THE MODERATOR: We are joined by race-winning crew chief Adam Stevens, team representative Coy Gibbs.
Adam, I'll start with you. Take us through the race, those final laps there. We had Christopher on Zoom earlier this week. He was very focused and confident that his team to pull this off.
ADAM STEVENS: It was just a great weekend, honestly. We didn't have the best race here in the spring, but we learned a lot. Since then our program's made a lot of progress.
Didn't have the best test here in August, but we learned quite a few things not to do. The 11 learned a few things that were working for him. We kind of took that and made it our own coming into this weekend.
Had a decent practice. Bell had some feedback. The balance wasn't where we wanted it. We had a decent lap time, especially with laps on tires. We really felt like if we could get the balance to hang on, that we'd have some speed.
Didn't qualify well, but we knew we had a good race car. That first run there driving from 20th up to 7th, I knew we really had something that could contend for the win. It was just a matter of keeping the balance where he wanted it and adjusting to the racetrack, putting him in a position that he could do his job.
He just did such a good job being aggressive when he needed to be and taking care of the tires when he needed to and had the opportunity to. Just maximized the whole day.
The pit crew had an outstanding day, stepped up to the plate. Nights like this, days like this, are what this 20 team is capable of. So it's just a matter of everybody performing at their highest level and this was the result.
THE MODERATOR: We've now been joined by our race winner, Christopher Bell. In the interest of time, we are going to go ahead and roll straight into questions.
Q. Christopher, second round in a row where it's a must-win situation. What have these Playoffs been like? Is this what you expect out of yourself? Have you learned anything about yourself?
CHRISTOPHER BELL: Yeah, I mean, it's just been a roller coaster of emotions for sure. I think I've been praying off-season for two out of the last four weeks, now I'm ready to race again (smiling).
The round of 12 was extremely disheartening because I felt like the Round of 8 was going to be really good for us, and that would have led to a possible championship run. But then when we got out of Texas with a DNF, Talladega sucked, just being so down.
The team behind me, everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing, they still performed to their highest level. I feel like whenever I get in the car, put my helmet on, I try and do as good of a job as I can of not letting anything bother me.
I don't know, like no matter what's going on behind the scenes, whenever you get in the car, you can't let that bother you. They gave me a great race car today, the fastest car today. At the Charlotte road course when we needed to win, it worked out for us.
Q. Coy, it's sweeping the weekend, yesterday's win some controversy with how Ty won. How do you address that moving forward? What kind of an impact is that having on the organization only having one car in the championship where potentially could have had two?
COY GIBBS: Yeah, I'll answer that. First, though, 200th win, 31st year we've been in business, so that's huge. That's exciting. We actually still have our first employee, Jimmy Makar, who is getting ready to shift into a different role.
Yeah, yesterday is disappointing. That's not what we wanted for our race team. We haven't met as a group yet because we've been at the racetrack and all over the place. We're going to meet and deal with that internally and handle that.
I agree with it, it would have been awesome to have two cars. I thought we had two cars today until a white missile went by at the last second.
But, no, just excited for Christopher. Fun. A lot of times you don't get to see them grow. You got an older guy that's coming in, already established. That's what's exciting for me. Adam and all the guys did a great job, pit crew killed it today.
That's why we race right there.
Q. (No microphone.)
COY GIBBS: Yeah, I mean, I think when you're young, you make mistakes. Hopefully you learn from 'em. I think that's the message that we'll deliver to him.
Obviously with teammates, that's a whole different ballgame. There's a couple things we need to go over. Like I said, we haven't met as a group yet. Our leadership group will meet and we'll deal with the situation.
Q. Adam, you're the only two-time active crew chief in the garage, championship-winning crew chief. Does that give you a leg up on anybody going into the finale?
ADAM STEVENS: Maybe. I know what to expect out of these weekends. We had a streak there where we went to quite a few of them in a row. We finished in every possible spot you can finish in a four-car battle. It happened to be first a couple times.
Other than that, probably not. It's going to be who can bring the best car and do the best job. But I think we showed what this team's capable of tonight.
I feel really good about the spot we're in. I feel really good about the progress we've made this year as a team, with our setups and our package, what we're trying to accomplish.
I know what the weekend is all about, and the week leading up to it is all about. We're going to go there and see what we can do.
Q. Coy, when you see these moments that Ty has been in at different times, are there any questions whether he's fully prepared, has the maturity to handle Cup on a full-time basis next year?
COY GIBBS: I think that's part of the process and why you work your way up, so you can make those mistakes typically at a lower level.
So, you know, look, he's my kid. I appreciate his aggression. But sometimes you got to pull back a little bit. This is a place where we need to pull back some.
Just talked to him and explained to him that doing that affects not just him, it affects our whole company, all our sponsors, all the people we deal with, Toyota, obviously affected Brandon. Those are things maybe you're not thinking of in that split second, but hopefully we can get with him and educate him on those things.
Q. Christopher, you're back up on top. Your mindset has been all over the place. Hard to stay even-keeled. How do you stay even-keeled going into the championship race next week?
CHRISTOPHER BELL: Yeah, I mean, this next week is easy. We don't have to focus on stage points or where we're at compared to everyone else. It's just one race.
Like Adam said, whoever brings the best car and executes the best is going to win the race, the championship.
Whatever happens happens, and I'm very proud to be in this position. The sport is all about people. Fortunately for me I ended up with the best people around me.
Q. Christopher, what you did at the Roval here is like walk-off home runs. What does it feel like to not hit one but two?
CHRISTOPHER BELL: I don't think it's sank in yet. One thing that is very unique about the Playoff system and the wins that we have had, you know, at least for me, I don't feel like I've won a Cup race yet. I feel like I transferred into the Playoffs and get to race for a championship. In a way the Playoffs overshadow the race wins. Whenever you have a race win in the regular season, it's cherished and you feel like it's a big deal, where winning a race in the Playoffs, especially the way that we did, it's like, Wow, we won three races this year.
It just feels like we're focused on the Playoffs, we're on to the next round, and that's what the shining star is, not the race wins right now.
Maybe a couple weeks down the road, a couple days down the road, we'll look back at it and say, wow, I won another race, which is really cool, at one of my worst racetracks statistically.
Definitely short-term it's not a race win, it's an advance in the Playoffs. We get a chance to race for a championship. But long-term it is a race win.
Q. Adam, how have you seen him mature over the last two years? He didn't start out in the best equipment. Since the two of you have gotten together and built something, it really seems special. I know his talent, but where do you see this going?
CHRISTOPHER BELL: Before Adam answers that. The 95, after living the success that I've had, specifically this year and 2021, looking back at 2020, I feel like that entire group didn't get a fair shake at it. Jason Ratcliff, I feel terrible for him. Everyone at LFR. The hand we were dealt with COVID, getting practice and qualifying taken away from us.
Our equipment was good. It was not a question of equipment. It was a matter of not being able to showcase what we were capable of doing.
By not having practice, not having qualifying, we weren't able to get in a groove. I think a little bit of that happened to us last year. Like, we weren't able to dial in what I need in a race car. I'm not able to tell him what I need in a race car until you get more reps at it and more practice sessions.
That whole 95 group, it wasn't a equipment problem, a personnel problem, it was circumstances that caused us from performing what we were capable of.
Q. (No microphone.)
CHRISTOPHER BELL: Yeah, I mean, we had a technical alliance that I feel like was capable of bridging that gap. But I'll let Adam answer and speak to the rest of it.
ADAM STEVENS: Yeah, back to your original question. You asked about maturity and improvement.
I would say maturity, that hasn't changed. There's no question that that wasn't our issue last year. It goes back to the reps and communication, us as a team understanding what he needs in his race cars.
Even now that we're developing that understanding, when we unload, despite our best efforts, a lot of times we don't have it right. That 20 minutes of practice makes a huge difference. It makes a difference from missing the balance on occasion to being able to right the ship.
Those overnight adjustments, just like this weekend, if we had to race how we unloaded, we weren't going to win. We were able to make some changes and help the car do what he needs it to do.
After practice sessions last year and the majority of this year, we understand what he's looking for. If we can give it to him, he'll run up front. If it's Martinsville, I mean, Loudon, Kansas, Vegas, Texas, it doesn't matter. If we can give him what he's looking for in his car, then we'll run up front.
It's just a matter of that fundamental understanding and then communicating, him and I, our engineers, to constantly chase that balance and that feel that makes him his best.
Q. (No microphone.)
ADAM STEVENS: I agree with your assessment. I appreciate that.
Compared to the beginning of the season, we weren't that far off. We suffered for finishing, we didn't suffer for performance. I think we fell all the way back to 32nd in the points. We were certainly not a 32nd-place team.
Our setups weren't where they needed to be at the start with this new car, but we were learning. We were capable of running up front. We crossed the finish line at Atlanta one, P2, got bumped to the back for going under the yellow line. We were up front Vegas one, got loose over the bumps and spun out racing for the lead. That was potential performance. Two top fives gone that were well within our grasp.
We had three or four events where we didn't give him much to work with, Martinsville one, Phoenix one. We had a stretch of some good finishes and good runs. We've been competitive. We've had some pit stops get away from us. We've had some strategy calls get away from us.
As a team, though, we knew that we had what we needed. I remember telling Bell when we were 32nd in points, he was distraught and concerned, I'm like, Dude, I do not know what you're worried about. We have the performance, and the capability is right there, you're just having trouble seeing it.
Do you remember that conversation?
CHRISTOPHER BELL: Yeah, you were definitely a lot more positive than I was in that moment (smiling).
ADAM STEVENS: It's been there. It's been there the whole time. We just haven't had as many opportunities to show it as maybe we felt like we deserved or had coming to us. Hopefully we got one more in us.
THE MODERATOR: Adam, Christopher, Coy, congratulations on the win. Best of luck next weekend in Phoenix.