Post-Race Interview With Kyle Busch at Watkins Glen
Congratulations, Kyle. This has to be a win that you’ll cherish for a while because you really came on there the last part of that race, held off a hard-charging Brad Keselowski, got that third win, which will be very, very important when we reset the Chase field.
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, it was certainly beneficial to win a race here before the Chase starts to get some more bonus points. I feel like we’re in a good position to make the Chase, and just helps our seeding.
But overall today, I mean, the guys did a great job this weekend, Dave and everybody that worked on the car. They did a good job for me, and I appreciate that, and all year long, I appreciate their effort. They’ve done a great job. They’ve worked really, really hard.
Today was just the fruits of their labor being able to get up front and lead those laps there towards the end of the race and then be able to win there at the end.
Some close calls, some tense moments there racing with Truex a little bit that one time through the esses and into the inner loop. That was fun, interesting. I thought I could out-brake him, but then he broke the same as I did. I was like, well, this is going to be fun. We banged off each other a little bit there, but no harm, no foul, and kept going, and then there were just all those cautions at the end.
I felt like our car was definitely better on the long runs. It seemed like I could stretch it out ones we got a few laps going. But there on cold tires, it just really wouldn’t turn too well for me. I was struggling a little bit with that but was able to hold off the guys that are hungry behind us.
Q: And crew chief Dave Rogers, certainly on a race like today and throughout this weekend, a lot of things you probably need to do to get the car to run better, but talk about maybe you got here, you practiced Friday, although it was abbreviated practice due to the weather and then qualified yesterday. Maybe just talk about the progress that was made that helped culminate in this victory here today.
DAVE ROGERS: We had a good baseline from last year. We ran real strong. But the guys back at the shop did a nice job; they built us a brand new car to road course race this year. And then all the guys in practice executed really well. This is one of those races where you can take yourself out by not dotting your I’s and crossing your T’s, so the guys did a great job.
I guess I probably always feel like I missed the setup. I really feel like I missed it a little bit today, and Kyle just overcame, changed what he was doing in the car and made it happen and got faster as the race – our fastest laps were at the very end of the race, which is what you’re looking for, so hats off to Kyle for bringing it home for the M&M’s Camry.
Q: And J.D., certainly the 18 car, Kyle Busch certainly asserted itself today, and with four races to go now in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, you’ve got to feel good about how this 18 car is performing right now.
J.D. GIBBS: Yeah, I do think Dave and Kyle really connect well, and it’s funny, when I get on the pit box and kind of go back and forth on the teams, Dave calls the race, Kyle is in the car, the pit crew is setting the car up and the guys are working, I don’t do anything. I know if you ask Kyle, he goes, I’m the same way at the shop, too. But the reality of it is to watch these guys do what they do is just – it’s impressive, and week in and week out it means a lot to Joe Gibbs Racing and all our partners.
Q: Certainly a big win today, No. 18 M&M’s Toyota was very strong throughout the afternoon, particularly there at the end when it mattered the most. Questions, please.
Q. After what transpired last year, what did you expect from Brad on the last lap? Or were you just – had you guys talked it out? Did you think he’d race you clean or were you surprised that he just let you guys finish?
KYLE BUSCH: All those thoughts ran through my head. I really had no clue. It was just run as hard as you can, drive your car, try not to worry about what’s behind you, whatever happens happens, and we’ll deal with it. You know, I commend Brad for doing a better job this year at bringing home a cleaner race.
I felt like we ran hard. We ran really hard there those last couple laps. I just couldn’t get away from him. My car wouldn’t turn through the corners as well as I needed to. I just couldn’t get the front tires to bite, and so he could catch me through the corners, but the braking zones and exiting the corners I felt like I was really strong on and could get away from him.
I think what saved the race probably for us was just the launch I got out of the carousel. I got about a two-car-length gap on him getting down into Turn 6, kept it about a half-car gap through 6, and then on 7 he was on me. If he was any closer getting into 6, he probably could have out-broke me and probably doored me or whatever and been able to pass me.
It was fun, and glad it worked out the way it did. For me, anyway. (Smiling.)
Q. Dave, seemed like the race really turned around when you got Kyle onto pit road right as the yellow came out and essentially got track position there, got Ambrose back in 12th I believe for the restart. Were you trying to get him in as quickly as possible even if it meant maybe sacrificing something for a green-white checkered?
DAVE ROGERS: Yeah, that’s a good question. Our lap times were up this year so we felt our fuel mileage was off. We got a read earlier but Kyle was doing a good job of saving fuel under yellow, so we weren’t sure exactly where we were fuel mileage wise. So we were going to push to lap 60, and I actually got to give credit to my two engineers. They got talking and they saw some people sliding around, and Steve Hoegler, one of my engineers, said, man, I think there’s fluid on the track, you’d better get him in. So it was a last-minute call to pull him down on lap 59. Just a heads-up play by Steve and Chris and the work them guys are doing on the pit box, but it was a last-minute call to get Kyle on pit road and next thing you know there was a caution, so it worked out great.
Q. I’m just wondering how a race like today changes how you view another competitor, because obviously last year same situation you were really upset with him because you felt like he should have cut you more of a break, and then this year he could have done it but he doesn’t for whatever reason. Now look at that and are you like, oh, maybe he’s not so bad, or do you not know how to view it? How do you judge that?
KYLE BUSCH: It’s a tough question. Certainly when you get wrecked by somebody you’re not all too happy with it. But then when you come with races like this and you come towards the end of the race and a guy can get in the back of you and spin you out, I guess, yeah, you cut that guy a little bit more slack maybe the next time you race him.
You know, I was at a short track race in Canada this weekend, and there was a guy behind me, he root and grouched me a little bit a couple times and had a chance and could have wrecked me for the win but didn’t do it. You try to race as best you can, as clean as you can and get the win for yourself and not by moving people out of the way.
That’s where the real talent comes in. There’s not much talent in just driving through somebody and then taking a checkered flag that way.
Q. For the panel, when that caution did come out and you saw the 9 way back there just, what was your thought process after that?
KYLE BUSCH: Well, Dave told me he was going to restart about 10th or 12th, something like that, and I was like, okay, well, we’ll see how – if he comes up through here and how much he wiggles his way back up towards the front or how quickly he can get there and not waste his stuff. When I was running fifth earlier in the race, there was Bowyer, Truex and then Allmendinger right in front of me, and I was doing everything I could to hang with those guys. I’d fall off of them about a half a second back, and then I’d be like, all right, I’m going to run on them hard here for a lap and see if I can’t pick a spot on the track and get by them, and I could get close but then I couldn’t really get them. So it took me a little bit to pass some of those guys in front of me, and it was hard to pass.
But you really had to be strategic about it, and I don’t know if Ambrose made his way back up through the field at all, if he made up any ground. I did see him finally get tore up there through the esses on one of those cautions. But it’s just – it’s a lot easier to maintain your equipment and everything else when you’re out front.
Q. Running the 90 laps out there, Kyle, the Gen-6 car, how did that handle today on a road course with all the turns and all the things that are different than the ovals?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, it’s okay. You know, I think there’s a couple things that us drivers would like to see a little bit better, but it has a lot of grip. It has – it’s tough to say. It has more grip just because it has more speed. We see that. But you really don’t feel the grip necessarily because you still are sliding. You’re still to the edge of the tire. You’re still manhandling a 3,400-pound stock car around here as best you can.
The biggest thing, though, is just here at Watkins Glen I think you feel a little bit more of the aero effects than we did at Sonoma, which weren’t terrible. NASCAR helped us out; they gave us a couple inches more on the spoiler for turning to the right because our cars don’t quite have the sideforce they need when you do turn to the right. But I think that was a benefit.
Any more than that, I don’t know. I think that sometimes when you ask for too much, it doesn’t put on as good of a race. I think all in all, it was pretty good with what we’ve got.
Q. Kyle, can you describe your emotions at the finish line considering what’s happened the last two years?
KYLE BUSCH: Relief, and a big sigh of relief, just a deep breath, just like, whew. I didn’t even say anything until I got over to the backstretch. I was just trying to take it all in and figure it all out. Last couple years here have been tough and today it could have been tough again, but we were raced clean and we put on a good show I felt like. We’ve had fast cars here. I wouldn’t say we deserve it, but we felt like we deserved to win here and just haven’t quite been able to put it all together when it matters.
Today we did that and I got some good restarts. I was able to get clear of those guys getting into Turn 1 and off of Turn 1, be by myself so I could run the esses as I needed to and set sail.
Q. That was kind of my question. Does this make up for the last two years, or can nothing really make up, especially for last year?
KYLE BUSCH: No, nothing ever really makes up for it. I’ll never get the trophies at my house, and you know, I won’t have the win that it took to get into the Chase for last year. You know, nothing ever makes up for lost things, I guess things taken from you, however you want to put it.
But this is certainly a sweet victory. For this year, for what we’ve been doing, so from February of ’13, this has been a good year for us. Dave and the guys have really worked hard and everybody at the shop, all our engineering staff and J.D. has worked really hard as being able to give us good stuff that we could come out here and put on good shows for the fans but also do well for our race team and for M&M’s and Toyota and Interstate Batteries, Monster Energy, everybody that’s a part of this program.
Q. Seems like every year there’s been a little hotspot of activity at Watkins Glen, and it looked like the esses was it this year. I’m curious, did the Gen-6 car play into this, the extra speed? I don’t know about Jeff Gordon but he had slid off the track outside of the esses on his own like he was carrying a lot of speed, and I talked to Ron Fellows and he was fighting for real estate at the top of the esses there and got into a car. Is this just – we haven’t seen that much activity in the esses before, and I’m just wondering if the extra speed with the new car, is the car more on edge through there? What do you think?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, the car is definitely more on edge through there for sure than what we’ve been in years past. I don’t know the answer to that because we’ve got more downforce so you would think it would feel better. I’ve driven GRAND-AM cars. I haven’t driven one here, but I get the sense of how they would feel; they just feel stuck to the ground with more downforce. But when I was in the Gen-6 car, which I was today, but when I was racing behind those guys that were in front of me, those three cars I mentioned earlier, I had a hard time – I could make ground up on them through the esses, but man, I was out of control. I was sliding through there for everything I had just trying to keep the pedal down and make up ground on them. It was really hard to do, and it seemed like when you were out front it was a little bit better, but man, when you were a little bit further back and in some traffic, I think it surprised a lot of guys just how much grip there is to be had through the esses, and if your car was set up for it or not set up for it could change a lot of that characteristic for you.
Q. (No microphone.)
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, I think so. Like I said, I’m not sure why. I don’t know if it’s downforce, I don’t know if it’s rear cambers, I don’t know if it’s just a different tire that we have here this year. It’s a green compound. So all of those could have played into it.