Toyota Racing – Kyle Busch
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Daytona Media Day – February 13, 2018
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch was made available to the media in Daytona:
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Chocolate Bar Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
The Supra is debuting in the Xfinity Series – do you think there will be a big difference between it and the Camry race car?
“I don’t think so. I don’t think the Supra is going to be that big of a difference from what the Camry was. With the composite bodies and all sorts of that stuff with the way the rules are and the overall shape of how the body has to be between all the makes, there’s really not a lot of differences from the old one. Just the nose is going to be the biggest thing. What the nose does and how it separates the air from the beginning and going over the car. That’ll be a learning car and then in and out of traffic will be a learning curve, but I think it will be okay.”
Do you like the new sports car look that the different OEMs have introduced in NASCAR?
“Yes and no. I love the look of the opportunities that Chevy has done with Camaro and Ford has done with the Mustang and that Toyota has done with the Supra. I certainly would have wished though now that all of them are kind of that fast back look, that NASCAR would’ve taken the step and gone farther with the bodies on all three makes and been like ‘alright boys, this is where we’re at. Let’s fast back these things and let’s make them look more like they are on the street rather than the big curvature rear glass’. That’s my opinion. I thought Chevy came out with a new nose, so what’s wrong with a new greenhouse. Ford, they’re due for a new nose. They’re still running with the nose from I think five years ago.”
Do you see more OEMs coming into NASCAR in the future?
“Well that’s absolutely the plan. I’d like to think that more automakers would be interested in NASCAR and follow suit with what Toyota did and how much success Toyota has had – not only in the sport but as well as being able to activate and access the sport to be able to promote their brand and be able to sell cars on the street.”
How do you think restarts will be this year?
“Somebody posted that video of that IROC race earlier this week on Twitter and I don’t think it’s going to be as great as that IROC race was, but you’ll see restarts like that for about five laps and then you ‘ll start to see some separation. Obviously, what we’re all looking for is not the six-second separation in between first and second which was just too big – too great of a distance to create any sort of excitement. If you can see somebody in front of you within three or four lengths then there may be an opportunity to get that guy eventually somehow, some way. We’ll just have to see how all of that transpires.”
How do you feel about Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. in the Cup Series and running full-time?
“I don’t know what happened to him when he left my place. I had him trained up pretty good and now he’s gone crazy. He does a good job. He’s got a good personality. He’s fun. A lot of those kids kind of hang out together. They kind of grew up together so they hang out together a lot. Him, (Ryan) Blaney, Chase (Elliott) and a couple of the others. I’m sort of an old man, so I’m not in that club. Having the opportunity to see these guys and showcase some of their personalities – I think Bubba is one of the brightest ones. With not being in great stuff and being able to put himself out in the front of the pack more often, it kind of limits his driver star power let’s say, but he’s certainly one of them out there that’s deserving in any spot.”
You’ve won at every track now, what is next on your bucket list?
“There’s plenty on there for sure, but the biggest one, the top item is the Daytona 500. I would certainly like to knock that off a lot sooner than later, but hopefully – eventually, whether it’s the last year I do it, I can get one but that’ll be seen later on.”
Is 200 wins on your bucket list?
“Yeah, I mean 200 is another item that is on that bucket list and that checklist of what we’re looking to do. I hope that that comes this year. I think there’s a great opportunity for that. I’ve got five truck races slated, seven Xfinity races slated and of course a full Cup schedule, so a lot going on in all of that and looking forward to being able to produce results and wins and again compete for a championship?”
“Tapered spaces are still restrictor plates. I certainly wish that we didn’t have to deal with those things, but I do understand where back in the 70s and the 80s they were at 500, 600 horsepower – 700 maybe. Now we’re pushing 900, 950 and so I understand kind of that we go too fast, but how fast it too fast? I don’t know. It’s all about throttle response and crispness of the engine and what we’ve already known and what we’ve become accustomed to and now we’re kind of taking a step back and going back in time a little bit. I say all that because you’ve got tapered spacers on trucks and Xfinity cars and Cup cars. They’re all kind of that way. We’re reducing horsepower across the board to slow some of these things down, but the mechanical grip and the aero grip of these things are so great that some of these tracks that we go to, you’re wide open. You’re able to just cruise around there by yourself and then when you get into traffic, you’ve got the draft which is going to play a role and there’s some interesting variables that are going to come out with this new package.”
What do you feel like Christopher Bell can do in a Cup car?
“Obviously, I think Christopher’s got it. Again, that’s another one that came through our stable. He came to us and he was just this midget sprint car kid that ran 30 laps and then got in our late models and tried to go run 200 lappers, 250-lap shows and he’d burn the tires off the thing in a hurry. We had to teach him how to race. Just be there and keep the tires underneath you and all those sorts of things. We kind of got him going down that path of serving his equipment and being good to his stuff and having something to race at the end. That was one of the biggest things that I’ve felt like we were always good at as a company at Kyle Busch Motorsports to help these younger drivers with. As Christopher has gone on and evolved and the Truck Series – you know he worked with Jerry (Baxter), Rudy (Fugle) and then now he’s in the Xfinity Series working with one of the best crew chiefs I know. If I didn’t have Adam Stevens and the relationship that I’ve worked with and developed with Adam Stevens the last couple of years, Jason (Ratcliff) would be my guy. I love Jason to death and I think they’ve got a really good connection and they’re really really fast over there in the Xfinity Series. I’m sure he’ll be fine when he gets to Cup. Obviously, that learning curve, that learning step that you’ve got to take – I don’t know if on a level of 1 to 10, if going to truck to Xfinity is 1 to 4 and then it’s 4 to 10 to get to Cup, but that’s kind of the way I’ve seen it over the years and it’s not a step to be taken lightly.”
Will the dominance of the Big Three – you being one of them – transfer over to this season?
“I’d like to think that the good drivers and the good teams and the good cars will still be able to excel eventually. We’ll be able to figure it out and kind of get to the point where you can be the best because you are the best. As it sat in Vegas, I think with our test in Vegas it was just a matter of who got out front and who was able to get single file and pull the train fast enough once that kind of settled out that’s kind of what you had, so it could have been anybody. I think Bubba (Darrell Wallace Jr.) led one of the races. Austin (Dillon) led one of the races. It’s interesting second or third on back, but first to second is still that bubble that we can’t break.”
How do you guys get the message out for things you want to see on the track?
“We’re just race car drivers. We don’t know anything. We just drive what we’re given to drive and what the rules and the rules are. Our team’s got to go to work and build around that what they know how to make speed in our cars in order to go out there and beat the rest of the competition. That’s how I look at it. It’s not that it’s fallen on deaf ears. The problem is still creating something that’s viable for the fans to see excitement. When you have a guy that’s leading the race that’s out front by six seconds, it’s not excited. I get and I understand where we’re going and what we’re doing. It’s just frustrating as a driver to know that’s what we’re doing and how we anticipate all the races kind of playing out at the 1.5-mile and above race tracks.”
How do you feel about the new leadership in NASCAR?
“I think with (Steve) Phelps and Jim (France) – I think Jim has done a tremendous job of at least being around. He’s always carrying a pen, he’s always carrying note book. He’s always taking notes. He’s always listening to people, talking to people. He’s in the garage area. He’s down in the trenches. He’s figuring it all out and trying to make some moves for the betterment of the sport and that’s what we all want. We want somebody that’s involved, that’s into this as much as we’re all into this and care about all of this. I think that we’ve seen some positive out of all that. Now whether or not Jim is a proponent of this car or not, I don’t know. I think that it’s for all of us to take with an understanding that we’ve got to get better and we’ve got to put on a show and do a good job of creating excitement that’s on the race track as well as the race tracks being able to create excitement around the race tracks and have a good time for the people that come to the events – to not just sit out in 95-degree weather with the sun beating down on them and watch a race. There’ smore to life than that these days.”
Do you think you’ll ever compare to Richard Petty with his 200 Cup wins?
“No. Absolutely not because his number is obviously Cup wins and mine’s not. I feel as though I’m chasing Jeff Gordon or maybe even David Pearson. Maybe – I don’t know if I can get there. I like to think I can get there. I’m at – what is it 51 or something? I’m at 51 right now, so if I can get another 50 in the next 10 years, that would certainly be nice to go out with 100 Cup wins. Nobody will ever touch 200.”
How many drivers do you think can win the Daytona 500?
“I would say – that’s a trick question. Cars? Cars? How many cars have a legitimate shot to win the race? I would say probably four or five, but then once it gets past the cars like the fast guys you know? I think there’s 16, 17 guys that probably have a legitimate shot of being able to get it done barring different circumstances – pit road issues, crashes, things like that.”
Any thoughts on the Kyle Busch Motorsports lineup this year?
“KBM lineup this year – I don’t know. Todd (Gilliland) had some spurts of excellence last year. Certainly should have won a couple races, no doubt. Harrison (Burton) had a couple of good races as well in his limited time that we had him. I think third at Phoenix or something like that. I think the 1.5-mile and aero tracks are kind of the struggle that we have with the younger group right now. They’re pretty decent at the short tracks and stuff like that. Looking forward to this year. I think Harrison is going to do well. Looking forward to Todd doing well and both of those guys being able to chase after their respective championships hopefully. The younger crowd – we’ve got Brandon Jones who’s experience but he’s still running some of those races in my truck. I’m running some races in my truck and then Chandler Smith, Christian Eckes, a few of those guys as well too that will be making some races with us as well.”