A significant milestone is in the making for Adam Stevens, crew chief for Kyle Busch and the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry team in the NASCAR Cup Series. By the time the Cup Series completes its upcoming doubleheader races at Dover International Speedway on August 22 and 23, Stevens will reach 200 starts as a Cup crew chief.
A native from Portsmouth, Ohio, who raced in late models throughout high school and college, and whose father raced dune buggies and dirt late model cars, Stevens’ career in working with racing cars started off as a designer for Petty Enterprises after graduating from Ohio University with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. After working for Petty Enterprises for three seasons, he joined Joe Gibbs Racing and worked as a race engineer for Tony Stewart, crew chief Greg Zipadelli and the No. 20 Home Depot team. Stevens worked with Stewart from 2005 to 2008, winning the 2005 Cup title with Stewart, and continued working with JGR’s No. 20 Toyota team as a team engineer from 2009 and 2010 with Joey Logano.
In 2011, Joe Gibbs Racing fielded three cars for the Xfinity Series season and Stevens was named crew chief for the team’s No. 20 Toyota Camry team driven by a number of competitors, including Logano, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Truex. In April, Stevens achieved his first NASCAR win as a crew chief when Hamlin won at Richmond. From 2011 to 2014, Stevens won 31 NASCAR Xfinity Series career races as a crew chief with drivers Hamlin, Logano, Kyle Busch and Sam Hornish Jr. between the Nos. 18, 20 and 54 operations. During his four-year span as an Xfinity crew chief, Adams worked with 12 competitors.
In 2015, JGR underwent major changes to its driver-crew chief pairing for its Cup and Xfinity Series program. As part of the changes, Stevens graduated to the NASCAR Cup Series and was named crew chief for Kyle Busch and the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry team. A day prior to the 2015 Daytona 500, however, Busch suffered a massive compound fracture in his lower right leg, a small fracture in his left foot and a sprained left finger after being involved in a multi-car wreck in the Xfinity Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway, where he made head-on contact into a concrete barrier installed with no SAFER barriers. As a result, with Busch out of the early portions of the season due to his injuries, Stevens worked with Matt Crafton, David Ragan and Erik Jones for the first 11 races of the season. In May, Busch was medically cleared to return behind the wheel of the No. 18 Toyota and was also granted an injury waiver to make the Playoffs if he won and gained enough points to remain within the top-30 mark by Richmond in September. Following his first four Cup races with Busch, Stevens achieved his first Cup victory as a crew chief when Busch won at Sonoma Raceway the following race.
Following the win at Sonoma, Busch and Adams stormed out of the gate as they won three consecutive races over the summer (Kentucky Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway). With five additional top-10 results to go along with four regular-season victories, Busch was able to earn enough points to make the Playoffs. Throughout the Playoffs, Busch was consistent and was able to earn a spot in the Championship Round at Homestead-Miami Speedway. During the finale, Busch took the lead on a late restart and was able to claim his first NASCAR Cup Series championship after winning the finale. The championship was not only the first for Busch, but it was also the fourth for Joe Gibbs Racing, the first for Toyota and the first for Adam Stevens in his rookie season as a Cup crew chief.
For the first 11 races of the 2016 Cup season, Busch and Adams won three races (Martinsville Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway) and achieved nine top-five results. Following Busch’s victory at Kansas in May, however, the No. 18 team was issued a P3-level penalty as a result of an infraction with the No. 18 Toyota’s lug nuts discovered during post-race inspection. As a result, Stevens was fined $20,000 and suspended for one race along with front tire changer Josh Leslie while veteran Todd Berrier filled in as an interim crew chief. When Adams returned atop the pit box at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Coca-Cola 600 in May, he and Busch achieved seven top-10 results and won at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the second year in a row as they both qualified for the Playoffs. Throughout the Playoffs, Busch was consistent as he earned eight top-10 results and made the Championship Round at Homestead with an opportunity to defend the title from the previous season. During the finale, however, Busch and Adams concluded the season in third place in the final standings after Busch finished in sixth place, five spots behind race winner and the champion Jimmie Johnson.
In 2017, Adams was atop the No. 18 pit box for 32 of the season’s 36-race schedule. In May, Adams and Busch captured the All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway and in Busch’s 12th attempt to win NASCAR’s annual event. In June, following the 12th race of the season at Dover, Stevens was suspended for the upcoming four races due to a safety violation, where a left-rear tire came off of Busch’s car and rolled on the track as Busch was exiting his pit stall and heading back on the track under cautious pace. This was a result of Busch’s car being dropped off the jack with no lug nuts being safely secured on the left-rear tire. Engineers Ben Beshore and Jacob Canter served as interim crew chiefs before Stevens returned atop the pit box at Kentucky Speedway in July. Three races later, Stevens and Kyle Busch achieved their first victory of the season at Pocono Raceway. The combo would win four more races, make the Playoffs and make it all the way through to the Championship Round at Homestead, where they settled in the runner-up spot behind Martin Truex Jr., crew chief Cole Pearn and Furniture Row Racing. By the time the 2017 concluded, Stevens surpassed 100 races as a Cup crew chief.
From 2018 to 2019, Stevens was atop the No. 18 pit box for the entire 36-race schedule. With Kyle Busch remaining as driver of the No. 18 Toyota, the combo achieved 13 wins, five poles, 39 top-five results, 56 top-10 results and back-to-back regular-season titles. In addition, Busch and Stevens claimed their second Cup championship in 2019 after winning the finale at Homestead and capping off a dominating season for Joe Gibbs Racing, which achieved its fifth Cup career title after winning 19 races throughout the 2019 season. By then, Adams also achieved his 27th Cup career win as a crew chief.
This season, through the first 23 Cup races of this season and in his sixth season as a Cup crew chief, Adams and Busch have earned one stage win, 10 top-five results, 12 top-10 results, 211 laps led and an average result of 15.1. With Busch still pursuing his first Cup victory of the season, they are in 10th place in the regular-season standings and are 100 points above the top-16 cutline to make this year’s Playoffs with three regular-season races remaining.
Catch Adams’ milestone start in the second Dover International Speedway race of a doubleheader weekend on August 23 at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN.