Interview With Kyle Busch, Winner of AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta
Kyle, talk a little bit about your race out there tonight.
KYLE BUSCH: Well, it started a little ugly. I was a little ill on the radio, I’m sure, but I can’t say enough about Dave Rogers right here and the team that he’s assembled around us. I think if you can pin a championship night on one race or a championship on one night in a race, I think tonight was the night. We certainly had a lot to do and a lot to overcome, and I think that Dave and these guys stuck with me. For as bad as I may have been talking, they certainly never gave up. They kept going to work and trying to figure things out for me and make my life a little easier behind the wheel, although Atlanta is always never easy.
I just appreciate them digging in, and for as far back as we fell and for as tight as it was and then as loose as it was and then just trying to make our way back up through the field, and the green-flag runs that we got — they’re always my best friend. I like green-flag runs. I feel like I can make up time getting to, on pit road and coming off pit road the most as well as just being by myself on restarts and not having to deal with other cars and the aero deficiencies and everything else you’ve got around you.
It takes a lot longer to catch up that way, but I feel like that was one of our good graces of today. The Lord was with us and blessed us today with a great night. That was a lot of fun.
Q : Also joining Kyle, Dave Rogers. A lot of talk this weekend about the tire here in Atlanta, the Zone Tread tire. Talk about that and any other strategy you had throughout the race tonight.
DAVE ROGERS: Yeah, the Zone Tread tire didn’t really make a different to us. You know, with everything going on with the Gen-6 car, not racing here for a full year, the track aging, if you would have asked me did the tire change or not, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you, so I think Goodyear did a good job there from my perspective. I don’t know what it felt like behind the wheel. Just a great night, like Kyle said. He gave the team a lot of compliments, but he deserves just as many. He’s out there driving his butt off, and car is ill handling and you’ve got to stay focused under those circumstances, and Kyle did a good job of doing that and gave us opportunities to work on it in the pit stops. The pit crew was phenomenal. We were throwing spring rubbers around and track bar and wedge and just cranking on the car trying to get it to react. I never got anything slower than a 12.3. My boys are back, they’re ready to play so we’re having a lot of fun.
Q : J.D., your relationship with Toyota, this is the 250th win for Toyota across three national series, and this is the 100th win in a Toyota for Kyle across three national series tonight, so talk a little bit about that.
J.D. GIBBS: Yeah, they just brought that up. You’re not going to ask me about the tires?
Q: No. Do you want to talk about the tires?
J.D. GIBBS: I don’t know much about the tires.
Q: That’s why I’m asking you about Toyota.
J.D. GIBBS: There are four rubber things.
We just talked about that in victory lane. The Toyota guys were there, and it’s just a great relationship. They’ve done so much for our race team. I think we’ve done a lot for them, and just to be there at the start, and 100, that’s impressive, really.
Q. Dave, Kyle was talking about how upset he got on the radio and was carrying on and everything. When you hear him venting, how do you separate his anger from what he is really trying to tell you what the car is doing and understand what needs to be done?
DAVE ROGERS: Yeah, you know, even when Kyle gets frustrated, he’s still telling you what the car is doing, so he got frustrated and gave me a lot of nothing there for a minute, and then two laps later he came over and said, okay, I didn’t tell you much because I don’t know. I got this going on, I got that going on, I can’t sort it out, I can’t give you good direction, man, just try something. So even when he gets frustrated, he’s still trying to give you good feedback.
You know, there’s times you want to say, hey, calm down, but you just look at the stopwatch. At no point – really I didn’t think he got that frustrated tonight, but even when he did, if you looked at the stopwatch, he never slowed down. He kept running the same lap times, told me that he was still focused behind the wheel, he was just aggravated the car wasn’t doing what he wanted it to.
Q. Kyle, does a win like tonight give you some confidence going into the Chase that, okay, a race starts bad: Chicago, New Hampshire, whatever, it’s not going good, you say, okay, Atlanta wasn’t looking too good, either. Does it give you the kind of confidence to say, okay, as a team we’re really maturing and can now get really focused on trying to win this championship?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, certainly. I think all that plays into something. With the way tonight started out it was certainly not pretty. But there’s been other times where we’ve had some of the same things, just not been able to rebound as well. That’s what I’m most proud of tonight is not necessarily what I did but just what these guys were able to do. I mean, I’m always driving my heart out, I’m always giving it everything I’ve got and sometimes there’s times where I’ll have something not so easy to drive and I’ll put it in the fence and then really ruin our race.
You know, it all comes full circle sometimes, but we were in a whole different situation 365 days ago and not being able to make the Chase, and tonight was a night where we needed to prove to ourselves that we’re championship contenders. I mean, I’ll be frank and Dave knows it, too, the last probably four races, five races besides Watkins Glen we weren’t racing to our par, we were bogeying or double bogeying. It wasn’t going as good as we needed it to be. Tonight it didn’t look like it was, either, but we turned it around and got a great night of it, so that’s what I’m most impressed about.
Q. You touched upon a year ago, 365 days. What happened in Richmond a year ago, was that something that you just kind of wiped out and didn’t think about that much, or has it been kind of a motivational thing for you this season as you’ve moved on?
KYLE BUSCH: Well, it wasn’t just Richmond last year that knocked us out of the Chase. I mean, certainly when the pressure is on the line you’ve got to be able to perform and do what you’re supposed to do, and we messed up, there’s no doubt about it. But there was also unfortunately some engine failures we had in the year, there was some wrecked race cars, some tire failures, some brake failures that hindered us from good finishes. It was just everything every week there was something new. I’ll tell you what, this is a humbling sport. You look at last year’s champion and what he’s going through right now. It’s the same scenario. You’ve got to be able to take the highs and the lows, and certainly I am not very good at taking the lows. I’ll be the first to admit it. But when the highs come your way you’ve got to treasure them because you never know how many more you’ll get. But tonight was a fun night.
Q. Two questions for J.D. Gibbs: Can you give some more details with the situation of Denny Hamlin? I was just reading his quotes that he said he’s maybe thinking that the official was confused concerning the penalty, and maybe you can talk about the engine problems on Denny’s car.
J.D. GIBBS: Yeah, on pit road he got called down and he was supposed to stop in the pits and that wasn’t clear. He went through the pits and they made him come back in when the race started and stop. We didn’t really understand why we didn’t do it the first time, and he got called back down again. It was just kind of frustrating for the whole team.
What was the second question? On the motor?
Yeah, I think he just – he was just frustrated. They were trying some different things, and his motor they had – we don’t know exactly what happened, and we’ll know a lot more when we figure that out.
Q. Is it not necessarily a risk to try different things in this stage of the championship?
J.D. GIBBS: No, I think for Denny, you might as well go – if you’re going to R & D some stuff, take a shot at it. You don’t want to do it with Kyle or Matt, but I think that’s what they were looking at doing.
Q. Kyle, a few times in your career you’ve gone into the Chase riding some momentum and things haven’t gone so well. This time around Jimmie and Matt have both kind of had some up-and-down times here where the momentum may be turning your way. Do you feel like you’ve got things in a situation now where you can capitalize and make this your Chase this time?
KYLE BUSCH: It’s early. It’s real early. We’ve still got one more week before we even start the Chase.
You know, there’s a lot of things that can happen, and it’s certainly – you’ve got to – I’ve said it before, I think, maybe many a times, but you’ve got to ride the wave when it’s yours and take it for as long as you can and see how far you can carry it. You know, I think that our team is – like I mentioned, we haven’t had a great four or five weeks lately at some of these ovals, but tonight was a great night. Now we go to Richmond, one of my favorite places, so hopefully we can capitalize there with another strong run, and just kind of keep the momentum going, keep the guys doing a good job on pit road like they did tonight and continuing to give us great stops and myself and Dave Rogers, to be able to continue to work together on making some good race cars and smart adjustments throughout races. If we can do all that and put the pieces together that way, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be a force to be reckoned with not only each and every race but each and every year.
Q. J.D., I was curious if you could actually speak to your dad. When the official didn’t get out of the way of the car quite fast enough on pit road, he seemed to let him hear a bit of his mind down there on pit lane. I was wondering if you could speak to the fact that the coach may be getting up in years but he’s still got the competitive fire in his belly when it comes to competitive sport.
J.D. GIBBS: I think what people don’t realize when he coached in the NFL all those years, he was intense and kind of a little crazy. So now he loves – he coaches his grandkids. He’s not as crazy when he does that. But racing, he figured when you’re – the guy you want to be in the NFL is the owner, and so he comes to NASCAR, I’m going to be the owner. He realized a few years too late, the guy you want to be in NASCAR is the driver, not the owner.
But I think he kind of vents, but he’s gotten a lot better at kind of when and how he does it.
Q. Kyle, you obviously own numerous NASCAR records, but one thing that always seems to get thrown your way is that you haven’t won a Cup championship. I just wondered, where does that rank in your personal list of what you want to achieve or want to be remembered for, one, more than one, or is it the ultimate goal? Just kind of how much does it mean to you to have another opportunity at that?
KYLE BUSCH: I mean, the championship is No. 1 on anybody’s list. I think if you’re a race car driver you want to succeed and be the best in your realm of racing. For me I’m a NASCAR driver, and I want to be able to win NASCAR championships. I’ve got an owner’s championship in Nationwide and I’ve got an owner’s championship in trucks, but I have yet to collect the big prize, which is the Sprint Cup trophy. One of these days it will happen, and maybe it’s 2013. Hopefully it is. If that’s the case, it’ll certainly be a blessing for myself and my wife and of course this whole team and Joe Gibbs Racing that we’re able to achieve that. But there’s a lot of work that goes involved in that, and it’s not easy. It wasn’t easy tonight, but we worked hard and continued to focus on what was next, and I think that if we can try to do that in these next 11 weeks, then maybe we can be hoisting a pretty-looking trophy.
Q. Kyle, you would have clinch if you finished like in the top 5, so what does it mean to clinch to get into the Chase with a win?
KYLE BUSCH: I think it’s pretty cool. You know, the earliest I think I’ve ever clinched was 2008 when we clinched at Watkins Glen when we won that one — that was pretty impressive that year. We certainly didn’t have the last 10 weeks that we would have hoped for.
Last year I felt like we learned a lot. We missed the Chase, but Dave and I went into the end of the year, we didn’t give up, we didn’t just lame duck the rest of the year and ride around, we actually worked hard and pushed ourselves to be better, and probably didn’t quite push as hard as we could have a couple times with some other guys racing for their championship. But I think that we did a good job of learning and learning what we could do and learning how we can contend and compete, and that’s what we need to focus on this year is doing some of those same things.
Q. Dave and J.D., as an organization you’ve kind of stubbed your toe in the Chase the last few years. Can you talk about quality control issues going into the final 10 weeks?
J.D. GIBBS: Yeah, I mean, our history is our history, so we’ve stubbed our toe, as you said. You guys are going to talk about it until we stop stubbing our toe. I think everyone at the shop is working really hard. Hopefully I think we’ve learned from our mistakes. I think we put a lot of intelligent people in a lot of good spots to go through the QC process, like you said. I have a lot of confidence in my road crew. I think they’re – I’m really proud of them. I think they’re one of the toughest on the road, and knock on wood we haven’t had mechanical problems this year. We stubbed our toe a lot last year during the regular season like Kyle said, and that’s what kept us out of the Chase.
So far we’ve kept our cars together pretty good, and I’m confident we can do so for 11 more weeks.
We’ve got to do it. I can tell you that, every week, you’re going to ask me about it every week until we actually do it, so we’ll do it.
Q. Kyle, were you as stunned as everybody else when Kurt went from 10th to 2nd and all of a sudden he’s next to you on that restart?
KYLE BUSCH: You know, actually I was looking at the pylon when I was rolling under yellow, just kind of checking out and seeing where everybody was, seeing what the restart was going to look like in the lineup and all of that. I noticed the 78 and I was like okay they’re having a decent day. That’s good. I ran with Kurt for a little bit there during the middle part of the race about 9th, 10th, 11th, something like that, and then when the caution flew after that restart, he was in my mirror, and I’m like, did everybody wreck? What happened?
But the kid was wheeling it, I guess. He got up to second there. I thought that was pretty impressive. But then the next restarts I knew I had to get good restarts, and the second to last one I did okay. Logano was close to my rear bumper, but the 56 was under him, moving him to the middle, and then Logano, I looked up and I saw that he dropped to like sixth or seventh because of that, and so I knew the next one, I’ve got the 56 behind me, I better get a good one here. I didn’t get as good as I wanted to. I launched okay but then it seemed like start-finish on he could just motor on me and he got to my inside getting to Turn 1 and then we had to race side by side through 1 and 2, 3 and 4, finally cleared him and was able to set sail, get back to the bottom where I wanted to run and then I kind of moved around because he was actually a little faster than me moving up the racetrack.
But yeah, I mean, that was – back to your original point, that was pretty impressive, I guess.
Q. Is it that big a difference starting on the bottom versus the top?
KYLE BUSCH: For me, man I had one restart on the top all night probably. I got going decent. I got going okay with that one. Trying to remember what happened. I think the 24 was in front of me and he kind of stumbled a little bit so I shot low and made it three wide and something. But I’ll tell you what, man; when you’re second on a restart, you’re a lame duck situation. The top line for some reason you can’t get any bite up there. You can’t launch off the corner at all for the restart. And when you’re on the bottom it seems like it’s a lot easier to get going and the leader predicts the restart so whichever lane he’s in it’s a lot easier to see that lane move forward just because the throttle application is a lot smoother.
Q. Kyle, you just mentioned a couple minutes ago about the run you guys had last season, the last 10 races, about learning to compete and contend. You’ve done this for a long time. You guys have done this for a long time, so what did you learn? I don’t understand; how different is it? Or what was so different that you guys picked up on that you don’t pick up on the first 26 or you hadn’t picked up the previous years of your experience in the Chase?
KYLE BUSCH: I don’t know. I don’t know if it was just the pressure was different or what, but we were just able to go out there and do the right things and make some of the right calls and have good race cars throughout the races, and we finished well.
You know, I think our two worst finishes were at Loudon. We were running second to Denny Hamlin. Denny was lights out, he was really good. And then we dropped a valve, so that knocked us back to 28th at Loudon. And then the next one was Kansas, we were leading the race, I spun myself out off Turn 4, went to the back and then worked our way back up through the field slowly but then got to about eighth and then on a restart, I moved low down the backstretch to protect my spot through 3 and 4 and Ryan Newman just pile drove me off Turn 4 and wrecked us there. I think we finished 32nd or something, worse than that maybe. So those were our two worst races, and if you take those two races out, I think we finished – excuse me, even with those two races I think we finished third in the points. If you give me back the eighth place at Kansas and the second place at Loudon, we win the championship. It’s crazy the way that all works out, but it never does work out those ways, and we just have to – we know we can do it, that’s the thing, and we just have to be able to do it. That’s what it boils down to.
Q. It wasn’t the Chase, but to have that success, what did that show for you guys, the crew, to be able to do that?
DAVE ROGERS: I think it just showed character. I’m proud of the race team. That’s terrible. You know, you have wonderful sponsors like M&Ms and Toyota and Interstate Batteries and the backing of Joe Gibbs Racing and Kyle Busch driving your race car and you miss the Chase. That’s not supposed to happen. It was a great opportunity for Kyle or myself or both of us or the entire team to just fold up. We could have easily just checked out for the rest of the year and been bitter and mad and not performed, and nobody did that. Everyone on the team dug down. We wanted to show our fans that we were worthy for competing for a championship. Even though we didn’t have the pressure of the media and the hype and all the things associated with the Chase, we had a different pressure on us. We missed the Chase, and it wasn’t fun. It wasn’t fun at all. But we dug down deep despite the circumstances, and we performed really well on the track.
I think that every negative experience you have in life, it prepares you for something later on down the road, and I certainly think that missing the Chase and going through that time has made us a more mature relationship. I think it’s strengthened the relationship between Kyle and I, and I think it’s making this team better this year.
Q. The success of Joe Gibbs Racing on the mile-and-a-halfs, you guys have won all but one race. Obviously the Chase, half the races are at mile-and-a-halfs. How does that – what kind of pressure does that put on you guys or the organization because of the expectation I’m guessing will be realistically going into the Chase, you guys, the 20 and the 48 as the favorites partly because of the success on the mile-and-a-halfs? How does that pressure change because I think people are going to be looking at you guys certainly for your wins this season and what you guys have done and what lies ahead in the Chase.
DAVE ROGERS: Yeah, I think it’s kind of like looking back at last year. It’s somewhat irrelevant. We’ve got to perform in the final 10. I’ll tell Kyle during a race, you’ve got to race out the windshield, not the mirror. All the mile-and-a-half wins, they’re in the mirror right now. Everything gets reset to zero after next week. We can’t rely on the past. We can’t be discouraged because of last year’s past. We’ve just got to perform. If we start a race off the pace like we did tonight, we’ve got to know that we can do it. We’ve got to dig down and do it.
But nothing in the past matters. We’ve just got to stay focused on what lies ahead.
Q. Kyle, going back to the Denny thing, did he give you a little bit of grief under caution? Did you notice that? Did you know it was going on at that point when you guys were racing, after his pit road penalty?
KYLE BUSCH: I had no clue what his situation was, I just knew he was a lap down, and I was racing with Kenseth and whatnot and we were running seventh or eighth or something like that. We all know how good Denny is here but I was running the top and giving him the bottom and he couldn’t pass me, so he was frustrated that I wouldn’t let him go, that I was wasting his tires I’m sure because he’s a big tire guy, which is fine. You know what, I don’t know. It’s early in the race, and yeah, I could have rolled over for him, but sometimes you’ve got to understand the other person’s situation, as well, too. I could be at fault, but yet I think that he should be at fault a little bit, too.