NASCAR Preseason Fan Festival
January 16, 2009
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
HERB BRANHAM: We're joined by the driver of the #18 M&M's Toyota, Kyle Busch. Outstanding year last year, now you're coming into the Daytona 500. What's the confidence level for you and your team coming in?
KYLE BUSCH: Well, we're really looking forward to it, and I think we've got a good shot to really run strong and to run well, especially in the 500, the way our restrictor plate program was last year, running here at Daytona, finishing fourth, winning at Talladega and Daytona in the July race and then back to Talladega in the fall we would run strong again and barely got caught up in that wreck. But still for the whole year feel like we've got a good program and a solid effort to get rolling here for 2009.
HERB BRANHAM: And like Carl, running both the Sprint Cup series and Nationwide, full schedule.
KYLE BUSCH: Yes, we're going to run the full Nationwide and the full Cup schedule. That's what's planned. If things change we might trickle back a little bit, but probably not. And 12 to 14 Camping World Truck Series races and about 10 to 12 late model races of my own team.
Q. Did it take any appreciable amount of time for you to get the finish to last season out of your system?
KYLE BUSCH: Not really. Pretty much as soon as it was over, it was over. I was glad it was over. You know, we even put the exclamation point on the season there at Homestead trying to finish the last fuel run there without stopping, and we let it run out of gas. That just sort of finished it off for us. Went into the off-season forgetting about everything and looking forward to what we can restart and rebound with hopefully this year and try to get some luck back on our side.
Q. After you and Steve and everyone kind of analyzed how last season transpired, what, if anything, do you do to end up with a different outcome from two thirds of the way through to the end of the season?
KYLE BUSCH: Well, the first two thirds went really well. We were actually a lot better than probably anyone would have thought, and a lot of people pretty much wrote us as the champions of the year, but things just fell apart from there. All we had to do was carry on what we did all year, and we just couldn't do that. We looked back at Loudon, and we're going to say that we shouldn't have made the changes on Sunday morning that we did, the change in the length of the sway bar arm and the length that the angle of the dangle didn't fit together, it ended up pulling apart.
Then you look at Dover, you can't really change much about Dover. It was the same engine package we pretty much ran all year long, we had a failure, and then we went to Kansas and we saw the first fuel-carburetor-related-type problem that we had all year long, actually that AGR has ever had, and still don't know what's wrong with it. We tested everything from the carburetor to the fuel cell to the engine and still never really found the exact problem. From there the season was sort of back to normal. We've had a little bit of good luck, a little bit of bad luck. The Martinsvilles, the Loudons, the Phoenixes, the Poconos, we've got to work on those flat tracks. I think we're a little bit behind on braking and being able to turn the car and we did a little testing here at New Smyrna to try to fix a little bit of that, and we have a test planned at Rockingham to try to learn some more.
Q. Just curious, have you ever named any of your favorite race cars?
KYLE BUSCH: Back in my early days we did a little bit, but not since I've been in the Cup level. Actually, no, I'm wrong, we did, at the 5 team. One of them was -- now I'm going to forget -- "Twisted Sister" was one of them. I'm trying to think of the other one. It had a skull and cross bones on it. I don't remember. It was some badass racecar that we had. It wasn't "The Predator," but it was something close to that. Then there was a third one that we called "Cousin It." It wasn't a sister of "Twisted Sister" but it was a cousin to her, so those were sort of the three cars that we had. Ask Allen Gustafson. Maybe he'll remember the one name.
Q. Do you have names for the bad cars?
KYLE BUSCH: No, they're cut up and thrown away or maybe made into show cars.
Q. It's said that race car drivers never stop learning -- actually everybody should never stop learning, but what did you learn most from last season that you could identify?
KYLE BUSCH: Well, I learned that the good times are easy, and when you're running well and you have luck on your side and things are going great. Sometimes during the first 26 races it was just easy to win a race. I mean, it's never easy in the Cup Series to win races, but some of them just fell. It was like, man, that shouldn't have been that easy, and you know, some of them were harder than others, and yet in the Chase we couldn't find our butt with both hands.
When you lose luck, it just changes everything it feels like. When it's all on your side and you're going, it just makes it feel so easy like you're invincible. But the biggest thing that we learned was just for me to work on the bad days. I'm terrible at them. I just can't accept running bad, can't accept stuff falling apart and not being able to challenge for a win every week.
Q. Hope you haven't been asked this before, but a while ago it was mentioned the possibility of you and Carl Edwards having a really good rivalry in the Nationwide Series and how good it would be for that circuit, maybe it even spilling over into Cup. How do you see the prospects of that happening?
KYLE BUSCH: I'm sure it's going to be there. Both of us were the top two in the end of the Nationwide Series here last year, and with Jimmie joining the forces we were the top three in the Cup Series pretty much the whole year. I think it's going to be a lot between Carl and I in both the Cup and Nationwide hopefully, and of course I'm sure Jimmie and Jeff and Dale and Biffle, Kenseth, all the guys that you see run well week in and week out in the Cup Series, I'm sure it will be between all of us here. Keselowski looked really well at the end of last year, he was strong, and there was a few other Nationwide guys that looked like they had something going on that they could contend with every week, too.
Q. Can you reflect on this race last February, having the best car in the race for part of the race and having a pretty good chance to win it, and what would it mean to get it done this year?
KYLE BUSCH: I mean, it would mean anything. Any time you come down here you want to win the race. Unfortunately last year towards the end of the race things were going crazy, there was cautions and restarts and everything and everybody getting jumbled up and back and forth and every which way. There was a point there, I think it was 30 to go, we were coming to the final green flag stop of the night, and I don't know if we were leading or second or third or what, but if we could have just gone through the green flag, pit stop, come out of that, gone and raced to the end, green flag, we had a legitimate shot of being able to win the race, just walking away with it. But that didn't come about and we had cautions. Sort of mixed things up, brought a lot of people back into the race, guys that were running mid-pack most of the day, ill handling when the sun went down, made it easier for them to run faster and keep the cars wide open and being able to run short runs like that. You can run the cars 20 laps wide open, but anybody who can do that after 20 laps, those are the cars that showed up, and that was our car. It would mean everything to try to win the race, and that's what we're going to try to do this year.
Q. Another Nationwide question: You said as of right now you're going to run the full schedule; what would keep you from running the whole thing?
KYLE BUSCH: Same thing as last year, just right at Milwaukee, Infineon, doing that trip. If you're too far behind in the Nationwide schedule, just skip out on it, forget about it. I mean, if we feel like there's something that's taken from our Cup effort that we're not able to do what we need to do on that side, we'll cut back on the Nationwide program. We've got some leeway in there. There's a couple races that I think J.D. didn't sell that we're just going to put like Gibbs Racing Oil on it or something like that that's our own sponsor, so we've got some room that we can play around with if we want to.
Q. Your maturity over the last year and a half has been nothing short of amazing. You've really, really grown up, and I'm wondering --
KYLE BUSCH: I know, thanks (laughter).
Q. Have you actually had time to sit down and reflect, or who helped you, or did you do this all your year? It's really been a remarkable change over the last year and a half?
KYLE BUSCH: Well, don't get caught up too much in Jeff Dickerson, but I guess you can give him a little bit of the credit for it. Him and I, more so working together and dealing with each other on a daily basis -- I was down in Aruba for eight days and three of those days him and I were on the phone for about two hours. It's just been a part of growing up and maturing a little bit, understanding a little bit more about racing, about life, about different things, about sponsors, about what it takes to make this sport go around, owning my own team. Just like Harvick, he was a bull in a China shop, out of control, too, until he started owning his own team and sort of settled down a little bit.
So understanding a lot of the business aspects, just I think makes you grow up a little faster.
Q. You said maybe one of the biggest things you have to work on is the bad days and dealing with that. This last season you won 25 percent of your races, which is pretty phenomenal. Assuming that '09 won't be the same, what kind of a challenge is it going to be to deal with less than what you accomplished last year?
KYLE BUSCH: That's a challenge. That's probably the biggest challenge I'll have this year is not being as successful as 2008. I would say that five wins in the Cup Series would be good, ten in the Nationwide and five in the Trucks. That's what I look towards every year. That's 20 races right there. That's one less than what we had. Anything more than that would be great. But the way everybody caught up in the -- I just wanted to win one of three races last year, and last year in the Cup Series we won eight. Anything else you get is obviously a bonus to the year, and all we can do is try to work our hardest and work our best to try to make sure that that happens.
Q. Some of the series you came up through like Hooters Cup is gone, ASA is not what it was. Is it going to be harder for younger drivers to find that mid-level oval track experience they need to move over to NASCAR and to try to get some attention because even what's left is not on TV?
KYLE BUSCH: It is, it really is. That's a great question. I mean, the biggest thing that I'm trying to do is help the short-track world with -- racing my late models and stuff and taking them around to different areas, trying to bring people out to the racetrack to show them that not just because the Cup driver is there but you can have a great time at the local short tracks, you can see some great racing, and the more people you get in the grandstands on a weekly basis the more sponsors are going to be on those race cars or at those racetracks, so the more money will be spent.
But the way the economy is, everything is not that great. Hooters broke up, thankfully somebody bought them. I think they're going to run some races. It's not going to be Hooters Pro Cup anymore, but they'll be there at least. Like you said, ASA is gone. The only other series are late model series. You've got Fast Car down here in the south, you've got the Blizzard series at Pensacola, you've got a couple series in the Midwest, the ASA Midwest tour, you've got the ASA north and south tour, you've got the ASA Challenge series -- Bob Dillner has got a really good site up, Speed51.com, you can look at all the racing around the country and all the talent that's coming up, and it's hard to find a series to put people in because they're falling out. But there's so many great names now in those different series that are available that it's getting tougher and tougher to win in those, so you know that the guys winning in those are doing something, so it'll either work out or it won't, and the only thing we can do is hope that the short track racing still stays and we can get operators and series officials and stuff to make something happen like the national tour was a few years ago, because that was great. Getting Speed involved on that, instead of showing these damn Pinks and all that crap, putting some more racing back on the TV, that would be fun. And Low Rider, whatever that show is, I don't even know.
Q. Have you thought about going on Pinks yourself, showing up there with a car?
KYLE BUSCH: No, I don't need to go on Pinks. What's that new show? Is it individual La Vida Guerrero or something, Living the Low Life; some show about low riders and guys with hydraulics and crap like that. There's a market for that, I guess, but racing isn't too popular anymore.
Q. You know you answered Mike's question about your maturity and all, but on the racetrack how do you think you'll be different this year than maybe you've been in the past?
KYLE BUSCH: I don't know. I mean, I really don't want to change much on the racetrack. People always like to say that it's exciting that they love watching the racing because I'm involved in it. They're paying more attention to the Nationwide Series and to the Truck Series because I'm in them. I don't really want to change that for the sake of the race fans. Maybe the Dale, Jr. fans want me to change a little bit so I don't wreck their driver as much, but I think the rest of the fan base out there want to see somebody that makes it exciting. Hopefully Tony Stewart this year with his new team can make it exciting, or Carl Edwards, of course. He's always worth some good races, of course, and anybody else out there that wants to get down and dirty and grind up on each other.
Q. What's your take on how, I guess, competitor is not the right word, but how viable the Camping World Series will be, the Truck Series this year?
KYLE BUSCH: Again, good question. There's series that are having tough times on getting full car counts, and the Truck Series I foresee being one of those. I only count 14 full-time trucks right now. And the Nationwide Series I haven't counted and in the Cup Series I think it's been listed only 37 or 36 teams have sponsors for the whole year or something.
You know, it's tough anywhere, but you know, the Camping World Truck Series is a great series to learn in, and now that they're going to bigger tracks and faster speeds and with Harvick being as good as he is in that series with Hornaday and whoever is going to drive the other one or two or however many he puts out there, I'm going to be curious to see what young guys can run in that series.
As far as the Nationwide Series goes, again, it's another great series, and with the Gibbs bunch as good as they were last year, how good are they going to be this year, what the competition is going to be like, what Erik Darnell is going to be able to come into the part time Roush deal, what he's going to be able to do coming from the Truck Series ranks, Colin Braun, same thing. All the sponsors want Cup drivers, they're not getting the time they need behind the wheel to come into their own and be somebody. It's hard, I guess, and hopefully this year we've got Brad Coleman coming on board at Gibbs again. Hopefully he can do something in the races that he runs where sponsors will want to recognize and work with him a little bit.
I was proud of him and really impressed with him not last year but the year before when he was with the Gibbs stuff running really well and finishing second at Kentucky and a couple other great runs that he had. I think he deserves more of a shot behind the wheel.
Q. Having seen both sides of the Truck Series, I guess, as an up-and-coming driver and then coming back as a veteran and just really racing because you like it, how does the series reinvent or redefine itself to get the counts back up to draw more fans in at the track as well as more viewers, particularly since they put on a good brand of racing?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, that's a great question. I mean, it should be simple. People should go out and watch the races because they put on great racing in the Camping World Truck Series.
Also, you know, the young new talent that should come up through that series, you know, it's just -- I think a lot of it is sponsor dollars, of course. You know, with Speed, there's a lot of people that carry Speed, but it's not a national television channel. It's not easy to -- I don't know if you have to subscribe to it or pay for it or what, but sponsors want to be in the upper echelon of racing, and that's the NASCAR Sprint Cup series, and you're having problems finding sponsors for that series, so it's going to trickle down the line.
The Camping World Truck Series, you can get around running that series for two and a half, $3 million. You're not going to be the cleanest, best stuff out there but you're going to have five trucks and be able to run every race, sure. That's what we try to do with Billy's deal. Every year we end up spending about $5 million and end up putting him further in debt. We're trying to get more sponsors to step up to the plate. Fortunately we've got Miccosukee again next year. They've been great for us, stepping up and doing that, and we can only hope other businesses and places come up to try to sponsor the deal.
Q. At the risk of sounding blasphemous, but could you see a scenario where smaller fields might be a way to get through a tough period?
KYLE BUSCH: Absolutely. There's nothing in the rule book that states you have to have 43 Cup cars or 43 Nationwide cars or 36 trucks. The thing you sacrifice is better racing. You don't have as many vehicles out there. But even so, when you're putting fuel fillers out there the racing is not great. You're still going to have those guys that are falling out after two or three laps, just starting and parking. But still, I feel like the Truck Series is going to have -- I think it's going to have 14 to 15 good trucks that legitimately 10 of them can win every week, and then the Nationwide Series has got more than that, Cup Series has more than that.
You know, right now it's just all about trying to get the right people in the right places. There's so many people now that are out of work, Cup guys that are Cup fabricators or Cup engineers that could go to a Nationwide team, maybe work for a little less money but bring that Nationwide team up to a better level, so it all kind of works out and mixes it differently.
Q. I thought of this earlier, and it slipped my mind, but your hometown guy, Alex Haas, you've been working with him, and he appears to be one of the brighter up-and-coming kids; what's the schedule for him look like for '09?
KYLE BUSCH: Good question. We're looking for something for Alex to do. This year he ran in the Pass South Tour and we won the championship there. Really where is there to move him up to, is the Camping World East Series with NASCAR, but I've got one car, and I don't have any money to run him with.
The late model program last year, we spent $1.3 million on that, and this year if I did a Camping World deal, to buy the equipment, to buy the cars and all that stuff, I'd spend another $1 million plus whatever it took to race all the races.
He's going to run the Irvingdale race that's going to be on Speed next week for the Toyota All-Star Showdown. He'll be out there. We've got two or three other races planned for him right now, but other than that we might run the Pass South Series again or some part time stuff with some bigger races, some more national exposured races.
HERB BRANHAM: Kyle, thanks so much. Best of luck at the Daytona 500.
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