Toyota Racing – Kyle Busch
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Las Vegas Motor Speedway – March 1, 2018
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch was made available to the media in Las Vegas:
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Chocolate Bar Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What does this contract extension with Joe Gibbs Racing mean to you?
“My relationship with Joe, (Gibbs), JD (Gibbs) and the family has grown a lot of the years and each year I think it gets better and better. With the time I have been there and talking to them in the middle of 2007, and then being a driver with them since 2008 has meant the most to my career. It’s been a lot of Joe. A lot of the team members at Joe Gibbs Racing as well. The engineers and guys who are familiar faces love it there just as much as I do, and do not go anywhere. It’s all about relationships and feel like the relationship with M&M’s has continued to get better and grown over the years as well as Toyota. I have a lot of friendships there. With all of that, you never say never but I don’t know if you’d ever really see myself drive anything different than a Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 M&M’s Toyota. Hopefully it stays that way and we know it will stay that way for the foreseeable future. I am certainly looking forward to that.”
Will you be able to get enough of a feel for the new package through practices?
“I think with the test we had here we got some interesting data from that and a good feel of what’s going to happen. A taste of it at least. I know there was only 12 or 14 of us. When you have a 40-car pack, it will be different. I think that today you will not see a whole lot of that. With practice being as short as it is, you’ll see drivers in qualifying trim and getting their stuff set for that. Tomorrow you will see more guys getting out there and fine-tuning your stuff with single-car runs. Then you will see guys getting out there and wanting to get in packs and form up to eight to ten cars to see what you have with around other guys and learn to see what your stuff will do in traffic.”
Is there something you could see from this weekend to legitimize the racing package?
“When I talked about the package, we were just doing single-car action and single-car runs when I was brought in the media center. It was wide open, by yourself. Not having a stress. Not worry about slipping or doing anything. Atlanta was a bit different than that. With the race track being worn out and getting out of the throttle. Here, we ran a race run the second day. We were wide open for the last eight laps of that run over the course of a 25-lap run. We got single-filed out there and Austin (Dillon) was leading. He won that one. With the action that happens in the pack, you do have to get out of the throttle, you do have to work the air. You have to work your car. There are some tense moments when you’re side-by-side. There are going to be instances and times where we crash. We saw that at the All-Star race. For as slow as the cars were and easy as we said they were to drive, we’re still going to run out of space eventually and will crash. People are going to be like, they aren’t so easy to drive. Well, yes and no. We run into one another. When two guys want the same real estate, that will happen. Overall, whatever works. Whatever is successful and being able to put more eyes on television and more butts in the seats. That’s what it’s about to put on a show.”
You talked about racing in Nashville in the Late Models, is that something you want to win for your bucket list?
“Yeah, I love Late Models and being able to run that division across the country and run some particular race tracks. I’ve run Nashville once before. We were really good. Really fast that day. What is funny about that is Chris Gabehart was my crew chief. We know how good my car was because we know how good Chris was, right? I certainly would love to have won then but I still like going to some of those places and being able to race against some of the best competition in the Late Model world. I would love the opportunity to go to Nashville, took them up on that. When the dates came out, it kind of worked that I could make it and we’ll go do it.”
How different were the restarts at Phoenix last race and how will the new package affect that?
“Restarts were for sure different last time. A lot of guys cutting the dogleg and stuff like that. It made for some interesting moments and things. You saw that in the Truck Series race and Xfinity Series race, then the Cup race. We won that one, which was great for us as a team and being able to secure our spot for the final four. Now we come back here in the spring time. It will be I am sure a little bit different of a track. Obviously, a way different aero-package that we’ll have to figure out and what’s in store for us when we get there.”
Is qualifying any more important with this package here at Las Vegas?
“Yeah, qualifying is important. You get to take home a cool trophy if you win. That would be nice. Overall, I don’t think it pays you any more these days. It’s just a pit selection. With a new package, I would assume like we saw last week, I think Brad (Keselowski) started in the back. Joey (Logano) started in the back. And those guys were able to drive up to the front and had fast race cars. I think that you’ll see some of that. Cars will be trimmed out and going fast for a few laps and they’ll be goers if you will. I think that’s what makes this package a bit more interesting. It’s certainly what’s going to make qualifying interesting. And what guys are going to do. Are they going to do what we all used to do in Trucks where we go to the end of pit road and wait until the last possible second to barley cross the start-finish line with enough time to complete one lap to get time in? I don’t know if that will work or not. We’ll see what everyone does. You have to be game for anything.”
What does it mean for MARS to have been there through your whole career?
“What’s most special about that is as we’ve grown over the years and the reason why it’s worked so well, and stayed, is they know who I am more of a person, not just a competitor. A guy on the race track and going out there and competing and being fiery when things don’t go right. You want to win each and every one. They understand those moments. Some of them maybe not as understanding as others, which is understandable. For myself with them and the family, we’ve had a lot of fun and a great relationship. Me and some of the grandsons went to the Super Bowl together. We hung out all weekend long and had a great time. It’s always enjoyable to hang out them and see them. Also, just the relationship of being able to go out there and succeed and sell candy. That’s where it comes from. If we weren’t selling candy, we wouldn’t be doing our job. We have the NASCAR program that are involved with a lot of the stores, including the grocery stores, and things they have going on that gives them the business sense and acknowledgement that NASCAR does work.”
What are your thoughts on the sports betting increasing throughout the country?
“I don’t know all the different things that you can bet on. But those instances sound quite interesting. It means you better be paying attention all the time and knowing your sport and knowing what you’re betting on and being smart with your bets. For the first part of the question, I think it’s an awesome opportunity for us as a sport to see some growth and see new eyeballs and see people who are interested in actually what’s going on here. For them to have some opportunities to make some bets and do those things, there are all kinds of positives from that. The in-race stuff makes it more interesting. I think some of the fantasy stuff, you can bench a guy or bring him back into a race, it keeps the eyeballs on the television and keeps them watching.”
How open would you be to getting sponsored from a casino?
“I am from Las Vegas, I don’t know why we haven’t made that happen yet. Whoever is out there and listening, and we don’t have a deal, call me.”
What would it mean to sweep the weekend here at Las Vegas?
“It would be pretty sweet. Every time I run a triple, that’s the only thing you think about. But you have to win the first one to win the second one to win the third one. First things first is the Truck race and I think we have a really great Cessna Toyota Tundra. I am looking forward to that tonight. Overall, the opportunity to be able to do that when Las Vegas talked about having a second race here and having both events being triple-header weekends, I was intrigued to have both weekends be triple-headers for me but with the restrictions on the Xfinity and Truck races, I can’t run in the fall race. I have it going on in the spring and will take advantage of it.”
How different will these cars be at Phoenix next week?
“I am not sure exactly. Phoenix being a short-track, everywhere we have been so far, it’s getting into throttle-on time. Making sure you’re in the gas. Sometimes it’s making sure you don’t get out of the gas. Being at a short-track is going to be an interesting thing because we’re used to being out of the gas and on the brakes and pedaling the vehicle through Turn 4 and making sure you’re not too loose or whatever it might be. I don’t really know. How the cars are going to react in traffic. The cars with the more downforce now, you get a bigger wake. The spoilers are taller, so the air coming over the top of the car hits that spoiler and goes higher. So, it’s taking longer for the vehicle behind it to see that air, the closer it’s getting to the car in front of it. The aero effects are going to be greater. We’ll have to see how all of that translates to Phoenix and a flat-mile race track.”
Will you like having throttle response?
“You mean with the 750 package? Yeah, Denny (Hamlin) tested out there in Phoenix and he said it feels restricted. It doesn’t feel like a 750 like we’re used to. I would say maybe 830 last year or whatever it was. But still a little bit of a reduction on what we’re used to having.”
Can you take us through your negotiating process with Joe Gibbs Racing?
“I didn’t go after anyone else. They have a window in the deal that I am restricted to them only to negotiate. As we were going through the negotiations, they were very receptive, and I was very receptive to things we were looking for from one another. There was never really a need to have that window expire and be able to test a free market. That shows you that the belief that we have in one another and the relationship we have built over the years, that myself and Joe can normally put our big boy pants on and sit in a room to get a good deal. I think we did.”
How will the dynamic of restarts play out?
“Last week I thought was really interesting. Both lanes were more equal than they have been in the past because the outside lane didn’t spin the tires as bad because of the reduced horsepower. It was easier to keep up side-by-side. We saw it in the Truck race. Guys really bad on the outside and the Xfinity race, guys really bad on the outside because of the wheel-spin. As the Cup race was going through the corners and stuff, and having increased downforce and increased grip, there were times when guys were at the bottom and then guys were three lanes up, and I felt the middle was open, so I took it and you’re stuck. You might come out of the corners three-wide still. Or you might come out of the corner on the bottom, but you want to be on the top. It’s just all a new thing and a challenge to figure out and see what’s going to happen. I would anticipate Vegas being similar to that in the regards that guys going wherever they can go to make ground. There will be times when guys are stuck sideways side-by-side, and they’ll be running in the back of one another to be bump-drafting, push-drafting coming down a straightaway if possible. But we all have to be careful of that you can get loose on the straightaway pretty easy with bumping.”
How crippling is the stress when you’re trying to win in front of the hometown crowd?
“I never knew if winning here would happen for me. Obviously, I have one that I still want to get and don’t know if it will happen either. There is a stress in going into those events. For myself, I was able to get that done in 2009 here at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway to get into Victory Lane. That felt good. To able to come back here years after and go out there and race, and not have to worry about the stress of winning that race. You still want to win. We want to win every single one of them. That’s for fact. Overall, when you come into your hometown, and we watched this place get built from nothing. It means that extra more to you.”