Toyota Racing – Kyle Busch
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Charlotte Motor Speedway – May 18, 2018
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch was made available to the media at Charlotte Motor Speedway:
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Red Nose Day Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Tell us about Red Nose Day.
“It’s a pretty cool initiative that M&M’s is involved in with NBC. Just trying to raise money and they do a really good job of that. It’s been going on for the last three or four years. M&M’s has been a huge part of it. They donate over a million dollars to charitable causes on the Red Nose Days. Really neat deal to be involved in and have them on our car this week here in Charlotte. The year is kind of different. Normally it’s a Kansas, but you know this week it kind of falls for us here with the All-Star Race, so looking forward to that. Also, looking forward to the race if we could every get on the race track here and get some practice in.”
What do you have to do to get more wins and catch up to Kevin Harvick?
“You know, we got to catch up a little bit on speed overall I’d say. I think our Toyotas are close, but seems the Blue Ovals have got a little bit of an advantage this year. You kind of see it weekly. You look at the run down on the pylon and it’s lots of Fords lined up in the top-12 spots, so you know it’s pretty obvious based just off of last year and looking at the pylon and kind of seeing a little bit more spread there between Chevys, Fords and Toyotas. All in all, we just got to go to work and figure out what we got to do in order to get better. I think some of the aero changes that have kind of come down this year have benefited them a little bit more so than us and you know we’re trying to work through some of those things as we go right here throughout the season.”
How much gain does picking up additional wins now help you down the road in Playoffs and not concentrating on week-to-week activities, but on the Playoffs?
“I think the biggest thing about wins is Playoff points. We all look for those stage points, we look for those Playoff points. I think that just kind of helps you through your seeding through the different races and the different Playoff rounds. I think most notably everybody kind of looks at Charlotte as being a wild card. Any time you’re able to win a race or pick up a stage point, that’s essentially a free spot of that day and I know a lot of guys are kind of looking at the wild card race of Charlotte, if you will. Basically, you win a race, that’s five free spots, so you don’t have to push real hard and necessarily think about going to the roval and having to finish top five or top 10. Any time you can get a win, you can think about just getting through the day and that’s kind of where we’re at right now with all of that.”
What’s your perspective on the court ruling this week on gambling?
“It’s fantastic. Hell yeah, I think it’s good. You know I don’t think there’s a negative to it. I think you look at a lot of different jurisdictions across the country have kind of gotten into more of the casino-type atmospheres. I don’t remember casinos being around Illinois years and years ago, but there’s some more around Illinois and you got some on the river for Ohio there just outside of Kentucky and of course, Vegas. Being from Las Vegas, that’s the mecca for gambling in the country and it’s pretty neat that you have this opportunity for fans to be able to bet on your sport. I think it’ll put more eyeballs on the sport. I think it’ll bring some interest to the sport. I’ve always kind of looked at horse racing as you know, you can go out there and bet on horse racing, but why can’t we bet on racing, racing. I think it’s just a difference of where the world is kind of going and what’s kind of happening, so I think it’s fine. What that does for casinos in gambling meccas already, maybe that will hurt them a little because there may be some more online stuff that kind of pops up, so we’ll have to obviously look at the economics of that, but you know I think as far as our sport goes, it’s a positive.”
What about the All-Star Race makes it so special for you?
“I think it’s just all about the money on the line. Well, this week it is sort of an exhibition race if you will because there’s a completely different rules package. There’s a completely different set of how the race is going to unfold and things like that, but you essentially still have your stages. You still have your same competitors, but you know with the differences in rules and things that we’ve got going this week, it’s certainly going to be a type of an exhibition. Other than that, it’s just about trying to go out there and win that million dollars and bring home a check or bring home a steering wheel I guess.”
How much practice do you need and what happens if you don’t get enough practice with the new rules package?
“I mean they might just send us out there, line it up and race boys, go have it. I think that that would be quite interesting with being the first time we’ve ever been on a package quite like this. You know the first time that I got out of my garage stall, I made it to the end of pit road and backed up. The second time I got out down the backstretch, hit fourth gear and then pretty much came back to pit road. That was about all I’ve got of practice right now. Couple of other guys have run some laps and have gotten some speed and have gotten in the draft in order to post a faster time or whatever. There’s guys that are out there that have two more corners or four more corners than we have underneath our belt for experience and laps around here, but we’ll just have to keep playing it by ear and see what we get. If they still want to qualify tonight, then you got to have cars done practicing and figuring out how to get in line by 3:30 at the latest. If we can’t get any practice in by 3:30 then you’ll have to nix qualifying, so I don’t know what they’re going to do.”
Is it a reality that you and Kevin Harvick can make double-digit wins this year?
“I’d like to hope it’s not a reality for anybody but me. Obviously, Kevin is halfway there. He’s done a phenomenal job. Those guys are fast right now and there’s a lot of catching up to do for the series. As Kevin talked about last week, he feels like he’s playing video games right now and it’s fun to have those moments. I’ve been in those moments very rare times in my career, maybe once before, maybe in 2008. Other than that, it’s just we got to go to work and figure out how to be better in order to try and figure out how we’re going to win races and get ourselves up to that level of competition. I don’t know that we’re capable of going to the race track to some of these mile and a halfs and being able to compete with those guys and being able to score the wins that we need to get double-digit wins. I would like to think that two guys winning double digits in victories in a season is – I don’t know that that’s a positive thing. I’d like to think that Kevin’s got his five, he’s done for the year and I got about two or three more left in me and then we got to spread the wealth. For spreading the wealth, there’s got to be guys that either may get a little bit lucky right now and win based off of a strategy call or something like that, like Martin (Truex Jr.) almost had last week at Kansas, but more times than not, it’s going to be about the smartest guy and fastest car.”
Do you go forward looking at the tracks that you can win at and does that help you build your confidence moving into the Playoffs?
“Yeah, definitely. We go each and every week trying to win, but you know there’s certainly some race tracks on our calendar that we have circled about got to get better here, need to compete for wins, need to contend for wins here and there’s certainly tracks on the calendar that we circle and say we’re going here to win. There’s definitely no shortcomings from us to think that we can’t go out there and score more. It’s just a matter of putting it all together and getting it done. Most notable, Michigan comes up that we look at of a place that we need to figure out how to compete better there. That’s a place where you circle it and say okay, Larson’s going to be the guy that goes to get a win there. You know, we look at Pocono as being a good place for us now that we can circle that place and be like we can go there, we can win there. It’s just a matter of what all happens and how it all comes down at the end of these races.”
How do you view this new package for this particular race? Is this a challenge? Is it exciting for you?
“I don’t know. You’re kind of optimistic about it a little bit, but it’s also hesitant. I think the biggest thing for me and what I try to tend to look at to prepare for is just the unknowns. A lot of times, I and my team, Adam Stevens (crew chief) and my guys, they give me really good cars and we’re able to unload and we’re able to know what to expect right away and we’re pretty well prepared, so we’re one of the best of having speed right off the truck and being ready to rock and roll. Other guys kind of catch up, if you will, as practice goes along. I look at it as though it’s an opportunity for us or if we’re the guys that aren’t ready, as ready as we think we are off the truck then we got a problem. I think we just got to – it’d be nice to have some practice, but if we don’t, we don’t. We just got to go off of what we know and basically the fourth gear down the backstretch of what I got and build off that.”
If it’s you and Kevin Harvick battling for the win at the end of the All-Star race, how does that play out?
“I have no clue. I don’t know. I don’t know what these cars are going to drive like in a pack, in traffic. I don’t know what they’re going to be like – how they’re going to suck up. I don’t know whether there’s another car behind me, if you need cars behind you to help pass a car in front of you. It’s just, there’s no telling. If you’re looking for a Rusty Wallace, DW (Darrell Waltrip)-type moment for me to say, then sure, have it I guess.”
Any sort of ego or pride if it’s you two going for the win?
“No, I don’t think so. We know they’re the better group right now. I don’t think anybody should not say that they’re the better group right now. I’m not saying that we feel bad not being the better group right now, we just know that we got to go to work and get ourselves to that point and we’re not quite there yet. We’ll just fight hard for a race win if we can get one and if it’s for a million bucks, we’ll go get it.”
What all do you teach the drivers at Kyle Busch Motorsports?
“What aren’t we teaching them? Dude, I don’t know. Just so many things that we talk about in our team meetings and in our debriefs and such, it’s hard to tell you exactly what all that is because there’s a price people pay for that and that’s being at Kyle Busch Motorsports so it wouldn’t be fair for me for those guys to just give you all the information and then they’d be able to read it and not be able to come to my place to figure it out. It’s just a lot of mentorship and tutoring and things like that from me from Rudy (Fugle), from the crew chiefs that we have there. We have a lot of experience in crew chiefs and stuff. We’re always trying to continue to strive and be better and make our stuff faster. Noah (Gragson) has certainly come on this year and we’re proud of what he’s got going on right now. I said weeks ago that he was kind of stuck third to sixth and now he’s stuck first to second. It’s a good problem for him to have and we’ll keep trying to race with him and Todd (Gilliland), this is his first mile-and-a-half start in the trucks so I’m looking forward to seeing what he’s got and he’s been fast so far. We certainly have to clean up some things that he’s been having some issues with last year and this year he had another problem today. We’ll get down to the bottom of that and try to figure all that out to help continue to make our guys stronger.”
What do you hope the drivers learn from each other or share with each other as teammates?
“I think they really need to lean on each other and talk to one another and be teammates with one another and figure out how to communicate with each other to help each other. A lot of times teammates can communicate with one another and do it in deceiving ways and it’s hurtful and that’s not how we want to operate. Our crew chiefs don’t operate that way and we always try to keep and strive for open notebook policy to help each other out, obviously Rudy (Fugle, crew chief) and Noah (Gragson) – Rudy especially is the leader of our whole thing and Noah is going to be the leader of the driver group if you will so he has to have some good patience when it comes to talking to these guys and racing around these guys and stuff on the race track. With Todd (Gilliland) coming on full time now, I would like to think that Todd’s going to be ready to go right out of the book and finish top-five, but Noah wasn’t that way last year so he’s got some work to get better and if it comes down to a time where they’re racing for wins, that they do it as teammates should and as what I would expect otherwise they have to deal with me both on and off the race track.”
If Todd Gilliland gets a win and is eligible for the Playoffs, do you expect him to get a waiver?
“Why put me in that spot? Do we expect it? Sure. Do we deserve it? I don’t know. I would like to think that a full time truck would be deserving of a waiver if it comes down to it, but we’re not to that point yet so we’re not going to worry about it yet.”
Can you talk about the success you’ve had at Charlotte and why it’s been a good track for you?
“I don’t know, I’ve always enjoyed racing here and it’s been really fun to compete in all the series here. I’ve been in ARCA, I’ve been in truck, I’ve been in Xfinity and I’ve been in Cup. Obviously , I’ve won here in truck and Xfinity lots of times, but have yet to win as many times in Cup as I’d like to so we’re still working on that. Overall, the success I’ve had here has been awesome and I’ve been competing in the trucks for a while – I guess since 2005 maybe. That’s been against guys like Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer and Ron Hornaday and Todd Bodine and Mike Skinner and some of the best of the best that we’ve been able to go up against and score wins against. It’s been fun and hopefully tonight’s no different than that, going up against guys like Johnny Sauter, Matt Crafton, Noah Gragson that we’ll be racing against and trying to go to victory lane with again. This 51 team, we’ve won a race already this year at Las Vegas and was really good for us and we ran competitive there and hopefully we can do it again.”
If this race is really good, can you see this package being used down the road?
“I can certainly see it, it’s not necessarily what I signed up for to be a race car driver to bring the whole field closer together and have it dictated by some type of a plate race, but if that’s what we’re going to have going forward then I guess I either need to think about how to get really good at it or getting out of it so we’ll see what happens.”
Is there anything from the race in Indianapolis with this package you can take to tomorrow night and if qualifying gets rained out, is track position not as important as normal with the package?
“Man, I don’t know. It’s Cup cars now, it’s different cars, it’s different body shapes, different race track being at Charlotte versus being at Indy, I don’t know. Obviously, we’re all hoping for the product to be better and put on an exciting race and a better show and what all that’s going to entail, I’m not sure. So far I’ve heard a couple guys say that when they’re single file there’s not much difference between the draft up, but when two cars get side-by-side there’s a bigger deal in that regard and I remember that from Indy some. When we were at Indy, we were slower through the corner so you could run wide open three-wide where you don’t ever see that at Indy, but when William (Byron) and I got single-filed out, we pretty much drove away from the field. When you can do that and separate yourself and then make it a one man versus one man race and you still can’t pass, I think we drafted away and I was leading and then I think he somehow got by me, I don’t remember what happened, but then I was trying some things to get back by him and just wasn’t able to do it. I stayed in touch with him the whole time, but then wasn’t able to get by him and then we got scared with right-front tire wear and pitted and just basically handed him the win. I really don’t know what to expect and what it’s going to come down to and with shorter segments you’re going to put tires on every 20 laps so the grip level is certainly going to be there a lot more in the race than you would anticipate in a traditional race being 40 lap runs, it’s going to be half as much. You’ll have fresher tires more often than not and you’ll have more grip and everybody is just going to drive harder.”
What are your thoughts on the IndyCar discussions this week about potential new concussion procedures where a doctor can dictate whether or not you’re able to race?
“I haven’t heard anything about the IndyCar stuff, I haven’t heard anything that you’re talking about, but I did hear about the Will Power thing from last year. Obviously, any time you’re stuck in a situation like that or put in a situation like that where somebody else can dictate whether or not you can be in the race car is a tough situation and it’s not any situation that any of us drivers want to be in and if we feel up to it or we feel fine that we should be out there on the race track then that’s the way it’s been since 2014 or 2015 prior. There’s all these new guidelines and all these new things that are kind of coming up and all this new technology could be used for the better or it could be used for the worse, if you look at it in that regard then I think a lot of times guys may have issues, head injuries or whatever and they may race through it and it cause more harmful long term affects, but all we’re thinking about is the short term – right here, right now, this weekend and being in the race car and going out there and competing and still getting your head jarred around and whatever, in five weeks I’m going to be fine. What’s the difference between now and in five weeks, right? But it’s when you turn 65 and 75 years old that the problems start to arise. A lot of times NASCAR has to help us from ourselves so I think that better technology obviously is something that we all ask for in order to make sure that we either have A, more opinions or B, better opinions and that we’re not held out of a race car for some other unforeseen circumstance.”