia piece that you walked away with or have that commemorates that night, whether it's the ring or something else that you just kind of took with you from that evening?
ADAM STEVENS: Oh, wow. I haven't put much thought into that one. You know, that was a special year culminated by a special weekend. The race was interesting.
But I think the most thing I remember is I remember the feeling of that caution coming out, and we were in position before the caution came out with 10 or 12 to go to win the championship but not win the race, and then we beat the 4 car off of pit road and got the jump on the 2 car and took the lead, and the feeling of taking the lead after the restart with two or three -- eight or nine laps to go, excuse me, is something I won't forget. Man, I hope I get to have that feeling again this weekend.
As far as a memento, I got a championship trophy sitting in my office. That's pretty special, something that you dream about as a kid probably or at the point in time that you realize this is going to be your career path. It's a culmination of what you do.
It doesn't get to be a higher honor than that in this sport, so that's something that you kind of hang on to and look at every day you come to work.
Q. Some people have different philosophies on having a trophy in the office. Some people might want to put it away and say, okay, that was a great accomplishment, but now I need to focus on what's ahead. You obviously have it in your office; why is it important to be in the office? Why is it important to see that?
ADAM STEVENS: Well, I kind of like to be reminded every time I come to work what we're racing for and what the hard work we put in day in and day out and night in and night out and through all the grind of the season what it's all for. You know, seeing that and seeing some of the other trophies and grandfather clocks and Bristol swords and all of those things in my office keeps me focused on what we're trying to accomplish. Those days and weeks that it starts to grind on and wear and tear on you, you have to remember that it's all going to be worth it at the end.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Adam, and we wish the best of luck this weekend.
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