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NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Food City 500

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  Food City 500

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Food City 500

Steve Addington
Kyle Busch
Joe Gibbs
March 22, 2009


BRISTOL, TENNESSEE

KERRY THARP: We're going to roll right into our race-winning team here at the Food City 500. We're pleased to be joined up at the podium now by our race winner, Kyle Busch, his crew chief Steve Addington. Joe Gibbs is making his way up here. Congratulations.
Kyle, that 18 car you had running out there was very strong throughout the course of the day. Your pit stops looked flawless. Your thoughts about your performance today.
KYLE BUSCH: It was a good day for us. The Snickers Toyota was really fast. We knew it was fast. We knew it was going to be a good racecar coming here from our performance last fall. We fine-tuned on it a little bit here and there. We need to work on the qualifying package a little bit.
Ultimately, it doesn't really matter where you start here. You have to bide your time, take it easy when you have a car that's good. It was a very satisfying day today. We had a great run there. We really enjoyed it. So hopefully all the Mars family is happy today. Bringing home the Snickers brand to Victory Lane was cool.
KERRY THARP: Steve, how did things look up top the pit box today?
STEVE ADDINGTON: It was really nerve-wracking. The 11 car and the 48 car, they had really good racecars. I knew it was going to come down to it. We got behind on that one pit stop there. Made me a little nervous because if you're out front, you can get going. I takes a lot to pass somebody.
But had a good enough racecar to go up there and pass Denny back for second and get back by Jimmie there and get the lead back.
KERRY THARP: Coach Gibbs, got to feel good about the performance of this 18 team and your 11 team, all your other teams. But certainly that 18 team today, very strong.
JOE GIBBS: I was thinking back to we've been pretty strong here for a number of races, but I'm not so sure we even finished in the top 10. Maybe Denny got a sixth or something. We had such a struggle here. This is a tough place to win a race. It's long, a lot of laps, a lot of things can happen. We really appreciate today. I tell you, I guess it gives you a better appreciation for things when it's so hard to win one.
It was a great day for Snickers. Denny was sitting there with FedEx in second. I love that. But it shows you the whole range of emotions. Joey blows up there with eight to go and I was sick. He caused a caution. Now we bunch everything up. Everything's running through your mind. I was extremely nervous there. I feel horrible for Joey, for Home Depot. Wound up being a great day for Kyle, Snickers, and Denny finishing second was great. It was a big day for us.
KERRY THARP: We'll take questions for Coach Gibbs, Kyle and Steve.

Q. Kyle, your phenomenal success in the last two years winning a lot of races, people are starting to compare you to Earnhardt the Elder, your style, the way you drive, very aggressive, very up front. Have you noticed as you continue to win more you're picking up more fans? Is it reflected in your souvenir sales, the reactions you get? How important is that to you?
KYLE BUSCH: Well, I haven't really paid attention a whole lot to the souvenir sales and stuff. I really don't care about that stuff. I'm not out there to be No. 1. We all know who No. 1 is and forever will be.
To me, I go out there to win races, to be No. 1 on the racetrack. That's where I feel like I win, where my benefit is. You know, to go out there and to have Steve Addington and Joe Gibbs, Mars Company, everybody that works so hard to make this program happen is what it all boils down to.
For me, I don't think I would enjoy having the most fans out there. I actually like the way I am, the role I portray. And I think that there's probably too much pressure on one guy's shoulders who doesn't seem to win very often. But for us, it's a blast to go out there and do what we do. Today the Snickers Toyota was good enough.

Q. Kyle, with what happened here last August, with you having a dominant racecar, then what happened yesterday, what was going through your mind with 50 laps to go? Any thought that anything could happen?
KYLE BUSCH: There definitely is. Especially when we were gaining on all those lap cars with like 30 to go. You never know if a lap car's gonna turn another lap car and spin in front of you and you're going to T-bone the guy or whatever. You never know what's gonna happen. That's what so tricky about this racetrack. That's what makes it so fun when you do win here, you know all the things that can happen.
We had a good racecar today. When we got behind on pit road there, we drove back up through, like Steve said, we passed Denny after a few laps, then we passed Jimmie when he got in traffic a little bit. Traffic was just real tough. Everyone runs equal side by side, it's so hard to get by guys.
Yesterday was yesterday. We put that behind us. Yeah, it was very frustrating. It's one you'll never get back. It's lost, gone. The trophy is not at my house. It's at Harvick's. We looked forward to today. Everybody put their job from yesterday behind them but thought about how to make today better and not have those same mistakes happen again.

Q. Steve, is there any carryover from yesterday's guys to today's guys, the crew guys?
STEVE ADDINGTON: The tire changers and one carrier. I think that's it.
KYLE BUSCH: I think the jack man and the rear carrier are different. The fuel guys are different.
STEVE ADDINGTON: Fuel guys are different. It's just the tire changers and one tire carrier that works on the Nationwide side.

Q. Jimmie and Denny were saying first guy off pit road is probably the guy who is going to win off that last pit stop. Any irony in yesterday you lost it on pit road, today you win it?
KYLE BUSCH: I told the guys, they knew about it. The second to last stop when we went from second to Denny, we went from second to third, I told the ladies to man up, get the job done on the last stop, which they did. I'm proud of 'em for doing that. When the time mattered most, they got the job done.
You'll have those days. You'll have some days where the guys on pit road just have an off day. I have off days. I wrecked in Vegas for no reason 25 laps into the Nationwide race. Yesterday was one of those days and it cost us a chance at a win. Today was a good day today where everybody did their job and the last stop was smooth. It's what made it happen.

Q. (Question regarding the problems in last year's race.)
KYLE BUSCH: It was a teammate behind me, so I was hoping he was going to be good, not get into me anything like that, what happened last year.
I've got full belief in Denny, trust him. So it was a great race for us. If it came down to it the reverse way, if I couldn't get by him clean, I wouldn't try too hard to make it worse for the both of us.
So that's how it always was at Hendrick. That's how it always should be with teammates. Fortunately he let us have this one today. He'll have many more down the road hopefully. I feel like next week he's probably better than we are at Martinsville. We did a lot of work to try to work on that package to make Martinsville better for us. Hopefully we look a little smarter when we get there this time around.

Q. Kyle, I hear what you're saying telling them to man up about yesterday, coming to today. Do you have to smooth things over with them at all after the way yesterday ended, a lot of frustration? Do you have to go back to them before the race and say, It's cool, let's move on?
KYLE BUSCH: No, we don't talk about that. If they don't know that, they don't need to be working for me. These guys are great. They appreciate what I do behind the wheel. I appreciate what they do on pit road. That's a given in any team. Those guys should hang their head for that night, but then wake up the next morning rejuvenated and ready to go and should have thought about all the stuff that happened yesterday yesterday and not worry about that today and let it get to them today.
There's ways to get better in this sport, and the only way to do that is to jump back out there. It's basically, you know, reviewing your fear. You just get back out there and do it over again.

Q. Steve, can I get your take on the brashness there that Kyle is saying. Typically when a driver is that critical, that can cause trouble. It seems like your team feeds off of it a little bit. Does your crew just want to win for Kyle no matter what he says because they know he's so talented?
STEVE ADDINGTON: Yeah, I mean, I talk to them. I get frustrated for the car not handling good. You have to have tough skin in this business or you need to be doing something else. You have to take constructive criticism and work hard at it. He does an awesome job in that racecar. I know that he's out there trying to win. And he just wants us to be that way. That's the way we all look at it.
I talked to them this morning. Everything was fine. They understood it. They weren't happy about it either. I mean, they want to win just as bad as Kyle does and as much as I do.
I think for the organization, you know, they wanted to win yesterday just like they wanted to win today. So they had a mistake on pit road. It was on the last stop, and it cost them. Today they stepped up to the plate and made it happen on the last stop. So they understand that. They understand what's going on. That's why it works with this 18 car.
JOE GIBBS: I'll jump in there to say that Kyle does a great job around the shop at different times coming by, buying lunch, things like that. I think our guys really appreciate him. They appreciate the way he races. I think he also realizes we have a very talented pit crew there. These guys are pretty dad-gum good. It's a total team thing. I think Kyle does a good job of picking the guys up at times, too. Hey, I think that's his personality and I think Steve's used to dealing with it. I think that's the way he is.

Q. Kyle, two years ago when you won here your quote was, regarding the COT, They suck. How has your opinion changed since you've won so many races since then?
KYLE BUSCH: Well, it's the racecar of today and we're racing it. It's come a long ways. It's better. But it's still not one of my favorite cars to drive.
So, you know, I still would rather enjoy racing the Nationwide cars or the trucks or something like that. They seem to drive better. They're a little easier to drive, they're more forgiving. These things, I think they're more on edge sometimes. So it makes it a little bit harder. That's what I mean, yeah, my comments then were pretty harsh. I made a deal with my crew chief if we won the race, I'd say those things. Unfortunately, I did. I got the wrath of it. He didn't get any.
You know, that was then, this is now. Glad we could win again at Bristol. I think it's three years in a row I've won here, which is pretty cool. I think maybe four. 2006, I don't think I won here. Not sure about that. But anyways, good day.

Q. Steve and Coach, there's a lot of good racecar drivers in Cup. You have people comparing him to Earnhardt. That's crazy. No offense, but that's Earnhardt. What separates him from everybody else?
STEVE ADDINGTON: Young and a ton of talent. I mean, that's it. Kyle Busch is not Dale Earnhardt, Sr. Kyle Busch is Kyle Busch. He gets along with his race team. He takes cares of his guys. He does a lot for this race team that you guys don't see all the time. He's just got a ton of talent. He communicates well back to what the car's doing, what it needs. There's times when he gives his opinion on things, and it just helps us as a race team.
So, I mean, I don't like the comparison. I think that he's his own person in his own time and winning races. So I think we should all just enjoy it.
JOE GIBBS: Yeah, I think it's extremely hard to compare. I have athletes, they used to walk up to me in football, This guy is better than his brother. I really think that Kyle is his own man. And I think what's always separated guys, the great athletes, for me anyway, a lot of guys want to do this, they work very hard, they get to a certain point, but then a few are gifted. And I think Kyle's gifted.
Now, as far as the comparisons and stuff, I think that's extremely hard to make. I don't think that's really fair to even be comparing him to some of those guys. I think he's his own man, own talent.
I would say this. For me personally, it's very humbling for me to be in a sport like this, realizing that it takes a total team effort. And I think Kyle would be the first to say this. I can definitely tell you, this is a team sport. We talked about our guys going over the wall. We talked about Steve. We talked about the hours of hard work. Our motor room, everybody back at the shop. For me personally, I know how hard this is. It took us nine years in this sport to win a championship. It's extremely hard. I think that's the reason why I know we cherish each one of these.
Kyle's been on fire here the last two years. It's extremely hard to win one of these races. It's a humbling experience for me. I want to say it's a total team effort for us.
The one thing about pro sports I've kind of found is as soon as you start thinking you kind of got it made, you're going to get a knuckle sandwich. That's pretty much the way I look at it. I like to stay humble and hungry. I just say I really appreciate a victory like this. This is a hard place to win one.

Q. Joe, I asked Denny if he'd been close enough to Kyle, would he have moved him for the win. He said, For sure, Kyle wins too much. Denny talked so much before the season about how much he wants to win, stop being a guy with potential. How close is he and what's that team missing from being the 18?
JOE GIBBS: I got to tell you this year I think Denny did really set his jaw. He's been on it. He's been after it hard. I think they are very good teammates, both Kyle and Denny. Joey, too. They've taken Joey under their wing and talked to him. I've seen them both over there trying to help him.
Everybody knows in this sport right now where this sport is, you're not going to win unless you got great teammates. They feed off each other. Obviously at racetracks, the information that comes back and forth to each other is extremely important. That's the other part of being a team sport.
I would say the difference right now, I think Denny - I'll be real disappointed in myself if that 11 car doesn't step up and run great this year because I think they put a lot into it. So we're real early in the season, and I appreciate that. I know Kyle would be the same way. If Denny is there, there are no deals. You're going to try to whip each other if you can. I know Denny would give it anything he's got if he could have got close enough. I think it would have been fair, too, fair racing. Hopefully that's what we'll see. I tell you this, I get a little nervous when two of ours are up there.

Q. What has he personally done this year that you've noticed?
JOE GIBBS: I think as much as anything, it's your attitude. We sat down and talked. We talked quite a bit before the year. We met with Joey, and particularly Denny and Kyle. They're our leaders. We talked a lot about the coming year. I think he spent a lot of time with Mike. I think you can tell the way he reacts when something does happen to the race team. He's very strong about it. I think he's had a great relationship with Mike. I think they're after it. I think they're not going to leave anything unturned around our place to try and keep from getting everything we can for the 11 car.

Q. Joe, I'll ask you about Joey. His day ended early, but he's in the top 35. How important was it for him to do that?
JOE GIBBS: It's extremely important. I think it shows you, too, pro sports, how hard it is. A lot of things happened to us this year when we charted our course here. We got testing taken away from us. I think probably everybody would say it probably hurts the young guy a lot more than a vet, a guy that's been around. I think that was a tough deal for us. Really you pretty much have to show up at a racetrack. Many times Joey has been at someplace where he's never had a lap in a Cup car, the Car of Tomorrow. I think it's been a struggle for us. He's had two wrecks. Other people caused them. Then we blow a motor. It's been disheartening.
But I think we're locked in a battle. We're going to go for it hard. It's part of pro sport. It's a tough deal. We stepped out there for Home Depot and him. We're going to keep swinging. I know Zippy is really upset. I think it's gonna be -- it shows you how hard this sport is.

Q. Steve, the crew chief is always kind of the whipping boy when things don't go right. The 18 team had a few years where you were down from your championship level. How big an accomplishment and sense of pride do you feel to be part of having the 18 team back on top again after being there for so long through the good and bad?
STEVE ADDINGTON: I mean, take a lot of pride in it. I think we're doing the same things that we did for the first three years, when I first came over here. We worked hard. We take the information that is from the company. The 11 and the 20 car were running good. We just had two drivers before that it didn't fit. We couldn't find what they wanted from the organizational standpoint.
We worked our tails off to try to give it to 'em, and we weren't doing anything out of the ordinary on the 18 car, it just wasn't working. I tell you, to go through three years of that with a group of guys, and he's coming in to jump in your car, and he's at Hendricks, winning races at a great organization, and they're nervous about, What if our cars aren't good enough? I said, We'll go to work. It's been very fortunate that our cars were good enough when he first got in here last year to race and win races again.

Q. Are you amazed at how much smarter you've gotten since he got behind the wheel?
STEVE ADDINGTON: Yeah (laughter). I've been told that a lot, that I found the book that Ryan had when he had Mark Martin.

Q. Kyle, Denny said after the race that he thought the difference between winning and losing was your ability to get away after the restarts. He said that's an area that he needs to work on. What are you doing differently that he's not and are you willing to give him a few pointers about how to correct that?
KYLE BUSCH: To be honest with you, every driver's different. We always heard about Ron Hornaday, how good he was, he was the restart king. There were a few times in Nationwide competition when I ran in 2004, I'll take the credit, I waxed him at it. But there were sometimes when he got back at me.
Restarts are tough sometimes. It's hard to know. Second is probably the worst spot to be in on a restart. The leader can go when he wants to go within the restart point. You don't know if he's going to go at the beginning or the end of the restart point. You're the first guy to see the leader go.
If the third place guy sees him brake a little bit faster than you do, then the third place guy is all over the second place guy. It's always tough. The second place guy is always in the worst position.
It's just all about planning and kind of, I don't know, just being ready for it, trying to go as hard as you can.

Q. Kyle, yesterday Harvick said something about how he needs motivation. That's one of the reasons he started his own team. Do you feed off the boos, off the fans' response? Did you use that as fire in your belly?
KYLE BUSCH: Not really. I think it's cool it works that way, but I don't use it.
What I use is the car in front of me. If there's a car in front of me, I'm going to chase him. You know, I want to pass that guy. If I'm the leader, there's another car in front of me, he's going a lap down. The more guys you get a lap down, the more you don't have to deal with at the end of the day. There's always some motivation to go forward. There's always somebody ahead of you that you can pass that's going to mean something. Even if you are the leader.
The only time that that doesn't mean anything is when you come down to the last two races or even the last race of the year, if you're the championship contender, and you don't need to finish but 32nd, then don't worry about anything. But until you're in that position, then everybody's -- you're feeding off everybody in front of you.

Q. Kyle, I know you're a big fan of the history of the sport. Saturday Night Special with all the legends last night. Can you comment a little bit on you winning five for five now, winning a race every weekend.
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, it's pretty cool. I'm proud of that. Hopefully I can carry that into Martinsville. I suck there, so it's gonna be hard to do, but we'll see what we can figure out.
The best finish I think I've had there is a fourth in Cup and a third in Trucks or something like that, or a fourth in Trucks, too. I've got two chances next weekend. Hopefully we can get one of 'em. If not, then we just have to start another streak.
The legends race yesterday, I didn't watch it. I was too PO'd. I wish I would have been able to see those guys, see what it was like, watch Cale, Junior, Harry, all those guys, see what it was all about. Heard they had fun and they had a good time with it. That's always cool. Maybe they'll do it again, if not in the fall, maybe next year. One of these days maybe I'll be an old-timer and be in that race trying to get back at some of the guys that I race with now.

Q. (No microphone.)
KYLE BUSCH: Good thing Samantha is not in here. Even though, the press conference is probably on the jumbotron.
You know what, I don't know. That's a tough question. Fortunately for me I'm young and I have a lot of time before I need to worry about that. Maybe someday I will get tired of racing in the Truck Series or I will get tired of racing in the Nationwide Series. Joe I'm sure would like me to slow down a little bit, run a few less races or whatever.
If I ever come up with my own team or something, I'll have to start that. I'll do what Harvick did, I'll run my own truck for a while and build it up until I know it's a good piece and it's something that can contend for races week in and week out, then I'll throw somebody else in it and they'll go race it.
When that day comes, I'm not sure. Even Nationwide or something like that we can look at. I'm not quite ready for that. We've got a lot of work ahead of us here. I don't need to be taking any effort away from what I got going on with JGR right now and concentrating on my own deal. Late models are enough. Thank all my late model guys. I don't need to worry about that stuff now anymore. Life is good.
JOE GIBBS: It's also expensive.
KYLE BUSCH: I can tell. Need money, more sponsors.

Q. Have you ever heard of Dizzy Dean?
KYLE BUSCH: No.

Q. Famous baseball player who said, It ain't bragging if you can back it up. Is that sort of your attitude?
KYLE BUSCH: That's pretty good. Yeah, I like that. Need to remember that. Dizzy Dean. If you're bragging, you got to be able to back it up. I don't recall bragging about anything. When you win races, I guess people want to say I mock the fans or whatever. That's just 'cause I'm excited. I gave them a bow. I gave them a great presentation today. I was proud of mine and my team's effort. Hopefully we can do it again, if not next weekend, then hopefully sooner or later.
KERRY THARP: Congratulations to the No. 18 team.



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