Toyota Racing – Kyle Busch
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Bristol Motor Speedway – April 21, 2017
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch was made available to the media at Bristol Motor Speedway:
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What is the story behind your special helmet paint scheme this weekend?
“In support of National Infertility Awareness Week – in case any of you don’t know that exists, we’re aware of it. With the Kyle Busch Foundation, Samantha (Busch) and myself have a huge part of that this week and with my sponsors at M&M’s allowing me to have this special painted up helmet by Jason Beam and the guys at Cielo to hook us up with a helmet to be able to give away after this race is over. We’re actually going to donate the helmet, it’s going to be race worn and it’s a helmet we’re able to donate on our Kyle Busch Foundation EBay site and all those proceeds obviously will go to benefit the Kyle Busch Foundation and the Bundle of Joy Fund. Again, we appreciate M&M’s allowing us this opportunity to do that and it will hopefully be a great race weekend for us that we can look forward to seeing this helmet with the checkered flag there after this is over.”
How has fatherhood changed your life?
“I think it changes anyone’s life, but for myself in particular it’s been a lot of fun and yet a lot of chaos sometimes and good opportunities to be able I guess realize how I kind of was when I was that age. Brexton is a whole lot of fun and he really enjoys a lot of what we do actually – going to the race track, he loves race cars and he always wakes up in the morning and points at the TV and either wants to watch race cars or now it’s Shrek or Nemo. He’s learning his words and stuff like that so it’s unique to be part of that and kind of understand what’s going on his brain a little bit. It’s certainly been an impact on my life as well as Samantha’s life, but all for the good.”
Do you and Kurt Busch banter about being tied for the most wins here at Bristol?
“No, I don’t know that we’ve ever necessarily gone on and talked about that. I do remember watching when I was a kid – I wasn’t here yet – watching Kurt win his first race here at Bristol and then having the epic battle with Jimmy Spencer there. That was a lot of fun to watch and see how Kurt was able to get his first win here and of course the years that I’ve been able to put cars in victory lane or wishing I could go back and get a few more of those wins that I missed out on – I’d have a heck of a lot more than just five. I think nothing comes close to the race that we had here in 2010 in the fall when I won the Truck race, the XFINITY race and the Cup race all in the same weekend. That was awfully special to pull off and with as much things as can happen here and as much carnage that can happen here, it certainly made for an awesome weekend and one for the record books.”
How much do the changes to the track impact your capabilities at this track?
“Every time we come here it seems like there’s something changing. With the bottom grip strip let’s call it, it certainly makes for a unique race track – more unique than it was already and when they first re-concreted this race track and did a new layout to it, more of a bowl-type to where you can run all over the race track, I was a huge fan of that – that you could race and race cleanly and not have to knock people out of the way and you could run three wide through the corners or two wide most all the way around the race track. That’s boring apparently so they changed it again and ground the outside groove and that really through me and my team for a loop and we were never really able to find something that we could work with up there and get it to work the way that we needed it to win races here. Now that they have the bottom groove going back again, that seems to open it again for the bottom and the top and you can run two lanes and you can have the lanes be more equal to one another rather than the top just being so much faster and having to run up there. Having options here is great for drivers, but having to follow each other in a single file line, that’s not fun for drivers.”
What has happened in the last few races here that haven’t quite gone your way?
“A lot of it has been changing conditions with the track and others of it has been just issues in general. We found we had an issue with our car last spring where we were blowing right front tires and that was self-inflicted, not driver, but us as a team with what we did in practice and stuff kind of alluded to it. Then last fall we had a great car and that thing was fast and we ended up breaking a part underneath the back holding the rear-end in the car. That was a part failure. A couple other runs that we’ve had here we’ve been okay – maybe third or fourth and I try something and I lose the nose, I can’t remember that far back anymore. It’s just been frustrating the last few times of coming here and not really having the speed in order to run up in the lead and lead a lot of laps like I used to. When I used to win here each and every time, I would lead 250, 350, 400 laps or something like that. We were pretty dominant force and that’s kind of gone away and it would be nice to get those days back in the 18 camp.”
Is the bump-and-run still acceptable to win a race?
“It’s not that it is or isn’t acceptable, I think it’s a matter of who it is and the two cars that are the ‘bumpee’ and the bumper. It’s just a matter of last year in that particular instance in Richmond, it was a teammate. I didn’t think that was necessarily the way teammates raced each other, but after that it opened it up that this was how it goes. There’s been certain things that have been said in meetings where when it comes down to the end of a race, it’s every man for himself and I always thought you tried to race clean and race hard and do the best that you could to pass cleanly and not cause accidents or constraints within the people within the organization or within the shop. You don’t want guys at the shop on one side of the fence or the other. You don’t want one guys wearing a 18 hat or a 19 hat at work. You want everybody to be a part of one single goal at Joe Gibbs Racing and that’s when you start getting division going on. As far as whether it’s me, the 2 (Brad Keselowski) or the 22 (Joey Logano), the 42 (Kyle Larson) or the 48 (Jimmie Johnson), those things are going to happen and you’re racing for a win and you have to go get it.”
How many races in 2015 did it take for you to be comfortable when you came back and do you feel Dale Earnhardt Jr. is back and 100 percent?
“I was comfortable race one and my first race was the All-Star race and my first points race was the 600 – the longest one of the year. I was okay with that and it hurt to stand up right afterwards. As far as feeling like you’re capable of winning again, probably six, seven, eight weeks or whatever it was. I won race five, but nobody expected us to go to Sonoma and score a win there and I didn’t either. We were running sixth, seventh, eighth or something like that for the majority of the race. As far as Junior goes, I have no idea what he’s feeling. Obviously he got his first top-five and that was well noted last week, but I think they’ve just had trouble finishing as an organization. You look at the 48 car, that was their second top-five of the year or something like that and they won so obviously they’ve been lacking a little speed here or there and they were able to get it two weeks ago at Texas and show us they all have it when they need it. Does he look alright to me? He looks just fine. When he’s in front of me, I just want to pass him.”
Do you think the VHT will be enough to make the two lanes equal?
“I think you’re going to see the bottom lane does wear off a little bit as the weekend progresses and the weekend goes along, it looks like they did a little more here this time than they did last time so we’ll see how that transpires and what that means. From what I’m watching already, there’s a lot of bottom going on and not a whole lot of middle or top. I’m sure (Kyle) Larson’s thrilled and he’ll have to rubber in the top himself while the rest of us are rooting and gouging for the bottom.”
Were you satisfied with the fall Charlotte race moving from night to day?
“I was not consulted, but I don’t need to be either, not my call. Whether it’s good or bad, it’s fine. Certainly I think it’s kind of unique that it’s this late from the schedule being announced that they changed something about it. I do agree with the assessment that sometimes the day races are a better race because the track kind of rubbers up and you’re not just fighting for the bottom all the time and running around the bottom. Hopefully it’s a good race and I think that was the whole point of moving it to the daytime.”
Can you compare Bristol and Richmond?
“There’s really no comparison between race tracks honestly because Charlotte, Texas, Atlanta – they all look the same from overhead, but they all drive not even close to the same. Richmond and this track are more than oil and water, more than day and night. This place is an attack-type race track, yet when you attack you can get yourself in trouble and Richmond is a very methodical race track and you have to be very – you’re very on edge there all the time, especially corner entry, getting into the corners. You’re always loose there and you have to be able to be loose there in order to carry the speed through the middle and have good drive off. This place isn’t quite like that. With day versus night at Richmond, I think it’s kind of the same play as any race. Sometimes nighttime just feeds itself with not as much grip and makes it to where the bottom is the preferred lane and daytime allows the race track to widen out and be hotter where a cooler race track you’re looking for where the rubber is not for at least a little while until the whole track rubbers in and then you have to go back to the bottom anyway. It’s just a matter of trying to put on the best show for the fans. They’re the ones that pay their hard-earned money to watch us race and we want to make sure we do our best. I think that’s a lot of the consideration to how many day races there are compared to night races, but still I think you need to have your fair share of night races for sure.”
Are you more confident when you come to Bristol due to your success here?
“I would certainly agree to that, but it’s not just Bristol, there are a few races track I go to where I would say there’s nothing acceptable except winning other than circumstances that happen over a weekend or during an event. Bristol, this is one of my best wheelhouses and I really enjoy coming here, it’s a lot of fun. I like it with the bottom being able to have an opportunity to race down there. I think that was my key point here when I was good was that the bottom was the place where I wanted to be and nobody else really did. It always lended itself to a strength for us. Everybody wanted to run around the top because they thought it was better and it wasn’t until the grind came and then it was a reality. From there, I like going to places like here, Richmond, Martinsville I actually think is a place for us now that we can go and win. There’s also going to be the Kyle Larson’s that come to Bristol and nothing is going to be acceptable except winning for them too. That’s why the competition is tough because there’s five guys, maybe even seven guys that can walk in here this weekend thinking this is our weekend to get a win. We have to fight those guys in order to go out there and get the win for ourselves.”
Who are the five strong drivers you need to beat this weekend?
“(Kyle) Larson, myself, the 2 (Brad Keselowski), the 22 (Joey Logano) and Chase Elliott.”
Is Joe Gibbs Racing not as strong at this point this year versus last season?
“I would have to say that obviously we’re not as strong this year out of the gate, I think last year’s win total was a lot more than this year. I feel as though we’re competitive and we’re close, but we’re not there. There’s things we’re seeing other teams doing that we haven’t necessarily ventured off into yet and some of those things, whether they’re better for you or worse for you, it may depend on what the wind tunnel says or what the K & C numbers say and things like that. We’re working on all those things though. It certainly didn’t bode well for us to be as strong as we were at the beginning part of the season and the middle part of the season to win a championship because of how strong we were early on. You look at the 78 (Furniture Row Racing) and the Hendrick guys and they picked up and won the championship. I don’t think there’s any reason for cause for concern yet, but ask me that question again in about 10 weeks.”