Toyota Racing – Kyle Busch
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Charlotte Motor Speedway – May 17, 2019
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch was made available to the media in Charlotte:
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Hazelnut Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
How did practice go today and what do you think about this new paint scheme for M&M’s?
“We’re definitely excited to have the opportunity to showcase a new product in the M&M’s family with Hazelnut Spread. Looking forward to having a good weekend here this weekend in the All-Star race and being able to go back to victory lane and win ourselves a million bucks. We started out real rough. Didn’t quite unload off the truck as good as we wanted to, but we’ve made a lot of ground and it made our car a lot better. Not really sure exactly how it stacks up yet with our competition, but we’ll certainly find out tomorrow night.”
Is there much difference between this All-Star package and the 2019 package?
“Not much different. You really can’t tell anything with the hood ducts that I’ve noticed. I haven’t noticed anything about them except engine temperatures being hotter. We all are trying to figure out how much grille tape to run and what to do with the frontend settings to mitigate the hot air that comes through the radiator that then comes out of the hood that then goes right into the air intake on top of the hood there and then you’ve got hot cars in front of you as well too when you’re back in traffic. It just keeps heat soaking and getting hotter, so we’re all kind of looking at that right now. As far as the drivability, I’d say the only other thing that I’ve noticed is when you get in the corner and you land and compress and you feel the splitter touch, you don’t feel it stall the splitter as bad and drive you up the race track. You can actually get in the corner, land and compress and the car will still stay turning. I feel like that’s a positive. We’ve got that ridged splitter like we all used to run and then somebody, somewhere thought it was a great idea to have flat splitters and that made racing worse. We’re back to the ridged for a week anyways and so far so good. I’ll have to wait and see what it does in traffic.”
What are your thoughts on NASCAR using this race for a second-straight year as a research and development tool? Do you like it as a driver?
“I think it’s fine. I think there’s opportunities during the season that we’ve got a couple of race tracks that are certainly a bit more challenging or difficult to put on good racing or passing, things like that. Charlotte has kind of been that way for the last few years. I don’t know why. Years ago with the CoY cars, I remember guys being able to run the wall, run the top, run the bottom, wherever and it put on a pretty good show. Lately, since we’ve gone to the CoT and then the Gen-6, now it’s kind of mitigated itself just to the bottom being the best way around here. The PJ1, the traction compound, obviously that’s kind of – it’s definitely better to be in it and so it’s making the middle groove faster than the bottom groove. I don’t know if guys will really be able to go to the bottom and out-handle, out-pass a guy that’s running the middle and if you’re in the middle, I think you can protect enough to the outside that you won’t be able to let anybody get to your outside. We’ll see what happens in the race, but certainly it’s quite interesting right now with just practice and not really in the race yet.”
What about this place has suited you throughout the years and has that changed at all with what NASCAR has done with the PJ1 the last couple of years?
“I don’t know exactly what suited me. It took me forever to win a Cup race here. I only have one Cup win here. Let’s all remember that. One. Past that, Truck, Xfinity, it’s been really, really good for me. We’ve been fast here. It would certainly be nice to continue to keep up those winning ways in the Cup cars and win another All-Star race here. Win another 600 here. Technically we only come here once a year even though there’s three weekends here. We only come here once a year for points paying wins so that’s kind of a challenge or different. I don’t know what’s allowed me to run well here and win races here. The traction compound the last couple of years has certainly moved and changed and been different. Last year, I remember in practice we first got into it and I think myself and Brad Keselowski both, we both crashed instantly as soon as we got in it and today was a little bit better than that. We’ll see what all transpires here later.”
With the 2019 package, do you anticipate the Coca-Cola 600 will be more of a physical toll than before?
“Yes, I think so. I think it will because the stresses that we’ve been putting on ourselves through the corners all this year have been harder. Cars have been faster through the mid-corners, so you’re just creating more centripetal forces and that goes through your body. That’s certainly been higher. The car is relatively – you can hustle it more so you’re up on top of the wheel I feel like a little bit more – just trying to get more out of it. When you’re out front leading and the car’s gripped up and good you can kind of a take a breath. You can kind of take it easy, but whenever you’re trying to run people down or pass people, it gets a bit hairier and crazier. It’s going to be for a long race and a long night with 600 miles over typically running 500.”
When there’s a big block and potentially more of them in the future, does that start to impact how the field reacts and what everybody else might see?
“Yes, it does. Guys have had runs. I threw a couple of blocks last weekend. Guys had runs on me, I would turn up on the straightaway to make sure they couldn’t get to my outside. If they wanted to get to my inside, I let them get to my inside because I figured I could run through the corner and get my momentum down the straightaway and be able to clear them on the next straightaway. It’s all relative. You kind of have to play it out and be careful with it. I was almost clear of (Clint) Bowyer, wasn’t sure if I was clear of Bowyer and I pulled up in front of him in practice here and he kind of was like right on my bumper, so it was really close. I cut it close, but it was practice and he let me live. If it was a race – the last lap in the race – I probably would have been turned. You just have to be ready for it. If you’re going to throw a block like I did with Tony Stewart back at Daytona a couple years ago, it could turn ugly. You’ve got to be ready for it. All depends I guess on who’s behind you and how pissed off they are in the moment.”
Was there a reason you blocked Clint Bowyer in practice earlier?
“I was trying to pass Clint (Bowyer) and I had a huge run on him down the frontstretch off of (Turn) 4 on the frontstretch and I passed him and I tried to make sure that I cleared him so he didn’t get back to my outside when I got back to 1 and 2 to be able to get back by me. I wanted to see if that move that I made was going to clear him for the lead and then see if I could maintain the lead off of Turn 2.”
What track configuration do you like better at Charlotte – the oval or the Roval?
“The oval. The Roval is stupid.”
What do you see your role as a NASCAR driver to help a community heal after a tragedy?
“There’s a lot of tragedy in our world each and every day. We’re so thankful and honestly we take it for granted sometimes that the freedoms that we have. We thank, for next weekend especially, the military with Memorial Day weekend, for all the things that they sacrifice and they do for us. But we also have the firefighters, the medics, the ambulance, the policemen, everybody that is out there to help make our world a safer place. Like the Las Vegas thing that happened, the UNCC (University of North Carolina at Charlotte) thing that happened, obviously there’s a lot of risk out there and it’s very unfortunate. We obviously pray for those that have been affected and that have had the losses and we try as a community to help build them up and show them a good time, bring them a good time, allow them a night of not forgetting, but just relaxing and maybe taking their mind off the situation for a few hours.”
Do you take pride in the way NASCAR handles honoring the military and the national anthem before races?
“Absolutely. We all are patriotic in our own ways. NASCAR seems to do it probably the best with the NASCAR Salutes program that we’ve had over the course of the last few years with having the ability to have the fallen soldiers on our race cars for Memorial Day weekend. Last year I was fortunate enough to take my soldier’s family to victory lane – the Toth Family with Sergeant Toth. This year I get the opportunity to carry around Sergeant Griffin so I’m really looking forward to that. I met the mom and dad last week being able to do a little reveal of my M&M’s Red, White and Blue paint scheme and also having the Griffin name on top of the windshield. I’m honored to be able to have them as part of our night and it makes it most special when you’re able to take them to victory lane so hopefully we can do that. With what we all do on Memorial Day weekend, I feel like we do it the best.”
What’s your fondest All-Star race memory from growing up?
“There’s been a lot of them. I think T-Rex is probably the coolest one for me. I was a huge Jurassic Park fan. I still am to today. Brexton is as well too. We’ve watched all the Jurassic Park movies and Jurassic World movies, so we love that. To see how dominant that car was and how fast that car was and it being with Jeff Gordon, who was my favorite driver growing up as a kid, was pretty cool to watch. I loved that one. Probably one of the biggest heartbreak ones that I remember watching was Gordon and the Chromalusion car ran out of gas going into Turn 1 on the last lap. Mark Martin ended up winning. Another heartbreak moment would have been the year that (Dale) Earnhardt was in the silver car and him and DW (Darrell Waltrip) and Jeff Gordon crashed out of 4 or something like that. Obviously the Davey (Allison) and Kyle Petty sparks flying, that was the first under the lights. There was a lot of cool memories that I remember from the All-Star race. Being pretty cool watching all of those, always dreamed of being able to win an All-Star race. Finally was able to get it done myself and then even so with watching Jeff Gordon be able to win his first race here in the Coca-Cola 600, I’ve always dreamt of being able to win a Coke 600 win and was finally able to accomplish that last year. This is a cool place. It comes on Memorial Day weekend. This was kind of about the brink in the season where you really started to see more night racing. We always kind of had Richmond as a night race and then you’d always look forward to Charlotte being a night race, especially at a mile-and-a-half. Later 90s you got Daytona. That was also a night race. I just like Saturday night racing. I think it’s cool. I think it’s fun. You’re able to have a Sunday off with family and friends. Of course now that I have a son, it’s his birthday so it makes it nice.”
Does the sport still need a 600-mile race like we have next week?
“Yes, I think so. Is it a tough race for the drivers? It is a tough race for the drivers. Is it as tough as it once was? Maybe not. Is it (tough) on the cars? No. The cars are way too sophisticated now. I bet you we could probably go 800 maybe even 1000 miles on a race car before you’d start to see problems. It’s just a matter of length and attention span I guess. Some other drivers would probably argue the fact with me that we don’t need a 600-mile race, but it’s tradition. I think it’s history. I think you keep some of those that have been the longer ones that have meant more to our sport over the years like the Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400, the Coca-Cola 600, the Southern 500. Those probably could stay the length that they are and many of the others could probably change. That’s just again, my opinion and you know what I think of opinions.”
A year from now do you hope to be in the middle of double-duty for Indy or do you feel like the window is closing on that?
“The window is probably closing. Honestly, I guess if I continue to workout and try to get in shape or stay in shape or get in better shape then I can continue to keep that door open for longer. I’ve been doing all those things. Whether or not the opportunity is ever presented, we’ll see what happens. As of right now, I don’t have any plans.”