Toyota Racing – Kyle Busch
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Martinsville Speedway – March 23, 2019
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch was made available to the media in Martinsville:
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Chocolate Bar Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Talk about going after your 201st and 202nd NASCAR national series wins.
“It’s back to the race track for another weekend. It’s like Groundhog Day all over again. Overall, I just feel like things are clicking real well on the Cup side as well as the truck side with Kyle Busch Motorsports. Just continuing to power through and strive to win races each and every week.”
What do you think about Kyle Busch Motorsports driver Raphael Lessard?
“He’s driven our late model cars all last season and did a pretty good job. He won a few big races and you know a lot of times we had some other issues that kind of prevented him from seeing a bit more success. He’s certainly a wheelman. He drives the hell out of the vehicles, I know that. I’ve watched him on some of the late model races and he’s just 110 percent all the time. The ‘go’ switch never comes down. I think that’s kind of the mentality that we’ve seen sometimes out of some of the guys that have come to us at Kyle Busch Motorsports that have gotten into the late models and have then gone on to the trucks. You kind of just have to tone them back a little bit. These races are longer. You’re on these tires longer. Well, maybe not. Sometimes you’re not. Christopher Bell for instance, the old 30-lap sprint car driver, you know you kind have to get that taken out of these guys for them to be successful in NASCAR. Raphael can be one of those guys too.”
How should we be doing qualifying on a weekly basis now?
“I don’t know. I just follow the rules. Whatever the rules are. I told Claire (B. Lang) last week – I said hey, you’re all talking about it, you’re conversing about it, there’s a buzz around it and people may not like it, but we’re talking about it rather than there just being single-car qualifying and nobody is saying a damn word about it. Pick and choose your battles wisely folks.”
Will we see more grip with a night race and how does the extra 50 horsepower change the dynamics of the racing from the All-Star race package last year to what we’ll see this year.
“I think like Joey (Logano) said, with the reduced power that we had at Charlotte – we were on a restrictor plate engine and it was only 420 horsepower when we were at Charlotte and we had the same package. Now we’re at 550, so you’ve got 125 more horsepower, you’re going faster down the straightaways, you’re entering the corners faster so it’s harder. You’re getting more to the limit of the tire. During the test at Las Vegas, we weren’t to the limit of the tire. We were wide open. I was wide open for 18 laps. At the end of the race in the Vegas race, we were barely breathing it in (turns) three and four and wide open in one and two. You’re under the limit of the tire even at the 550 package. I don’t know what you’re getting at. Are you wanting you want see pack racing. Is that what you’re asking about?”
It seems like a lot of people were expecting pack racing after the test…
“Ambient conditions are different and then you put 40 other guys – so we had 14 other guys on the race track versus 40 guys on the race track. The amount of rubber that goes, the amount of grip that you lose when rubber goes down, etc. – things happen. There’s too many variables that you’re not going to be able to simulate perfectly, exactly in a test that you would in race conditions.”
Are you happy with the current race package?
“If you had to ask me do I like the package, sure I might as well say that I do, but then they’re going to make a change to it. I don’t know if I like it or not (laughs). We’re all race car drivers. All of us that come in here that speak to you. We’re all going to say we want to go as fast as we possibly can. We’re all going to admit that we want to go out there and lead every lap. Lap the field and win the race. Take home the checkered flag and go on to next week. There’s people in the grandstands and who watch on television that want to see a show as well too and you’re not always – look there’s been how many races in NASCAR. Over 10,000, right? Denny’s (Hamlin) not quite run all the races, right? There haven’t been but five percent, three percent of those that have been great finishes. You’re not always going to have the magical moment every single week. If you have five of them every year, I think you’re on par. People sometimes just have to be patient and watch and see what happens. Be excited. That’s how I am. Excited.”
Would you rather win a race by a whole lap or battle it out at the end like last year’s Martinsville race?
“If you look at my Twitter feed, people would probably tell you that that’s the only way I’ve ever won races is by wrecking the field and I was the only one left, that’s why I win. It’s been a long time since I remember crashing somebody for a win, but anyway, that could happen. You don’t really want to necessarily be in those positions. You want to do it as cleanly as you can. Joey (Logano) obviously had been run down and they raced side by side for three or four laps and Martin (Truex Jr.) finally got by and it was just a desperation move. If you’re going to make moves like that, you’ve got to know that that’s going to somehow haunt you and come back on you in the future. You probably don’t think about it exactly in that moment, but you try to do it the best you can, as clean as you can.”
Are you expecting teams to be more competitive at Texas and not just Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske like it has to start the year?
“I think everybody is doing a fantastic job. I don’t know that anybody needs to get any better. The fields are pretty competitive each and every week. You never know who’s going to qualify where. You’ve got the RCR guys up front and in the race things kind of happen that way too, so I’m okay (laughs). I would expect everybody to continue to put improvements in their car and get better. It’s just the amount, the size of the improvements and what they gain out of what they’re able to change and how much improvement that they get to whether or not you kind of jump ahead or whether you just get back equal and then the guys that are fast get another upgrade and then they’re back ahead a little bit. You play this see-saw moment all life long in this sport. We even see it on the engine side as well too. They’re like oh man, we made some gains on them and then they go and stretch it back out and you’re like oh, that just kind of defeats everything that you just worked for, but you’ve got to keep working.”
You’ve had a recent strings of top-10 finishes at Martinsville. Did you have a moment where it just clicked for you on how to get around Martinsville?
“It was a while ago. I don’t remember exactly. It might have been when Harvick won. It might have been 2011 or ’12, somewhere around there is when it kind of finally clicked and I was like okay, I think I know what I’m doing. I was close to winning here a of couple times and I just could never have it at the end of the race. I never knew what I needed at the end of the race in order to be able to get the victory. You always keep learning and you keep figuring it out. You keep building that notebook and the crew chief is the same way. When Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and I got together – I came here in fall of ’15 and then again in ’16 – I think ’16 is when we won, right – we were just able to continue to build on our notebook and I wouldn’t call it easy, but it’s been a lot more repetitive to what we expect is what happens.”
Is there a memorable moment for you at Martinsville?
“It was memorable for me, but probably not as memorable for other people – our win here just a couple falls ago was pretty special for us. It got us our chance, just like anybody here that wins here in the fall that has a chance to go to Homestead. We had our chance to go to Homestead because of that victory. There was some fireworks and some other sparks that were happening in the finish of that race as well with the 11 (Denny Hamlin) and the 9 (Chase Elliott). It was a very memorable day for a lot of different reason for a lot of different guys, but one for us that we could win this race and go to Homestead.”