Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch was made available to the media at Texas Motor Speedway:
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What happened in practice today?
“Unfortunate there with our practice crash that we had, kind of puts us a little bit more behind the eight ball than we’d like to be. Hate that happened for my guys and all the work they’ve already put into my primary and now having to switch to a backup car is not how we wanted to start off practice. Didn’t even get a lap on that thing. All in all, I know we have a strong group and a great group of guys that will dig in as deep as they need to in order to make sure we can prepare to get ourselves back to where we need to be to be competitive this weekend. As far as what we look for here, we want to have a good, solid day. We’d like to win the race and punch our ticket and move right on the Homestead. If we can’t have that, a good, solid top-five is what we are looking for.”
What type of meetings did JGR have this week?
“We had our normal Tuesday meetings and were able to sit down and kind of go over things that we saw different among ourselves and our different situations we had. That’s the thing that we always do every week. We all strive to be the best we can as teammates to help one another, but then there’s also the strategy that you have to have to be able to perform to the best of your ability for your team and to go out there and win the championship. This format obviously lends itself to a different situation than in years past. Maybe I was expecting a little bit different than what transpired in the race on Sunday (at Martinsville), but we talked, forgive and forget and move on and here we are.”
What happened to get you into the wall in practice?
“We got into turn three and the car felt great, loaded up really good, got back to the throttle and then got to the bumps that are over there in three and four and felt like it bottomed out a little bit and kind of got me up the track and then from there the whole car just kind of came out of the track and I got loose and couldn’t get it checked up or slowed down before it slapped the wall. Speeds are really high here at Texas and when you lose that grip, typically it happens in a hurry and just kind of got away from me there. Wish that I would have had maybe taken it a little easy, but I really wasn’t even trying that hard to be honest with you. Just kind of a shock that that happened.”
How have you performed in backup cars?
“As far as going to back up cars, in years past I haven’t had that situation happen to me ever – I don’t think I have ever crashed on the first lap of getting out there on the race track before. We’ve right-sided cars before here or there and I always had a running joke with some of our guys at the body shop that comes to the race track on Sundays that anytime he has to put a right side wrap on a car, it meant good things. Going to a backup car, I don’t think it is going to hurt us any.”
Do you feel like you are flying under the radar as the reigning champion?
“We are kind of flying under the radar, which is fine. We don’t need to be the ones that are flashy. We’ve been able to put ourselves in the right position to kind of stay in the right points battle of what we have going on to not have to be flashy. (Kevin) Harvick kind of gets set behind, he has to go out and be flashy – he has to win in order to prove himself to move on through – that’s kind of when their back is to the wall. Last year, I felt like we flew under the radar too a little bit. A lot of people were talking about Jeff Gordon and respectfully so because it was his final year and he was having a chance to go race for a championship at Homestead. Martin (Truex) being the underdog in being a single-car operation in Denver. Then having Harvick from being the previous year’s champ and people expected him to be able to go out there and be in the same situation. We just try to do what is best for us. We don’t necessarily worry about what our critics say or what others say, we try to make sure that we are staying the plan and so far we have been and it’s getting us through.”
Does the Chase format lend itself to the teammate strategy?
“Anytime you get any sort of format, we’re going to try to figure out a way to instinctively do what we need to do to move on through. With Talladega being the way that it was, we didn’t have to race because we were in a good points position and we were able to do what we needed to do to move on through there. Martinsville last week, the frustration kind of set in because I felt like the 20 (Matt Kenseth) was probably the fastest Gibbs (Joe Gibbs Racing) car there all day, he led the most laps, and Denny (Hamlin) and I were pretty equal, but it seemed like the 11 (Hamlin) was a little slower on that last run than he had been much of the day. We just weren’t given the chance to go up there and race the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) for the win to see if – a big if – if either of us could have a shot to give anything to the 48. This Chase format, anytime that there’s been changes in the format, we try to figure out ways of what we need to do in order to prepare ourselves as individual teams, the 18 is different than the 11 and the 11 is different than the 20 and 19. We just feel like what we have going on right now is what we feel like works for us.”
Does the format promote better racing?
“Talladega, our intentions were to race – we just weren’t given the opportunity to race because there was never a big crash and we never had the opportunity that we needed. If there was a big crash that eliminated 10 guys, maybe three of them were Chase cars, that locked us in – boom, we go race and we get the best thing that we need for our finish, for our team. Next year, you’re not going to have that. Let’s stop dwelling on the past of what just happened and we will focus on the future and it’s going to be an exciting third round of going to Talladega and everyone having to race because we don’t know what our situations are for that third round.”
Do you know that there will be times when you might be mad at your teammates?
“You’re mad at someone every week for something. Somebody might cut you off on pit road, somebody may hold you up on a restart, somebody may do something else – I don’t even know what, but there are going to be instances when you are going to be mad at other drivers, mad at your teammates. You express those frustrations and I guess for me it would have been best to talk to my teammates first and kind of figure out what concept was there and the whole idea to what happened, happened. Looking back on it now, we have to focus forward and make sure we all try to work together best we can because we know the reason we are in this predicament is because of our teamwork and our relationships and our comradery that we have at the race shop each and every week that gets us to the point of being as good as we are on Sunday.”
What are your expectations of your teammates now?
“Race hard, go for the win. Do what you need to do.”
What is a fond memory you have of racing with Tony Stewart as he nears the end of his NASCAR driving career?
“Tony (Stewart) and I, when I first started Cup racing, didn’t necessarily see eye to eye very well and we kind of had a few run ins here or there. We kind of mellowed that out a little bit and got a good relationship going after that point. When we became teammates it was the best thing for us. We got a good chance to sit down talk to each other each and every week at our team meetings to understand one another. He was a huge part of the success at Joe Gibbs Racing that year and we got a good chance at learning each other’s personalities and seeing how similar we are. Since then, the couple of years that he was away from Joe Gibbs Racing when he went to SHR (Stewart Haas Racing), it continued on. Our relationship that was good continued on and that was a really nice feeling. Obviously I thought Tony was one of the best teammates that I’ve had. We had a great relationship while he was there and it’s going to be kind of – he’s going to be missed at least on my behalf being out on the race track, so it’s going to be disappointing to see him go, but he’s going to have fun with the things that he is going to do, I’m sure.”
Do you have a specific Tony Stewart memory you can reflect on?
“The favorite against each other memory is I guess Las Vegas. I was kind of holding him up a little bit because my car wasn’t great on the short run and he was mad at me for it and tried to run me off of turn two and put himself in the fence and I drove away and finished second that day and I think he finished ninth or 11th or something. I heard that (Greg Zipadelli) Zippy got mad at him for doing that. The best memory that I have of us working together was probably February 2008 when we first became teammates and we worked together for the Daytona 500. We stayed together and knew to work together and were on each other’s bumpers all day long and essentially that is probably what cost us the victory at the Daytona 500 in 2008. We didn’t want to vary from one another at all. I stayed with him and the outside blew our doors off at the end with Ryan Newman winning the race.”
Is your backup car setup identical to your primary car?
“Yeah, it is. We rolled right off the truck and it was really, really close. We of course still changed the practice springs from the primary car because we wanted the exact rates that the guys were looking for and things like that – all four shocks come off. It’s essentially just riding on ride spring and shocks to and from the race track in the hauler. As far as everything else, the control arms, the suspension, the way the rear end is set in the car and everything like that, it’s all mocked up exactly the same as the primary car. People always say there’s a reason why there’s a primary and a backup car because one’s better than the other. I would agree with that sentiment a little bit because I know what we do at Kyle Busch Motorsports ,but I feel like here at Joe Gibbs Racing, it’s just like engines, they’re all sent out of the building within five horsepower of each other and while all these cars are built probably within five downforce numbers of one another. They’re very similar and I wouldn’t be worried for us that we’re at a disadvantage.”
How challenging is it to be so aware of your teammates during a race?
“Being an owner has it’s detriments, I know what it’s like being an owner at Kyle Busch Motorsports and I expect all of my guys and drivers to work well with one another and to respect each other out on the race track and to give and take for each other. If there’s one that’s faster than another then I would like to see the faster one be able to go forward. Obviously, it’s different at Joe Gibbs Racing being a driver and having to understand how the rest of us drivers think and what Joe (Gibbs) expects of us. I wouldn’t say I was on the up and up of that, but I was more on the team owner side where when you shoot one bullet and that bullet misses then fire two and three and see if they can go and get the job done. I was just under a different impression, that’s all. As far as what all of us do as far as racing against each other, I’m aware of what’s going on with my teammates and if I restart behind one of them and I could make it three-wide going into the corner or down the backstretch and put them in the middle and be in a bad spot, but I try to choose not to. I try to give them the benefit of the doubt that they’re going to go faster in the next corner and we’re going to move on through the field together. When it comes down to this Chase format and it’s every man for himself and every point for himself, you look at Denny (Hamlin), the reason Denny did what he did is because now he has a third-place finish, which anything can change here or at Phoenix, but he has a third-place finish, which is the best of Matt (Kenseth) and I, if there was a tiebreaker situation. That’s what Denny was looking for and I get it, I understand it. I didn’t in the time frame that we were racing one another because I was more focused on one of us trying to go get the win and trying to still keep all of us eligible for Homestead. Denny did what he needed to do for the 11 team, which is respectable and understandable.”