Toyota Racing – Kyle Busch
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Michigan International Speedway – June 5, 2019
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch was made available to the media in Michigan:
Kyle Busch, No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Why were the changes made to the crew chiefs at Kyle Busch Motorsports?
“Obviously there’s kind of been some struggles with result and success and stuff like that with our two full-time teams. I’m never happy with just being mediocre and not being able to go out there and have our guys perform and do a good job. There’s kind of been some tension a little bit between a couple of the teams so just figured we’d switch it up some. We’re going to try one thing here for a couple weeks and then I’ve got something else up my sleeve for after that. Don’t get ahead of yourself too much.”
Do you expect your drivers to be able to beat you in your equipment at Kyle Busch Motorsports?
“I look at guys like Erik Jones, William Byron, Christopher Bell, Bubba Wallace – Bubba struggled for the first year, but the second year he was on. We went to Kentucky and Bubba and myself checked out. Erik Jones and myself last year here at Michigan, him and I ran together and third-place was eight or nine seconds behind us. There is opportunity there for these guys, if they’re going to be good and they’re going to be successful and they’re going to have an opportunity to move up the ladder, they need to be able to show it. Byron won seven times, Jones won five times, Christopher Bell won five or six times – the guys that are moving up and doing what they’re supposed to be doing are successful and they can have success and have shown success in Xfinity and Cup, we’ll see. Jones is still working on it I guess and Christopher is not quite there yet. Noah (Gragson) for instance, he won one race one year and won one race another year and we’re now seeing where he’s at in the Xfinity Series with the results that he’s kind of getting. If you win and you win a lot in KBM trucks, then you’re going to be a better driver. If you can’t get it done in a KBM truck, might as well go home.”
Is Mike Hillman Jr. living up to your expectations?
“What’s funny about Hillman is he was the lead crew chief over at Germain for a long, long time and I competed against him and absolutely hated him because of how good him and Todd (Bodine) were for a long time. Rudy (Fugle) actually was hired at Germain by Hillman and was kind of an engineer there and then kind of became a crew chief there for Justin Lofton years ago and then kind of phased out of there. I don’t remember if we hired him from there or somewhere else, Rudy that is. It’s interesting now that Rudy is kind of Hillman’s boss if you look at it that way. Overall, Hillman has done a fine job. Certainly, I think with the way that all of these cars evolved, trucks evolved, setups evolved – all that stuff kind of happens over the years. Guys have to relearn things or learn new things to kind of keep up with the tricks of the trade and Hillman is right there with them. He’s doing a really good job, he’s picking up on it – I wouldn’t say he has an engineering background, but he certainly understands vehicle dynamics. He has a sense of knowing what makes cars go fast. He’s doing fine and Marcus (Richmond) is the same way. If I had to pick exactly where I would rank Truck Series crew chiefs, I would say Rudy is number one, Hillman is number two and there are a couple guys you could argue are three and four. I think Marcus is fifth. I have three of the top-five guys in the series that are within my building. There’s no reason why they can’t all be successful with any of the drivers that come through our system.”
What are your expectations for Sonoma with the addition of the carousel and will you visit the TRD simulator before the Sonoma race weekend?
“I probably will. I’ve been to the simulator before and I’ve been to the race track and it’s hurt me and I’ve been to the simulator before and been to the race track and it’s helped me. It can go either way, just kind of depends. The carousel coming back, it’s kind of interesting, I thought back about it earlier or when they made the announcement. You look back to 1998 when they added the chute and, that was a lot of wasted money because now we’re going back to what it was. Overall, just having the carousel coming back, I don’t think it’s going to change the racing dynamic a whole lot from what that race looks like. It’s just going to add in – there’s a ramp almost kind of getting into the carousel, you have to be out of the gas before going up and over that hill. Then throttle back into the turn and that’s what I remember when I ran the course back in 1998 with Legends cars, but these cars are entirely different from Legends cars so we’re definitely going to have some new learning to do. At least I know where I’m going when I’m down there.”
Do you foresee a path where drivers are taking more of an online racing route to get into a race car similar to what William Byron did?
“William (Byron) is certainly a rare example for sure and I could tell you that there’s a few sim guys out there that think they can do anything with a race car, but yet they get into something and they’re scared to death of it. There was actually a competition for sim drivers to be able to win a chance to go to the Race of Champions. When they did that, the top sim guy in the world or whatever came to Race of Champions and got his ass handed to him. He wasn’t even within three seconds of any of us. Real life is completely different than sim life. William is certainly an anomaly on that and he’s done a fantastic job of how he kind of grew up with that to then being able to translate to the race track and be successful and still do it today from my understanding. Good for him, I did some of that stuff, I did some of that computer, online racing things like that and that was back in the early days when the internet was still dial-up. I remember practicing and doing some of that stuff back then and whether that made me who I am today, I have no idea. It kind of gave me a sense I guess.”
Where did your ability to dissect a race car come from?
“There’s no perfect road. I would have to say that my understanding and my vehicle understandings and the reasons why I’m somewhat successful at what I’ve done is a huge credit to my dad. Growing up in the shop, working on the cars, building the cars, understanding what springs were and meant and how to rate them and what corner to put them in. Shocks, cambers, casters – all of that sort of stuff, I learned, I built my cars from the ground up with my dad. I tore my Legends car apart one off-season when we were done racing for the year. I ripped it all the way down to the ground because I thought if I strip it, he will be okay if I wanted to paint it, to repaint the chassis and kind of go through everything. I stripped it all the way down and was like, ‘Alright, I’m ready, let’s take it to the paint shop.’ He was like, ‘Nope, I’ll buy you a can of spray paint and you can put it all back together by yourself.’ That didn’t work. Everybody has their own different paths of how they grow up and how they understand things and what they understand. I’ve certainly learned a hell of a lot through my career and being here and experience and many of these other drivers will as well. It’s just a matter of your surroundings and the people that are around you.”
What are some of your favorite Father’s Day memories with your dad and now with Brexton?
“Being a dad, growing up with my dad, he was the one that took me to the race track all the time. My mom was there on occasion here or there, but she kind of left and went with Kurt (Busch) more often than not because when Kurt started touring series, he couldn’t rent a car so she had to go with him to help him and all that so dad was with me. I’ve had some fantastic moments and Father’s Day moments. I remember racing on Father’s Day weekend a few times here or there, winning Legends car races or whatever. Vacations were limited, we didn’t do vacations so it was always something at the race track would be the best memory of mine. Brexton, he’s still kind of young. We do the Mother’s Day thing, the Father’s Day thing, but I don’t think he really gives it a true meaning quite yet, he’s only four. It’s still fun to have him and he’s with me every single weekend, we stay as a collective group, a unit, a family so I can be there for many of the moments that he has.”
How are you able to stay true to yourself with feedback from fans and the media?
“Just do. I don’t listen to you all, I just do what I do. Everybody has their own opinion just like everybody has their own you-know-what, so I don’t really worry about that. I tell it like it is, I tell the truth and I focus on what I need to focus on when that point comes too.”
How will you spend your off-weekend?
“I always put my doctor’s treatments and stuff like that, we all have to go see the doctor once in awhile so I put all that stuff for the off-week. I’ve got a couple doctor’s appointments next week. Then Sunday, on Father’s Day, we’re going to fly out to Idaho to go see Brian Scott and his family and go to the sand dunes and go hang out. My dad will be out there, Brexton will be out there, Samantha and a couple of my buddies. Greg Biffle will be out there so we’re all going to go hang out and have a good time at the sand dunes for a few days before heading over to Sonoma for the race weekend.”
What would a weekend look like if you had a normal life?
“It could be anything. Typically, you think, man you guys travel so much, don’t you just want a week at home? Certainly, I would want a weekend at home and we do that in the off-season. We spend much of the off-season at home. We go travel maybe to the Bahamas or the Caribbean or whatever to go on a vacation for four, five or six days. That will probably be something we do on the next off week, but overall we’re young enough, we’re healthy enough and we’re kind of an active family. We go do things. We don’t necessarily sit at home, dwell at home and be home-bodies. We like to do that occasionally, we’ll go down in the theatre to watch a movie or whatever. Other than that, it’s trying to find something to do, go for a hike, go out with friends, go out on the water, whatever.”
How does Michael Shelton fit into the fold of crew chiefs at Kyle Busch Motorsports?
“Shelton is an interesting position. So we have our fourth team that we run on occasion and we don’t really want a full time crew chief to be involved in the shop and everything and the whole dynamic, but we do want a guy that understands what we have going on and can come in and fit right in and be able to go to the race track, make race calls, make decisions in practice and be a smart leader. He is a perfect role for us. We don’t have to cover his salary for day-to-day or insurance or anything like that. He has a real day job, but then he can come in and we can pay him for the weekends that we need him and the days that we need him in the shop. He was to fit that 46 role, but in a couple weeks we’re going to try him – he couldn’t do it this week because he has some other family engagements that he had for Texas so he would have been there for Texas if not for that, but he will be in for the next couple weeks and then we’ll figure out what the next shake up is going to be after that to see how results go.”