Toyota Racing – Kyle Busch
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Bristol Motor Speedway – April 13, 2018
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch was made available to the media at Bristol Motor Speedway:
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 Skittles Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Do you look forward to racing at Bristol after winning at Texas last weekend?
“It’s always a good chance to get to a race track coming off a win. Coming to Bristol, one of our best places after last weekend – certainly a positive. Have to understand that it’s a completely different track, completely different circumstances and what’s going on. We’re going to do everything we can to try to back that up and try to win again. We’ll see what happens here with Bristol this weekend.”
What do you think about the new rules package for the All-Star race?
“I didn’t prepare for that one, guess I should have, stupid me. I’m not a particular fan of it, but we do need to orchestrate some better racing at mile-and-a-half tracks, particularly Charlotte for some reason. It hasn’t been one of our best race tracks there since the repave as far as working multiple lanes. It’s been pretty single file there and I don’t know why. You would think with age on asphalt it would keep getting better and better and it hasn’t. We need to bring out more things to try and I’m not a particular fan of slowing the lead car down and bringing that guy back to the rest of the field, but if that gets us back to closer racing then so be it. As far as us having to do that every single week and continuing on next year, I have to give it a chance first at Charlotte to see what it’s like before I completely throw it out. That’s not what I signed up to be a NASCAR driver for is to scrunch the field up and take the advantage away from those guys that are fast.”
What is your first memory of Bristol and what is your best story of success?
“I remember my first time, it was in an Xfinity Series car at a test session for Hendrick Motorsports. I remember I needed about 27 laps before I thought I was going to knock the wall down so with all the optimism and pumped up feelings I had about coming here, but after that it’s been pretty fun. We’ve had some challenging times here, but also I’ve had some good times here. Looking to continue that here this weekend with our Skittles Camry. What’s the highlight, you can’t dismiss the sweeps here. I would say that the first one was really, really awesome and really, really special and last fall was great too.”
Do you have any ideas on what teams should do on intermediate tracks to make the racing better?
“No, I don’t have any better ideas than any that are being thrown out there. I can’t complain if I don’t have any better ideas. The fact of the matter is that we’re trying to orchestrate something that doesn’t quite exist. The trucks sometimes put on a good race, they’re obviously more aerodynamically challenged and such when you come up on a guy, but from what I understand, what they’re shooting for is 165 and that’s way slower than a truck runs. That’s going to bunch us up even more as far as the Cup guys go I would imagine. We’ll see what it creates, I don’t know what it’s going to create.”
Is it more difficult to adjust to changes in the tracks year to year or changes in the cars?
“It’s both. Here today for some reason the traction compound doesn’t feel anything like I remember it from last fall, it’s just not quite as grippy as I remember it being. For some reason it’s just really easy to slip out of it with the back or the front and it’s really slick up off the corner. That’s a different feel from what I remember last year and they stopped it a little shorter and I think it creates that uneasy feeling coming off of it. We’ll see how that transpires the rest of the day with Xfinity and such and if the top lane does get going today or tomorrow or whatever, we’ll see the discrepancy between them. I think by the end, the top is going to win. How soon can we get up there to practice on, we’ll see.”
Do you pay attention to all the news in NASCAR about series sponsors or pit guns and does it matter to drivers?
“It matters to us just based on what the sport’s landscape looks like, but what I can control – I can’t control any of it. My focus is just on what I can control. Obviously I hear the other stuff, but it’s in one ear and out the other. What I can control is what I work on and how I can do better. I try to be the smartest, fastest and bestest race car driver that I can be no matter what package is developed and put on the race track. There are things over the course of the years and I’m not sure that you can fabricate racing to being anything better than what exists, you know? People say how great it was back in the day, but you had two guys or three guys on the lead lap sometimes. Richard Petty would win races by two laps at places and now you have 25 cars on the lead lap and competition is as close as it’s ever been and people are complaining about it that there is a lack of competition. I don’t know what you expect to be competition – you want the last place guy to be able to be the first place guy. There’s always going to be a last place guy, it’s been in F1 forever, NASCAR forever, Xfinity forever. Nobody’s happy. Be miserable like me and then nothing will surprise you. I think if you wanted pink ice cream with white frosting on it, you would say, ‘Man, I really wish I had white ice cream with pink frosting.’ It’s just everybody wants the opposite of what they see and what they get.”
Is there still the mentor and pupil relationship between yourself and Erik Jones?
“I’d like to think it’s still there, but he doesn’t use me as much as he used to. I don’t know if he thinks he knows everything or he doesn’t trust me. Erik’s been obviously a student of the game and so has Daniel Suarez. We all lean on each other and we all pick each other’s brain all the time – I’ve asked Jones’ questions in some of our debriefs and such and asked Denny (Hamlin) questions and such. I use all my teammates, but as far as Jones calling me during the week or talking to me much about going to particular race tracks and stuff like that, I think he’s probably been around long enough that he’s comfortable with what he knows and what he’s doing and what he’s got going on with his own team that he doesn’t pick my brain as much.”
Do you think it will take a while for the top groove to come in and have you felt a difference with the right side tire?
“Definitely there’s a difference with the new right side tire, that might be the feeling that I’m feeling today that’s just different. Like I mentioned earlier that it could be the substance that feels different, but it might be the right side tire that’s different. There’s something that’s just not a familiar feeling. The tire could be some of that. When is the top going to come in? It just depends on how quick guys want to come off the bottom and start burning in the top. It gets kind of gnarly in practice because your car will just take off towards the wall when you get in the rubber against the wall so you don’t want to do that and tear up a perfectly good race car. (Kyle) Larson is normally the best, did you ask him that earlier? When the top is going to come in, did you ask him? Larson is the guy that will know because he’s going to do it first. We’ll wait and watch that 42.”
What are your thoughts going into Richmond next weekend?
“I’m looking forward to Richmond. We’ve kind of lost a little bit of what our handle was there a few years ago when we were really good. More rule changes to create parity takes away advantages from other teams and that kind of knocked us back a little bit. We haven’t quite figured out what it takes to get some of that back. We’ve been third to sixth to seventh there the last few times or two or three years, so six times. Hopefully we can get a little bit better and I know (Matt) Kenseth was really good there a few springs ago and that was under the lights and we’re going back under the lights so that should be a little different feel for that race.”
What do you expect from the Hamlin Showdown race at Langley Speedway next week?
“Those cars are just do different from what I grew up driving and I’m not very familiar with them. Denny (Hamlin) was there testing and I was there. Denny got his car going pretty good and I jumped in his car and it was just a completely different feel from what my car was and his car was faster so I tried to work on mine to make it better and get some of that feel that I wanted from Denny’s car and I just could never find it. I’m not sure exactly what it takes to get there. It’s fun just to get back to the short tracks and it’s a short track that I’ve never been to so that’s certainly compelling. Denny I don’t think raced there much when he was younger, just a little bit and it’s going to be cool to get back there with a bunch of the Late Model Stock guys that are great across the east coast and race against them. That’s what it’s all about and the charity aspect and everything that Denny is trying to do with the Denny Hamlin Foundation and the children that he supports. Hopefully it’s a good night for all of us.”
How do you feel about Noah Gragson running Xfinity at three upcoming races and is he ready for the opportunity?
“I think he’s ready for the opportunity and kind of getting him out of our (Kyle Busch Motorsports) hands a little bit and see what he does in other stuff. It’s a good opportunity at this point. I don’t want to say that he’s gotten a little stale, but it just seems like we’re stuck in that third, fourth, fifth, sixth range with Noah in trucks so maybe getting him a little confidence boost and doing something a little different with a different feel and different people will give him a fresh idea of what to bring back to help us with. I think it’s a good chance for him to shake it up a little bit and looking forward to seeing what he can do in the Xfinity cars for JGR and help better himself for us chasing a championship.”
Are you finding more ways to spend time when you’re not running double duty race weekends?
“Typically when I’m not in the Xfinity car and right now there’s a break between Cup stuff – 2 to 4 is usually Brexton’s nap time so it’s not like I can even go back to the bus and spend time with him so I’m kind of stuck in ‘la la land’ trying to figure out what I’m going to do for four hours so I get kind of bored sometimes. Figure out if I can make some excitement here in the next three hours and get ready for qualifying before we get back in a race car. Certainly wish I was running more races, I always miss the chance to get behind the wheel and getting out there in the Xfinity Series and the Truck Series – I’ll be back in the trucks in Kansas and Xfinity in Charlotte so I’ve got some double duty stuff coming up. Fridays are way worse. Saturdays get pretty busy when you’re running two or sometimes three, but Fridays definitely way worse because you’re stuck just not doing anything. Adam’s (Stevens, crew chief) is about tired of me in the hauler because I keep coming to him with ideas and he’s like, ‘You’ve got to go.’ Apparently those ideas aren’t good ideas.”