NASCAR Media Conference
September 21, 2010
DENIS MALOOF: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the NASCAR teleconference in advance of this weekend's NASCAR events at Dover International Speedway.
Joining us is Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. Sunday's AAA 400 is the second race for the NASCAR Sprint Cup event, and Kyle is among the 12 drivers eligible to compete for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title during the season's final 10 events, or the Chase. He heads to Dover fourth in the current standings, 64 points behind leader Denny Hamlin.
I know you have one Dover history and a competitive history all over the map there at Dover. What is your game plan this weekend?
KYLE BUSCH: Our game plan is to try to repeat what we can in the spring. Obviously we had a good race going, qualified well. We raced well all through the event. Towards the end of the race, came down to the final pit stop between Jimmie and myself and we were able to get out of there smoothly and cleanly, Jimmie wasn't, got caught speeding on pit road.
We'll just go back there with our Interstate Batteries Camry and try to make the most of the event and the weekend and get a good, strong finish and keep our momentum rolling here and try to get through the final 10 races strong in order to get the championship come Homestead.
DENIS MALOOF: Sounds good. For those of you who have joined us, Kyle is also pursuing some Nationwide Series history. He won the spring event there at Dover in the series. He needs one more victory in 2010 to set the series mark for most victories in a season for the NASCAR Nationwide Series, and that's 11.
Kyle I suspect that's also on your radar this weekend?
KYLE BUSCH: It is but it isn't. Of course, we'd like to be able to do the record and be able to win 11 races in a season, maybe 12, maybe 13. But right now we play every week as we can.
This week coming into Dover we feel like it's a really good opportunity for us to win another race. There's also going to be some strong competition out there and we're going to have to be fighting these guys tooth and nail in order to win.
We've done really well on the Nationwide side this year, running for the owner's championship, hopefully being able to get some good race points here this week in order to take to Homestead with the owner's lead.
DENIS MALOOF: We'll go straight to media questions for Kyle.
Q. Kyle, could you talk a little bit about the difference, obviously it's mighty early in the Chase, but you had a hard race but a top-10 finish, then go to Dover, a place you can win, and the nightmare began early in '08, could you talk about the differences between then and now? Do you have confidence this worst mechanical nightmare shouldn't happen to you this time?
KYLE BUSCH: I mean, anything can happen in the sport. That's why it's called racing.
I feel pretty good about where we are. We've ran well -- running well at Michigan, didn't finish where we wanted to. We went to Bristol, Atlanta and Richmond. All finishes in the top five. This past weekend we snuck out a ninth-place finish, got a good solid top 10. It wasn't the effort of a top 10, but it was a top-10 finish. Pleased with where we are. We feel we can always be better.
For how the circumstances played out Sunday, it was all right. Knowing we're going to a couple racetracks here that we run well at, Dover being one of them, Kansas may be hit or miss, but California is a good one, Charlotte is later on, Phoenix is later on, those tracks we tend to run well.
Being optimistic, I'm looking forward to this weekend and hoping that the mechanical gremlins stay away. You never know what can happen.
Q. Does coming out a little bit under the radar compared to being the top guy, all eyes were on you in '08, does that matter to a team? Does it help a little bit for a team to come in like that as opposed to being in the limelight?
KYLE BUSCH: I don't think it really matters. Teams do what they got to do to try to run well and win races.
Obviously with all the attention being drawn to Denny's team or Jimmie's team, obviously they're the guys that have gotten it the past two years. If you're referring to Clint Bowyer being one of the dark horses, winning his first race out, I don't think it's coincidence. I just think it happened that way.
It's the way the racing gods like to play games on us all.
Q. You and Jeff and everybody visiting last week, Mark May, the football people made a big deal about you asking if Mark May was annoying. Was that your own question?
KYLE BUSCH: I don't even know who he is, if that answers your question.
Q. How many more Nationwide races are you expected to run this year?
KYLE BUSCH: I think it's all the rest except one, Gateway, that I will not be at.
Q. Right now you're 25 points behind in the Truck Series owner's championship. You're leading in the Nationwide, and you're in the Chase. I don't think anybody ever had a chance to be part of three championships in a season. Does that pressure do anything to help your focus in each of the series?
KYLE BUSCH: No, I just go out and race every week the best I can. You know, the Truck Series races, we're pretty confident where we're at, being able to run well. With Eric Phillips and Rick doing the job they do for me, it's been fun to go out there and race as hard as we can, come out on top. It feels really good, especially in your own equipment.
Racing in the Nationwide Series, we've got some stiff competition this year. I mean, Brad Keselowski is right on us. It's hard to lay low and think, Okay, we got this deal. He's good everywhere we've been.
It's going to be a challenge. It's not going to be easy there.
Then of course the Cup Series, racing against the 11 best of the sport, being able to race for a championship there, fight it out till Homestead, it's going to be tough.
There's an opportunity for me to win three championships in a season. Man, if that happens, I think it would be nothing but awesome. Then, of course, being able to go on into the off-season with three championships, getting married, I think that would be one way to go out in 2010.
Q. Three teams at Loudon that tried the fuel gamble late. Does it surprise you that teams early in the Chase tried to make that gamble work?
KYLE BUSCH: It does a little bit, you know. I thought it was awfully weird that those guys were going to try to go that far on fuel. With the cautions were getting, they must have thought they were close obviously in going for it, trying.
But, you know, we knew when we last pitted with those guys, if we would have went the rest of the way, we would have ran out with eight laps to go. There was no way we could have taken that gamble, gotten that close.
It actually helped us. When we got spun out there in the wreck where Kurt spun under Burton, Jimmie spun me out, that actually helped us because we weren't sure when we were going to pit. I think there was one more caution after that caution.
But, you know, it's too hard when you're running up front and you have track position to give that track position up knowing that those guys in front of you are going to go the rest of the way and try to make it on fuel and that you can't.
I'm glad it worked out the way it did. We were able to pit when we did in order to get some tires, try to come back up through there. We didn't quite come as far as we wanted to. I didn't really see a whole lot of guys that started that far back that made as much ground up during the race as we did at the end of the race. I think we went, with 40 laps to go, from 25th and finished ninth, so it wasn't too bad.
Q. Quite a bit of aggressive racing there, particularly on the restarts. Was that largely a case of people trying to make passes there just when the opportunity arose? I realize it's hard to pass there. You had a lot of guys trying that. Is that what we were seeing there?
KYLE BUSCH: What you were seeing was desperation. Everybody knew that they had to make as much ground up as they could in the first four, five laps of a restart because that was really the only opportunity we had to pass. With this awesome Sprint Cup Series car we have, it's just so hard to make up ground open somebody in front of you. All the cars are the same.
With the old car, we could have guys that were good that might be back in traffic that could make their way up through and have some exciting times. Now it's so tough and difficult to make passes that you got to get all you can right away. There are guys on the inside of guys dive bombing each other, trying to slide up, push them out of the way, end up spinning themselves, or the guy on the outside.
Like I said, it's just desperation. You're trying to get the most you can get in the first five laps after the restart so you can single file out, get into a rhythm, just run the rest of the run until the next pit stop.
Q. Kyle, bonus points. We think of them so much in the context of how they separate drivers going into that first Chase race. Don't they also kind of serve as a cushion if you have trouble? Don't they mitigate a situation like Jimmie's on Sunday and yours in '08?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, I mean, that's basically what you're looking to do, is try to build up as much cushion, as many points as you have so you have a buffer in case you have a bad right.
In our instance in 2008, I think we used them all up in the first race, blew right through them in the second race, then decided we might as well go for three, just killed ourselves in the first three races in the Chase.
I think the bonus point structure is something that everybody looks to get as many as they can. Going into the Chase they know they have a little bit they can give up. When you look at guys like Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon, Greg Biffle has one win, the guys that don't have any, they know they come into the Chase playing catch-up and they have to be consistent and smooth. They have to look for their strong finishes every single time. They know they have nothing to give up.
When those guys have a bad day in the Chase or whatever, they're going to be looking at, Well, we didn't have anything to give up, so we're further behind than those guys that had something to give up.
Q. You're coming off a very cool special where you were featured on ESPN, where they followed you around. Did you get any fan reaction? Were they surprised what you go through on a daily and weekly basis?
KYLE BUSCH: A little bit, yeah. It was fun. It was good for myself and Samantha to do the show. We had a good time doing it. The film crew was fun. Made it easier on us.
Fans gave us good feedback on it via Twitter or the Internet. They thought it was fun, cool to see a different side, see what we do during the week to see what all kinds of things we're always being pulled in different directions in doing, kind of all over the place.
From what I understand, it was a good deal. All enjoyed it. Hopefully if there's a time that it ever comes again, we'll do it again. Otherwise, I think my reality TV life should be coming to an end.
Q. I guess fans now understand why when you say you strap into the racecar it's time to go to work and forget about all that stuff because you're so busy throughout the week.
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, I mean, we are busy. That's not always a typical week. There's times where like I'm in North Carolina this week trying to work, running around the shop, doing some different things, having people asking me questions all day long. It's mind-boggling. They ask you a question, you don't know how to answer it. You answer it. That's not the answer we were looking for. Well, what did you ask me for?
You know, it's complicated sometimes. But it's better than sitting at home not having anything to do, figuring out what you're trying to do for next year.
Q. When you were battling door-to-door with Kevin Harvick, did it ever enter your mind, This is a couple of owners in the series, or were you racing for the win?
KYLE BUSCH: No, you're racing for the win. I know he's an owner, driving his own stuff. He's like myself. He wants to win as much as he can in his own stuff because it feels really good to do so.
I knew he was going to race me hard. Our trucks have been very fast. I know he wants nothing more than to beat me and I'd love nothing more than to beat him. To have the competition the way it was was fun. It was also challenging. Unfortunately I tore my truck up at the end of the race a little bit. Now we got to fix it and get it ready for the next time we're going to run it.
Other than that, it's all about hard racing.
Q. You worked just as hard the first year you broke into Cup as this year. Can you compare your driving from the first year to this year?
KYLE BUSCH: I think the first year you're trying to learn everything you could about every different racetrack, about the cars, about the horsepower level, different setups, what you're going through.
This year now, I mean, with where we're I'm at in the sport, with where JGR is at, with my relationship with the team, I guess I'm considered one of the veteran drivers. For myself, I feel a little bit more at home. I feel more comfortable going to the racetracks. I know what to expect when I come to those racetracks. I'm not really learning my way to the racetrack or around the racetrack, I'm learning the tire or the car or the way the setup is, how the rubber goes down, what happens in the weekend and stuff. That's the big stuff nowadays versus what it was in the rookie year.
Q. As far as that rookie year, you mentioned the reality show. You actually had to grow up right in front of the cameras. You didn't have any choice. Do you think that changed you or made a big difference in the way you look at life?
KYLE BUSCH: Yes and no. Not really. For me, I just go out there and do what I'm supposed to do, that's to try my hardest, work as hard as I can to try to win races. The camera's always around you in the disappointing times. They get to see that. They get to make their own impressions on what kind of person you are and stuff.
When you're away from the racetrack, doing all different kinds of things during the week, you know, there's a whole 'nother life to be lived. Not always what you see on TV is what you get.
Q. I was going to mention the two tracks you left out at your favorite tracks for the Chase, Martinsville and Talladega. Do you consider those the two wild cards?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, anything can happen at those places. Talladega, you're running in a pack of 43 cars. Somebody makes one bump-drafting mistake like I did in the spring, causes a wreck, you're in it, you're tore up.
Anything can happen. Anything can happen at Martinsville. Running as good as we ran all day, coming in and pitting for tires at the end, you know, maybe not taking two or taking none, whatever it was, I think four tires was the right decision, but it just got us bottled up in traffic. I got on the outside.
Yeah, I mean, anything can happen. You'd rather some of these races finish out the way it's supposed to finish out. But they call a caution for something that maybe you don't agree with or you don't see on the racetrack as a hazard.
It's part of racing. That's why we do it every week. If it wasn't so different and so fun for the fans, then they would know who the champion was going out every week.
Q. The way you've run the Truck Series at Martinsville, has running tracks there with more laps helped you out or has having Denny as a teammate with his short track experience helped you out coming to Martinsville, since you mastered Bristol and Richmond?
KYLE BUSCH: I think it's having Denny as a teammate more than running the trucks around there. I skipped the truck race in the spring because I felt like I wanted to work on my Cup stuff, not worry about the truck stuff. It worked very well. I had Brian run the truck. He ran very well and actually finished third in it. Then I was running really well in the Cup race, running second, had a shot to finish second or even to win.
You know, we're going back there in the fall here. I'm going to run both races. See how it plays out then.
Q. Kyle, with the difficulty every team seems to be having finding sponsors, are you finding sponsors are focusing these days on performance or personality?
KYLE BUSCH: To be honest with you, they're focused on their business, what's going to help their business grow, what's going to help get their return on their investment. That's what they're most concerned about.
I don't know exactly how to sell it. You try to sell these companies the personality and the racing side of it, the way they all get results and exposure and everything. They say, All right, that's great and dandy, but what is going to be our return? Are we going to be able to sell this product, get it in front of NASCAR fans' faces? How do we do this?
That's been the challenging part, being able to work these deals together to show there is a return. I've had a lot of people I've had conversations with that said, If it wasn't for the way the economy is, for us being a little bit in the downtimes with our business, we'd certainly love to help. I've heard that more than, No, we're not interested in you because you win too much or because your personality is not what we're looking at. I've heard more about the ROI than anything.
Q. Speaking of the wedding, what can you tell us about details there? When, where? If you happen to win the Chase, will the flower arrangements be more spiffy?
KYLE BUSCH: It's already out there that it's New Year's Eve in Chicago. I'm sure I'll be getting some un-invitetees to the wedding. It's a day planned for myself, my future bride to be, family members, close relatives, stuff like that.
Really I'm not sure the informatives need to be disclosed.
Q. So many drivers in recent years are so obsessed with winning the Cup championship, they say things like, I'd win it without winning a race. You probably are the clearest example of somebody who is interested in winning races one race at a time. Are you as fixated on a points championship maybe as some of these other guys are or is your focus more on one Saturday, one Sunday at a time, win that thing?
KYLE BUSCH: It's both. I mean, you want to win every week because you know if you win every week, then the championship is going to be there for you. On the days where you don't quite have the winning car, you haven't quite hit it, or somebody hit it better than you, you have to take what you can get in this aspect with the final 10 races.
To be honest with you, if I could, I would probably give up the 81 wins that I have to win this championship this year, to be known as a Sprint Cup Series champion, and then to be able to go back after the race wins after that, at least be able to get a championship out of the way.
If it came down to the end of my career where I had 200 plus wins I'm shooting for and I didn't have a championship, people asked me, Would you give up all those wins for a championship? I'd say no because I wouldn't be able to go back out there and try to rally those wins back up.
If I could give it up now, I would, in order to try to win the races back. That's how I kind of play it.
DENIS MALOOF: Kyle, thanks very much for your time today. It is much appreciated by all of us. Best of luck this weekend at the Monster Mile.
KYLE BUSCH: No problem. Looking forward to running well.
DENIS MALOOF: For all of you who are on the line, we appreciate your participation and we will see you again next week.
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