NASCAR Media Conference
August 16, 2005
DANIEL PASSE: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to the NASCAR Nextel teleconference. Thank you very much for joining us once again. Some housekeeping notes as we head back to Michigan. This week's Nextel Wake Up Call will take place on Friday, August 19 at 10:30 a.m. in the media center. The guest will be Jamie McMurray. Today we are joined give Kyle Busch, driver of the #5 Kellogg's Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. After last week in Sirius at the Glen, Kyle was 20th in the 2005 NASCAR Nextel Cup points standings. Kyle's first full year in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup series competition has certainly been eventful: He's got five Top-5s, eight Top-10s, and a pole, and he's certainly the favorite to be the 2005 Raybestos Rookie of the Year. Kyle remains to be active in the Busch Series winning a race at Lowe's Motor Speedway as well as chalking up two wins in the Craftman Truck Series, one at Lowe's and one at Dover. Now, Kyle, you've had some great runs this season, including a ninth place in the spring Michigan race. What do you think of the Michigan track, and how do you think the Kellogg's team will do there this weekend?
KYLE BUSCH: Well, I enjoy going to Michigan. It's a fun facility to get to, especially with the two-mile radius that it has and the way the corners are laid out with 18 degrees, I believe, with banking in them. It's somewhat similar to California Speedway where I was able to pick up my first pole of the season earlier this year. But Michigan, you know, you said we finished ninth place there in the springtime, and I think going back we're going to have a little bit better knowledge of what we need to do better this time around with tire conservation and things like that. I know they are bringing in a different right side tire for us. Goodyear has been going a great job with the tires this year and the Kellogg's team has been awesome as far as giving equipment we can run up front with. It's all about trying to put those pieces together and finishing out the race so we can end up up front.
Q. Kyle, I want to talk about young drivers, especially those like we had sign this week that was 15 years old. Are we signing -- and you would be the perfect guy to ask because you signed when you were young. Are we signing drivers too young today for them to know exactly what's going to happen before they ever get into a NASCAR car or truck?
KYLE BUSCH: Well, I guess it depends on exactly what they are signing. Some kids nowadays who are 15, 16, 17 years old that are underneath the 18 age bracket, they all have to have parent permission or the parents also have to sign, as well, too, the guardian. It's one of those deals where I was younger when I was 16 running in Craftsman truck series, I had never signed any document. We were doing it all on kind of a handshake deal and as soon as I got to the Hendrick Motorsports and the NASCAR Busch Series ARCA program they put me under, I was 18 years of age and old enough to sign for myself. Like you said as far as if they are too young or not, it does not necessarily matter; what they are getting into, you're not really sure, because it's all about what's written within that contract. If they are signing something that's written in there that says they are not exactly sure what they are going to be doing after two years, there's really not a point to be signing anything.
Q. Should there be a limit? You know, NASCAR while you were racing at Fontana changed the rule to 18 years old. Should there be an age limit as, in other sports, before a team can sign a driver?
KYLE BUSCH: I'm not necessarily sure on that. You know, as far as my opinion goes, I would say that it doesn't really matter. You know, if a driver, a young kid, 12, 15 years old, whatever, wants to sign with a big-name team, then more power to him. Just means he's been recognized at a young age and he's got the ability there that the team has been looking for. It just kind of secures his future, if you will, and he's able to just be able to set his racing career more forward knowing that he has a direction that he's heading in. So it might be a little bit easier for somebody that young.
Q. And a final question; it seems the way you and your family did it was the perfect way.
KYLE BUSCH: Well, I'm not necessarily sure it was the perfect way. Circumstances just kind of fell about the way that it did and it was able to be the right direction for myself at that time. So you know, I'm ecstatic at how everything came about for myself and being able to run the races I did. Of course being now with Hendrick Motorsports and the support they have and the NEXTEL Cup Series, it's just one of those dreams that came through. It wasn't necessarily a plan; it was just kind of the way it fell together.
Q. Kyle, working out of the same shot on the Hendrick campus, you guys are both doing so well, what's that done for you being under the same roof and being close together and kind of having your own facility?
KYLE BUSCH: Well, I think the leadership skills from Mr. Hendrick and of course Brian wise he will, too, has really brought together the 5/25 teams. The 24/48 started that a few years ago in their building that they have, and were really successful with it. Of course, Brian Weitzel was the main guy there, as well, too. 5 and 25 were in separate buildings down the hill a little bit next to the chassis shop. Just this year we were able to move into our new building Mr. Hendrick built for us and it was an amazing facility to be under. I think it does a lot for the guys. They have a better mind set going into work every day; that they are in such a top-notch facility; and the team owner not only carries about the driver and the cars, but as well as the team in order to give all of the guys a great place to work. You know, just all of the leadership skills that Brian Weitzel brings into it, he just puts all the people in the right places, and I think that's what the biggest deal is, why we've been so successful this year. We've moved some people around from the 25 to the 5 team and from the 5 to the 25 team, as well as the Busch team last year. So you just go about all of the personnel in the complex and try to fit them into the best place possible and that's how it worked out.
Q. Do you share information when you're sitting right next to each other?
KYLE BUSCH: Oh, definitely. It's a heck of a lot easier now that everybody is in the same shop because now all of the engineers are in the same room throughout the whole day instead of having to run across the street to everybody's building and whatever else. So it's easier as far as everybody's workload goes, as far as everybody's mind set, getting into everything. And also, you know, the team engineers that we have between the two teams, there's a couple of guys there that just work strictly with the 25 and the 5, as well as another guy that works with all four or when Terry runs all five teams. So it's great to have all of those personnel in place.
Q. Are there a few unexpected lessons that you have learned during your rookie year in NASCAR Nextel Cup racing?
KYLE BUSCH: There's been a few, not necessarily sure how to name them or what exactly about -- what certain situations they came from, but there's been a lot. Of course, all the immediate can a time and stuff like that, things that you do off the racetrack, of course. As far as on-the-racetrack stuff, I've learned a little bit more patience and perseverance and things like that that you need to be able to produce results throughout the longer races and things like that. It's been great as far as being able to work with the team and work with Alan Gustafson, my crew chief, and Brian Weitzel, the team manager. The whole team has done an awesome job this year as far as putting cars together and getting great equipment lined up throughout the whole and a couple races to go. Everybody has just been trying to get those last results of the race, and it's not necessarily anything that we do. It's just bad luck that it just keeps coming about for us and we're not exactly sure what we've got to do to change that around a little bit.
Q. Can you talk about Alan and how you guys have meshed this year?
KYLE BUSCH: It's been great. Alan and myself were two young guys that are just eager to go out there and do well and do the best we can week-in and week-out. We want to win races, of course, but we know that takes a little bit of time, and we'll get there sooner or later, hoping that sooner is quicker than later of course. It's been a great experience to be able to work with him. I've actually worked with a ton of crew chiefs throughout my racing career, and the other greatest crew chief that I've probably worked with was Brian Patty a couple of years ago who is from Florida, as well as Alan is from Florida, too. So I'm not sure what's going on down in Florida for crew chiefs, but they have been pretty good to me so far. It's been good. Alan and myself we worked well from the beginning part of the year. Daytona is one of those races you go into and just kind of survive and get out of there. And the first race of the year we were able to sit on the pole at California and finish second at Las Vegas and we've moved on through the year trying different things and working on a setup that will work for us. We found a couple things and nips and tricks that work for us, but not necessarily as quick as the 20 car has been lately. We just need to find a bit of an edge that will get us up that much further on the competition.
Q. Does he seem older than his age, than the age on his birth certificate?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, definitely. We both are sometimes, but we both aren't other times, you know. When we're together playing video games or something in the coach, you know, I'll act like I'm probably 15 and he'll act like he's 20 or something like that. We can definitely have a good time with each other and mess around and whatnot. But when it comes down to business, we definitely know what needs to be done and when neither one of us does something wrong, we'll sit each other down the following day or within the next week or whatever just to kind of discuss the things that went on throughout past weekend or whatnot and kind of get it out of our hair.
Q. It's my understanding that Brian basically works with you and the 25 car; right?
KYLE BUSCH: That is correct.
Q. Are you scared that with the way things are going on the other side of the compound there that they are going to take him away from you guys?
KYLE BUSCH: I'm not sure that's a heck of a question for Mr. Hendrick, I'll tell you that. As far as I'm concerned, throughout this whole year, I don't know what it's been, but all the Hendrick cars have run well in their races. It's just circumstances that keep taking us out of the running for either wins or Top-5s or Top-10s or whatever the situation may be. As far as the 5 camp and what I've been concerned with is we've been running up front. I mean, we can run within the Top-10, within the Top-5, and it's just certain things that come about. Take it from this weekend at Watkins Glenn, for instance. I was running in the 13th position there late in the race probably for 20-something laps, and there's eight laps to go and the driver screws up and wheelhouse gets in the corner and spins out. I mean, that's just something that I did or it was bad luck or whatever else, you know, I'm not sure exactly what happened there. But we were not able to finish up in the 13th position which probably could have moved us up a couple of positions in the point standings. You go back to Sears Point earlier in the year where we had a transmission break on us coming out of pit row. It's just one of those deals that just keep happening to us.
Q. It just seems like Brian is kind of camera shy and he may be the best kept secret in racing. Would you kind of agree with that?
KYLE BUSCH: I would agree with that. Brian Weitzel is just one of those guys that he's all about business. He comes to the racetrack thinking about race cars; he leaves the racetrack thinking about race cars. He goes home probably thinking about race cars and working on team personnel, what maybe he can do different or what maybe he can do better in order to help the team situation and everybody's morale and all that kind of stuff, and then he comes back to the shop and he puts all of his thoughts into effect. He's just one of those guys that never stops working on whatever needs to be concentrated on.
Q. With the talk about the advantages of the multi-car teams, are there anything that you've seen from your perspective that's a disadvantage or an obstacle with the multi-car setup?
KYLE BUSCH: The only problem with the multi-car teams is when you guys are all working so much together that everybody is running the same setup pretty much, and it comes down to the end of the race and you have to race that guy. That's the only bad part about it is because when they have your setup you know it's going to be hard to beat. Other than that, everything's been great as far as being able to work with Hendrick Motorsports and Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Brian Vickers and Terry Labonte. It's nice to be able to have all of those guys, all of their experience in order to work from and in order to work with for my rookie year. It's made it easier on me than it would most rookies probably because we could go to them and kind of get some ideas as far as setup and things like that. But Alan has done an awesome job for me this year. He's actually come up with a lot of the ideas that some of the other teams are running; the 24 has been running somewhat similar to us and the 48 kind of always does their own deal and we go to them sometimes. But Alan, the crew chief, has done a great job for me this year.
Q. You touched on something I want to ask about with Terry Labonte. What's his role been with Hendrick Motorsports since he's just running a limited schedule?
KYLE BUSCH: His role has actually been pretty important because he's actually able to go test some of the racetracks that we are not -- we could go test at them, but they are not one of the necessary tracks we would like to go test at. We want to save our tracks for the ones we most struggle at or whatnot. I think that's one of the biggest deals that Terry has been helping us with is he'll go test somewhere and he'll really come back with some great data and things like that and be able to put it to use for all of the teams, of course. He goes and does motor tests, as well as chassis and body tests and things like that. So we're able to learn quite a bite from the 44 team and what all they have been able to do.
Q. Were you surprised about Kurt going to Penske as everyone else, and how is he holding up?
KYLE BUSCH: I was just as surprised as everybody else because I was actually nowhere in the loop. I never heard anything about it until actually the day it came out. I think Kurt is just looking for a change of pace. He was really fortunate to be able to sign with Roush Racing and work with them over the past seven years, I believe. He's had some great successes, and I know he's not quitting one bit from what he's been able to do at that team. He's been able to work with Jimmy Fenning and grow with Jimmy Fenning as far as being like a father/son relationship, or even a brother relationship, and they are going out and trying to win the championship this year as well as next year. So with his move over to Penske, it was definitely a shocker. I knew that he was looking for a change, but I wasn't necessarily sure when exactly it was going to be or where it was going to be, too. So I wish him all of best success the in the world, finishing out this year next year and on.
Q. There's a conversation about Kurt and where he's going and where you ended up, you had many options, too, when you chose to go to Hendrick. Can you talk about the value of a Rick Hendrick kind of relationship; that people always say drivers go for the money, but in the end, how is it working with him; and when you look at the situation of signing for the money versus somebody, who will sort of be someone you can kind of rely on as a father?
KYLE BUSCH: That's exactly it. You know, I think that Kurt was able to grow close closely with his team and Jimmy Fenning, but he wasn't necessarily on the same page as Jack Roush. So that might be one of the reasons he might be stepping over a little bit. It has nothing to do with money. Kurt and I aren't into the business racing for money. We are in this business to race for pride and put our names in record books and things like that. The money is all great and all, but that's not the whole point of being here. We race spending all kinds of money going broke back in the day racing mobile short tracks and stuff like that just because we enjoyed it and we loved racing and we wanted to make it further up. Every time you want it make it further up, you're not thinking about money. You're thinking about pride and fame and trying to get your name set in record books, things like that. As far as everything that's gone on, we just keep stepping back and looking as far as how we can grow a relationship with our owners and things like that and just kind of enjoy the time that we've been there and being able to spend there. I'm ecstatic that I'm able to be at Hendrick Motorsports and Rick, and I have been discussing a lot of things here lately, and one of those is how long exactly I want to be here. I'm not anywhere near leaving. I'm stuck here probably till I retire. I wouldn't imagine racing for anybody else but Rick. He's just one of the greatest guys that I've been able to work with and that I've heard from as well, too.
Q. People don't leave Hendrick Motorsports the way we have seen other teams most recently with Kurt and other drivers. Why is that? I know I've asked you about Rick before and you've given me an answer; what would make you think about staying there for the?
KYLE BUSCH: Rick Hendrick and the way he runs his organization. It's just tremendous, and the opportunity that he gives like myself and Brian Vickers and Jeff Gordon when he was younger and Jimmie Johnson when we had won only one Busch race. He brings us in here and knows we have the talent in order to do it and puts the equipment in front of us and says, here go out and have it, we are able out and run and be successful and win races and stuff like that. Rick knows, also, that when you tear up equipment or you wreck some things, stuff like that, that's all about growing experiences. When NASCAR makes all of their rule changes and things from year-to-year, you have to learn a new driving style sometimes on how to exactly go about racing those cars and things. So you know there's going to be those situations in the beginning or middle of the year that you are not exactly familiar with. Being able to race here and not knowing of any driver that's ever left, I mean, you've had your Geoff Bodines, you've had your Ricky Rudds', Joe Nemechek and everybody else like that, Jerry Nadeau; I bet you they would never have wanted to step out of a situation they were in unless they thought that they had a better situation elsewhere. So maybe that's why they went on with their own deal.
Q. Well, the question is, is Rick sort of -- you hear about players' coaches, is he kind of a players' owner or is there something that he does beyond -- you can go talk to him, knock on his door, what is it?
KYLE BUSCH: You can call him up, walk into his office any time you want; he don't care. That's just one of the kind of guys he is. It's not necessarily that he's a drivers' owner or we're stuck in our contracts or things like that. We want to be here. It not necessarily that we want to go anywhere else.
Q. So you sort of feel like you're part of the family versus just working for him?
KYLE BUSCH: Oh, exactly that.
Q. You've been very up front about how you feel about your situation. You are definitely the forefront of the next generation of drivers. Do you see this as becoming a trend in the future, and not talking about yourself now, but that drivers, now that this has started as in other sports, it's been going on for decades, that this will become a trend in NASCAR?
KYLE BUSCH: What trend would that be?
Q. That drivers are just a little quicker these days perhaps to change teams for whatever reason.
KYLE BUSCH: I'm not necessarily sure on that. I mean, if you get into a deal where you're happy where you're at and you're set and you're doing the things that you want to do and people are doing things for you that you want them to do, there's really no other thing -- no other way or why or where you would want to go, really. It's just all about getting those people into places and things like that. So it's been great as far as my aspect of being here, Hendrick Motorsports. I've been able to work with a ton of people here, 500-something people strong, that are all achieving, trying to achieve one goal, and that's to be No. 1 and win races. And you have it in any other team, but it's more of a close-knit team here at Hendrick Motorsports where everybody knows everybody's first name and it's all about trying to go up to them and discuss with them things about how to make it better.
DANIEL PASSE: Thank you, Kyle, for joining us. Good luck this weekend in Michigan. Thank you everybody for your participation. We'll speak to you all next week.
KYLE BUSCH: I appreciate it very much, and thank all the media members for joining today on the NEXTEL teleconference and we'll look forward to doing it again soon.
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