Q: Kyle, you were very excited to put the winner’s sticker on your car after the race. Talk a little bit about this victory and then also knowing that you have raced your way into the Chase.
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, this is certainly a great day for the 18 team and Interstate Batteries, M&M’s, everyone involved on our Camry. It’s exciting to be able to win a race this early in the season, although Joe thinks it’s been forever, and to put a winner’s sticker on our roof is certainly good because it just gives us a little bit of – I wouldn’t say relaxation, but it certainly takes the pressure off of winning and making the Chase.
Now we go out and we’ve still got to continue to make our cars better, and I think as a company, as a whole, the 20 showed speed during stints today and could be really fast early but then he’d fade hard, and then we could show speed early, not be so good in the middle but then come on at the end. So we’re kind of all over the place, I feel like. But all in all, with the race that we had today, to be in victory lane is a huge relief. We’re excited about that and now we’ve just got to put our focus forward on continuing to work hard and look forward to the next few weeks.
Q : Dave, just talk a little bit about the final caution coming down pit road and the decision you made there at the end.
DAVE ROGERS: It was really the only decision. You knew a lot of people were going to take tires. You knew there would be a couple that would try two or try none, but early in the race the 2 car stayed out and in a lap he was back in 20th. You knew how it was going to play out. The pit crew just did a phenomenal job, every stop the pit crew was on it so we had a lot of confidence coming down pit road knowing that we could take four and give Kyle good track position and we knew if Kyle had good track position, he could handle the rest, so it worked out great.
Q: Joe, talk about getting the win today and the first win of the season.
JOE GIBBS: Well, we were thrilled. Kyle, obviously we got the perfect person driving the car. I’m going up and down pit road, and what I would say there is our pit crew and the whole team, Dave, you guys just fought their heart out all day long. We bounced back and forth between second, third, fourth, sixth, somewhere in there, and for that last pit stop I was concerned for the 18 because we were pitting in the middle of pit road and so many things can happen there.
Matt, I felt like he did a good job, he was down there in 1, but it was just a great day for all of us, and I would say it was really a total team effort, and then you’ve got the perfect person driving the car. It’s hard to beat Kyle with something like that. We were thrilled. Interstate Batteries, what can you say for Norm and Kyle’s two wins here last year and this year were thrilling. Toyota, it’s a big week for us, we’re out here with them and it’s a home base for TRD. We love our partnership with them, we get to spend a couple days out here and tear up some turf on the golf course and everything else. We’re thrilled. We had a great time.
By the way, I want to say the crowd, awesome. The crowd packed the place. It was hard to get in here this morning and we appreciate everybody in Southern California coming out.
Q. Kyle, the question is did you have any tire problems today, yes or no, but what was going on and how much did that play into what you were doing today and how you drove? And then Joe, any update on how Denny is doing?
KYLE BUSCH: No, I don’t think we had any tire issues today. We had one left rear that Dave pulled off they said looked a little funny, but wasn’t that bad, and the rest of them looked fine. I don’t know what it’s a testament to, but our team believes it’s too low of air pressure and that’s what those were doing to get them to wear funny and essentially blow out during the run. We never had any issues during the whole race, I don’t think the 11 did, I don’t think the 20 did, so we’re all good. Overall the performance of the tires I felt like were fine. I had no issues with them. I think you just – it’s sort of like playing with fire. If you pour too much gas on it or let too much air out of it, the thing is going to go boom.
JOE GIBBS: Yeah, right now Denny left immediately, right as the race started, went to the hospital, and I think they’re still running tests. So I think it’ll probably be later on before we get any results.
Q. Dave, Kyle just said he had no tire issues. Nevertheless when you saw a couple of cars with tire problems, were you concerned that maybe Kyle would come with a similar problem? And also, all manufacturing cars for Toyota, Chevy, which I think are more or less equal technically, do you think maybe the tire is better suited for the Toyota?
DAVE ROGERS: No, the tire is equal for all manufacturers. NASCAR has done a really good job of bringing brand identity back to the sport but keeping the level of competition even. It’s not a manufacturer’s thing.
Now, Goodyear does release data to the race teams and the manufacturers look at it, and the data showed that lower air pressure is more grip, but it’s risk versus reward. I think we lacked some speed on the stopwatch and I was pretty confident that I could drop left-side air pressure and pick some of that speed up. I don’t know if I could have got all of it but I could have got a little bit, but it just wasn’t worth it, it wasn’t worth putting the car in jeopardy, putting Kyle in jeopardy, so we played it conservative and today just worked out for us. But maybe that’s the difference. The TRD folks recommended that we’re a little bit higher left sides, maybe some of the other manufacturers are a little bit softer.
Speaking of TRD, I see David Wilson, like Joe said, that’s a great partnership. They talked to us about tires. They provide our motors. They do a lot of technical stuff for us, so it feels fantastic to be in victory lane out here in Toyota’s backyard.
Q. Kyle, what’s your secret to last-lap wins here?
KYLE BUSCH: I don’t know. Put me in the right spot and give me the steering wheel, Coach. That’s it. It was a great race last year. All in all we were really fast last year, and I had a groove that worked for me, and I sort of forgot about it after the last restart but then got back up there and chased those guys down. Was probably going to win anyway, but again, this year with the restarts the way it happened and somebody stayed out, I thought I was going to restart fourth and I’d have the lead off Turn 2. But I had to restart fifth and I had to fend off a lot of things. When we took the green, I was fifth, and I wanted to go to the middle but Kenseth knew that, so he plugged the middle and blocked me there, so then I tried to go low and I saw Jeff. Jeff was behind me, he was looking low on me and Tony started coming down and blocking me so then I tried to go back to the middle, and that was all before Turn 1.
Just trying to get some separation on the guys behind me through Turn 1. Once I was able to do that, I exited Turn 2 with Kurt and Tony side by side in front of me, and then I was kind of on an island and it seemed like everybody behind me was racing, too. So it gave me an opportunity to not have to mess with anybody, and back down into Turn 1 after we took the white for the final lap, Kurt and Tony were still side by side, they went off in there. I was going to shoot the middle because I saw Tony going to the bottom, but as soon as he went in and got to the bottom he started sliding up the racetrack, so I had to do some wheeling and dealing to get myself to cut low and get underneath Tony, and when I did that and accelerated off the corner, I passed both those guys but Kyle Larson was right on me. Luckily, I just got a good enough run off Turn 2 that I got some distance between him and I before Turn 3. I don’t know how close he got or where he was or what happened. I was just focused on forward, and luckily we made it back, and we took the checkered, so that was pretty cool.
Q. You addressed this a little bit yesterday about Kyle Larson, but can you go back and talk a little bit about what he did today? He came out of nowhere, just he’s shown so much progress in such a short period of time. We remember the Jeff and Jeff shows of the 90s. It looks like we’re going to see a lot of Kyle and Kyle in the future.
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, it’s amazing what – again, I can go here and bash fans and the media, but it’s amazing what Nationwide racing will do for you when you’re racing against Cup guys. It’s no surprise Larson is good. He gets the experience there of racing against us, racing against me, Kevin, racing against guys like Matt Kenseth, whoever else the Cup guys are that race Nationwide. Once he got here he was more ready, and he ran some races last year, got his feet wet, got a taste of it, and then this year him and his crew chief have gone to work and they’ve communicated well, done a good job.
He was behind us most of the day. I never even saw him, never even knew he was on the racetrack really. But there when it comes down to crunch time and the time matters most, people would have figured I would have finished fifth or sixth, but there we were ready for the win, and so was Larson. It gives him the perfect opportunity on Saturdays to perform well on Sundays and vice versa. Now that he’s a Cup guy and performing well on Sundays, it gives him the confidence and the belief in himself and his team that he can do it Saturday and Sunday both.
Q. Dave, you talked about advice from Toyota about the tire pressures. How do you feel does putting some more of the race back in your hands, choosing, I heard some people as low as 12 pounds. Do you enjoy putting some of the race back in your hands?
DAVE ROGERS: Yeah, I mean, absolutely. You know, this racetrack is great because it has a lot of character. It’s worn out. The drivers are starting at the bottom and then they move up top. The car does different things. There’s bumps you’ve got to negotiate. There’s a lot of character, so you have to have a driver that can move around. You’ve got to have a car that can move around. It’s a lot of fun racing out here.
12 pounds. You put 12 pounds in left sides and you’re going 1,200 miles-an-hour in California, you might have a left-side tire problem. That’s awful low. That’s dangerous. It looked like it was fast for a while, though. I wouldn’t do that to you.
KYLE BUSCH: I appreciate it.
Q : Congratulations, guys.
JOE GIBBS: Yeah, we appreciate all the fans out here I want to say again. The Lord has blessed us with a great group of guys, and to get an experience like this. We appreciate everybody out here, all of our sponsors. Most of them are big in Southern California. Part of what we do is really situated right here in Southern California, so we appreciate everybody here.