For the first time in his NASCAR Cup Series career, crew chief Adam Stevens celebrated a race win with a driver other than Kyle Busch. Stevens helped sophomore Christopher Bell put the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in Victory Lane on Sunday at Daytona International Speedway after Bell conquered the track’s road-course layout. The win marked Bell’s first and Stevens’ 29th.
Stevens won only one race in 2020, and it was the third-to-last event. This victory came in just the second race of the 2021 schedule.
“I generally don’t self-analyze career milestones or achievements,” Stevens said in a post-race Zoom teleconference. “I can tell you it felt really good. I’m beyond thrilled for Bell and beyond thrilled for all my team guys. … 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.”
The Busch-Stevens duo split during the offseason after six full-time seasons together at NASCAR’s top division. Their shared record included two championships (2015 and 2019) and 28 wins. They also worked together in the Xfinity Series, tallying an additional 19 victories.
Busch now has Ben Beshore atop the No. 18 pit box.
Bell is in just his second season in the Cup Series, his first with Joe Gibbs Racing. As a rookie, Bell competed for Leavine Family Racing in its No. 95 Toyota, but LFR shut its operation’s doors at the end of last year, prompting the move to JGR.
The biggest difference between working with Bell now compared to Busch before is the experience level. That was to be expected, though.
“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,” Stevens said. “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.”
Seems like it’s working.
Bell is now qualified to run in the NASCAR Playoffs. He didn’t make the 16-driver postseason field in 2020, finishing the season 20th in the final standings.
“I didn’t imagine we’d win our second race together, but happy to do so,” Stevens said. “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.”