Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch was made available to the media at Martinsville Speedway:
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
How confident are you in the M&M’s Toyota Camry going into this weekend?
“So far so good. We certainly have some speed in our racecar. We certainly want to work on some of our issues we have now with our balance, try to make that as good as we can obviously for qualifying here today, if that happens. Then for tomorrow, we got a couple more practices to try to work on it for the race. Just making sure you got a good‑driving car here for the short run and the long run. It’s going to be important because this race can go by pretty quickly and can change a lot without you being ready for it, and can take you out of the game. So you want to make sure you’re on top of it all day long.”
After experiencing ups and downs during the start of the season, how do you look at where you and the team are at heading into a race like this?
“Yeah, we’ve had a lot of ups and downs. We also, I don’t feel like, finished at all how we could have or should have finished in any of the races so far this year. I don’t think we’ve over exceeded expectations yet at all. You know, we had issues at Daytona. We had issues at Atlanta. Actually Atlanta we probably should have finished worse than where we did, so I take that back. We ran pretty poorly there overall all day. The other races that we’ve had, we deserved a top‑four finish at Vegas, probably a win at Phoenix, and a top‑three finish at California, and just weren’t able to capitalize on those, weren’t able to close in the late stages of the event. We feel a little bit behind the eight ball with where we’re at. We’d like to be better. We’d like to have that win, but we don’t. We have to keep fighting and keep trying to do what we can with our M&M Camrys each week and make sure we turn those fortunes.”
Where is your patience level this season after all that has transpired?
“Zero. Every week it’s zero. Till I win, then it will be 10.”
How will the stages affect racing at Sonoma this season?
“I haven’t even thought about next week. So Sonoma’s a long ways away. Quick answer to that would be, yeah, there’s going to be segments there, depending on what laps they’re at, I don’t even know that. If there’s a caution before it, five laps before it, eight laps before it, there may be guys that come and pit because they know there’s going to be a guaranteed caution that comes out a few laps later, and others are going to stay out. It’s going to flip‑flop the field a few times, that’s for sure. There’s going to be some added weirdness to those races. Depending on how the strategy plays out for the second segment will then play out for what is going to happen for the rest of the race and for the end of the race. There’s a lot of, lot of different strategies that are going to happen through that race, I’m sure. Same to be said for Watkins Glen, as well.”
What do you feel like is the biggest key to performing well in the longer races, the 600‑milers and obviously the 500‑milers?
“I think just being able to get comfortable, get settled, and make sure that you’re good to go for those long hauls. Don’t worry about what lap it is ever during a race. That’s the worst thing that could happen to you. I remember we were at Atlanta one time, and I had to use the restroom. It was probably lap 45. It was 325 long. So it hurt really bad by the end of the 325. So, you know, you just try to not ever worry about what lap you’re on or what’s going on around you. You just keep battling out, keep driving, keep your focus forward on what you’re doing. That’s the best way to go about those long, long races.”
What are your thoughts on drivers racing at more local short track races and have you ever thought about running at the big late model race here in September? Also, what was it like to get that win last year?
“Yeah, I mean, I enjoy the local short track scene. I love racing in those cars. I follow it as much as I can on Speed51.com. Bob (Dillner) and his guys do a great job of following and covering the entire United States, whether it is late model stocks, super lates, which are my favorites personally, modifieds, dirt, pavement, all kinds of stuff. As far as NASCAR stars going back to their roots and doing some of that stuff, it’s not necessary. If you love it, go do it, try to be safe. But I think there’s a lot of risk, and that’s why a lot of the guys don’t do it. If you get hurt doing that, you lose your ride for a few weeks here, don’t ever have an opportunity to come back because somebody better than you takes over in it, then you’re out. So you got to weigh those consequences a lot. For me, I do that sometimes. You know, I’ve wanted to run a modified, one of the Whelen modifieds, at Loudon. Years ago J.D. Gibbs told me no, exactly for that same reason, like weigh your options and what you got going on for you. We don’t need you to get hurt. I was never able to go do those things. So as it comes down to it, when I get older and maybe get out of Cup racing, then I might look at going and doing some more of that stuff and touring around. But hopefully all the short tracks are still in existence by then, too, because it’s probably 15 years from now, so…”
Does Joe Gibbs Racing lose anything without having Dave Rogers in your debriefs?
“I believe so. You know, I think anytime you lose good crew chiefs, you lose a little bit of strength to your company. I think whenever you lose good drivers, like Carl Edwards, you lose a little bit of strength to your company. We’ve taken two big bullets here for this season, one from Carl, one from Dave. We’ve got to recover some of that and get back into the game where we’re the strongest four‑car team out there, like we felt like we were the last couple of years with all of us in place. With Daniel (Suárez ), he’s still going to be learning. We know that’s sort of a long‑term deal, that he’s got to grow and get better and be ready as a driver more down the road. Then with the crew chief aspect of it with Dave, we’re not sure how long he’ll step down. But, you know, if it’s indefinitely, which could be forever, then hopefully Scott Graves will fill that void. But he’s so new, so fresh right now, that, you know, he’s going to take a few weeks, at least a month or so, to get up to speed for sure before we really get to see the full potential out of Scott.”
How can you showcase the driver talent more in the all-star race like in other major league sporting events and their all-star games?
“I got a hell of an idea. Let’s run one lap on the mile‑and‑a‑half at Charlotte. Then we’ll run the next lap on the quarter mile at Charlotte. Then we’ll run the next lap on the roval at Charlotte. Then you get a short track, a road course and a mile‑and‑a‑half all in one speedway. There you go. We can do that. That sounds like fun. I thought of it first. I don’t know. I mean, besides doing something stupid like that, I don’t really know how you can put ‑‑ you definitely don’t want to see us playing basketball. I’ve Googled Brad Keselowski, that’s bad. Denny (Hamlin) would be a heck of a lot better at that than some of the others. I don’t know how you do that. I think the best thing that we got going for us that I really, really enjoy about All‑Star weekend is the fact that the qualifying procedure is the way that it is and we can get the pit crews involved. I think that’s probably the most fun. They lost their star power a few years ago when we lost the Sprint Pit Crew Challenge down in Charlotte, you know. So at least this still gives them something that we really want to see them be able to showcase, then to have fun with during the week. So that’s the most fun for us anyways, as drivers, for me, I like to be and have my team be a part of that with me during that qualifying segment.”
How many ‘Everything is Great’ shirts have you sold?
“Everything is great. Always has been, forever will be. Sales are up over 30 grand so far in just, what, two weeks. A lot of great fan support from that. It’s been awesome. A really neat deal for the fans to be as supportive of it. Whether you agree with it or don’t agree with it, it doesn’t matter. It’s just for a great cause. So we appreciate that. For what Samantha (Busch) and I believe in with our charity aspects, the things that we do with the Kyle Busch Foundation, it’s going to go to a lot of use. Samantha, if I got asked this question, she’d ask me to say thank you to all the fans out there for their willingness to donate and support our cause.”
Should it be alarming or surprising that two of the better teams, Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports, haven’t won yet this year?
“I don’t think it should be alarming. I think it’s probably a good thing, to be honest with you. There needs to be more parity in our sport. There needs to be other teams that have the opportunity to get up there and run well and win races. You see RCR (Richard Childress Racing) has done that. You see Ganassi has done that. Those would be two teams that probably haven’t won in the last couple years. I know (Kyle) Larson won a race last year, but not regularly, let’s say, like the JGR bunch or the HMS bunch. Our time is coming. We know that. We’ll turn our program around. We’ll get it up to speed to where we need to. I think we’re playing a little bit of catch‑up right now, to be honest with you. We do have great partners with the guys at Furniture Row that have been running really good. They’ve been strong and up front each week. They have been helping us, as well, getting our program to where we believe we know it can be. They’ve shown us. They’ve had the potential each week. We just have to get there with ourselves.”
What are your thoughts heading into the Texas race next weekend and with the track’s repave?
“Yeah, it’s going to be a whole new repave. To me those are the absolute worst racetracks we can ever go to. I hate repaves. But it’s a part of our schedule, it’s a part of our sport. Five years from now, six years from now, it’s going to be great. I’m looking forward to that aspect of it. Right out of the gate, going there, trying to put rubber down, it’s slick, man. It’s so treacherous, hard to get ahold of, hard to understand what you’re feeling with your car, ’cause you can think your tight, you got all the grip in the world, you’re going around the corner, then boom, it just busts loose right out from under you with no warning. That’s the worst thing. As Joey (Logano) was talking about earlier, that’s why the older racetracks, the more aged racetracks, the Atlantas, the Californias, you’re sliding the whole time, so you’re already against the slide. You don’t have maximum grip. You’re already playing with it and trying to get the most out of yourself and the car that you possibly can. You’re not just locked down, locked in solid, then it just jumps out from under you, you know. I don’t necessarily look forward to repaves, but we got one coming up, so got to do what we know. There’s really no homework to do. You can’t even watch last year’s races, you can’t look at anything besides the (Chris) Buescher YouTube video and just see what the place looks like so you don’t go in there blind. That’s about it.”
Have you talked to Noah Gragson about his performance in your truck this year now that we’re at the third race of the season?
“Yeah, we had a good talk. It’s a young guy. I’ve heard this from myself years, years ago. It’s a lot easier to pull a rope than it is to push one. We got to just pull on him a little bit, kind of bring him back. That’s pretty easy to do for these younger guys. We just need him to go out there and get finishes right now. I told him, I’m like whether it’s seventh or 14th or wherever the hell it is, just finish. Don’t make any mistakes, or minimize your mistakes if you make some. And be able to go out there and get a finish. That’s the biggest thing right now, is just trying to get him back focused to when where he can finish. Once your finishing, then you can go after finishing better, then you can go after finishing better yet, then you can go after getting those wins. No different than (Kyle) Larson. You finish second four, five weeks in a row, you’re going to score a victory. There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it. It was good to see Larson get that last week. Noah, it’s the same thing with him. First you must finish to finish first.”