TOYOTA NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS)
Clint Bowyer & Kyle Busch – Notes & Quotes
Chase Media Day in Chicago – September 17, 2015
Toyota drivers Clint Bowyer and Kyle Busch were made available to the media at Chase Media Day at The Murphy Chicago:
CLINT BOWYER, No. 15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
How does it feel to be in the Chase?
“This is a big deal for anybody involved and let me tell you something – here’s the thing – this is such a big thing. And people – not being a part of it last year really, really makes you understand and embrace it and given the circumstances I didn’t think I was going to be in this. I really didn’t. The beginning of the summer, I didn’t think that we had a legitimate shot of even backing our way into the Chase, let alone – we were 15th, we weren’t the last car, you do know that? That’s factual information so you need to make sure that that thing is on. I wasn’t the last person in this damn thing. That being said, probably the neatest thing about this is you look at Jeff Gordon. He had done everything that there is to do in this sport. He is seeing everything there is to see in life because of this sport and the neat thing about it more than anybody within this Chase – and it’s not just because it’s his last, he’s been this way the whole time I’ve ever been in it – is he really embraces this. He understands how big of a deal it is and it means something to him and he treats it as if it’s a big deal. He has fun with it. He celebrates. He lets his hair down and soaks this in, but you don’t see that in him, you know what I mean? I don’t ever, but this Chase time when I’m a part of that, going out at night, that’s the one time a year that I see him be somebody other than what you see on TV and that’s pretty cool. And it shows you the power and magnitude of what we’re doing here.”
What’s your mindset entering Chicago?
“Obviously, you want to win, but I look at these – these are three races. This isn’t one race. This is Chicago and every year I see it – everybody treats it as one race, ‘I’ve got to win this race or I’m not going to win the championship,’ and every single year somebody that should probably be there and go rounds and be a part of this on into it falters right there right off the bat. You’ve got to be solid. You’ve got to be consistent. This is probably – if I look at the first three, the one that concerns me the most, we haven’t been fast on miles and halves. We’re down on aero. I know that, but I think we can be solid enough to get a top-10 and if we can do that that would be monumental in going on to the next round because the next two races aren’t our wheelhouse and tracks that we’re good at.”
What did you learn watching the Chase last year?
Yes, I learned beat the 4 car (Kevin Harvick). Beat the 4 car and you might win this damn thing. It’s still the case, but I’m telling you he’s got some competition. If I had to put a name on the last entry blank up there for the championship up underneath that trophy and say it couldn’t be me – now, granted, if it can’t be me, chances are we ought to just close the thing and hold the trophy until next year, that’s my opinion on it – but if I had to put another name in that other than mine, I think Matt Kenseth will be in that block.”
Why do you think Matt Kenseth will win the championship?
“I’m not answering that. I said Matt Kenseth. He’s fast, man. They’ve got their stuff together and I believe that the time is right. Everybody knows momentum, timing – that’s a big thing in this sport and I think he’s been a champion, he understands it, he has the consistency – as does everybody else – but I’m telling you, I see the swagger in him and his determination and he’s got it going on right now.”
What would it mean to win Toyota’s first championship?
“Yeah, I mean, Toyota is – you know the neat thing about sponsors, the relationships, the actual people behind those products and that brand are what make that brand. And I’m telling you there’s so many good people that work for Toyota and represent that brand, whether it’s me driving on the weekends or me selling those cars at my dealership, they’re good people. They’re fun people. They’re energetic. They work hard. They’re successful and they just get it and they need a championship and they’ll get it.”
Do you feel like you have pressure to perform in the Chase?
“We’re racing for jobs – all of us, all these people. That’s the cool thing about this it’s all blue skies from here and I don’t mean that as we’re going to be the first ones out. I don’t believe that. I think I can outrun a few of these guys. This is new hope, new life, rejuvenation for everybody – all of us at MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) and, by the way, how can you possibly build your resume any better than performing at the absolutely most pressure that you could ever have with all of this. That’s a strong attribute to all of us if we can accomplish this and go around and have success in the Chase. We’ll all be just fine.”
Where do you think Joe Gibbs Racing has an advantage right now?
“You got a lot of money over there – got lots of money (laughter). They’ve got good drivers – look at all four of them. Hell, Denny (Hamlin) can out drive most people with one wheel – he’s down a wheel and he’s still rolling pretty good. Carl (Edwards), I’ve known him since I was 10 – not 10 – probably 15 years old and he’s the deal. Matt Kenseth is one of the best race car drivers I’ve ever driven against and Kyle (Busch) – biggest pain in the ass out there, but he’s one of the best drivers ever in the world. Plain and simple, that’s their lineup of drivers. Look at the people that work over there. The monstrosity of the people that are working in that organization – Coach? You’ve got Joe Gibbs (team owner) as the leader. I mean, this man has accomplished – anything that you’ve ever put across the table for Joe Gibbs to accomplish, he gets the job done and certainly doing so in this sport. Do I have to sell them anymore? Is that done? Is that good? They didn’t hire me, so screw ‘em. No, I’m happy. I signed a contract to be where I’m at and that’s where I wanted to be. That’s where I wanted my partners to be and that was a good home for me and it was a lot of fun. Just a great culture and good people and I enjoyed working at MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing), really did.”
How can NASCAR better police restarts?
“NASCAR – and I never step in, they do such a good job – but NASCAR should do this, call them out. That’s all you’ve got to do. When I was a weekly racer and racing all over the country – my dirt guys race all over – they don’t race under the same group of, you didn’t race under the same promoter every week. So one guy would be a hard ass and then you knew when you went to that race track that that guy – whether it was the flagger or the ring leader, the owner, whoever that guy was – he was going to call you on it and it was his decision. If you were wrong and didn’t like it, take your ass home. That was the mentality of C. Ray Hall in Wichita for instance at 81 Speedway. That was his mentality. Then you went to another race track and you knew that that guy wouldn’t call you on it and it was pretty much a gray area and you could get away with a little bit more than you could with ole’ C. Ray down the road in Wichita. That being said, all you’ve got to do is call somebody on it once – that will fix the problem. That’s all you have to do. I really believe we have a rule and I understand their intent of not wanting to get involved with that, but that’s not a good answer. Call them – whether it’s me or anybody else and if you do that once I won’t do it again.”
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Crispy Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Is Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) the team to beat in the 2015 Chase?
“Definitely, I think Joe Gibbs Racing is the top team. We’ve got the best chance with four drivers to be able to carry on this championship. Now Penske (Racing) obviously being only two cars, they still have as good of a chance as we do, but being two cars they may look a little bit less strong being four cars. I look forward to it though. This Chase has been a long time coming for the rest of the drivers – not as long for me – but it’s a great opportunity for me to be in the Chase and looking forward to competing for the championship.”
Do you feel like you missed 11 races?
“I feel like I’ve been going all year, but I still kind of know in the back of my mind like, ‘Yeah, I missed 11 weeks,’ so I’m definitely not as long into this as the other guys are. My days throughout the weeks of those 11 weeks were probably more hell than the rest of the guys, but that’s just all physical and emotional that’s in the past.”
Did you learn a lot about strategy for the championship format last year?
“I feel like last year we knew going in what we needed to do in order to move ourselves through. Last year, Joe Gibbs Racing as a whole, we weren’t capable of winning those races – we needed to point our way through to the end and we were doing a good job of that, a fine job of that until Talladega (Superspeedway) came around. We got wadded up on the backstretch there. We finished third at Kansas (Speedway) and fifth at Charlotte (Motor Speedway) or something and we were the best non-winner going into Talladega and still got eliminated, so anything can happen in this game. The only way to solidify your chance through to the next round is get that win and get that automatic. This year can be different for us at Joe Gibbs Racing because we do have that ability to win those races and we can go out there and try to get those wins and have that automatic.”
Do you have any thoughts on Kevin Harvick saying he’s going to pound the JGR drivers?
“Yeah, normally that starts before Homestead (Miami Speedway), not before Chicago, but he can have his fun.”
Does it worry you that your toughest competitors might be your teammates?
“Yes, I do agree with that. I think that as you do get deeper into the Chase – especially the championship four – any teammate, it’s obviously going to be a little bit weird. But I think that us at Joe Gibbs Racing and the chemistry that we have between our four teams is really, really good. So there’s a great opportunity for a Joe Gibbs Racing car, if not more, to make it to that final round, which Joe (Gibbs, team owner) would be smiling ear to ear.”
How has adding a fourth team made JGR stronger?
“I think, yeah, all we’ve done through the years has made our team stronger. Adding Matt (Kenseth) was a huge benefit. Obviously, it was a benefit for (Joey) Logano too to move on and go somewhere else, so I feel like as far as Joe Gibbs Racing though with adding on Carl (Edwards) this year in that fourth team, many teams may struggle that first year not really understanding the full capabilities of what it takes in the chassis shop or the fab shop or whatever and getting behind, but honestly our group has done a phenomenal job of if not staying right on par maybe even a little bit ahead of the game in preparation of cars and stuff like that. But as far as chemistry between the drivers and talking and all that and laying out there how all we break down the races and the events and the cars, I don’t feel like I’ve ever changed anything. I don’t feel like Denny’s (Hamlin) ever changed anything. We’ve just added in Matt and we’ve added in Carl now. That just continues to elevate our program.”
How do you share and take information from team meetings?
“You try to use what’s good for those guys to the best of your ability and vice versa. To me, there’s some times that Denny (Hamlin) can run something that I know I can’t run and we won’t run it and he’ll explain something and sometimes you just have to throw away that information where other times you run the same stuff or you go to running his stuff and you’ve got to utilize that information. So you’ve always got to be listening and taking the notes and everything of what’s going on. Yeah, you’re right, it could come down and bite you. I’m hoping though that if I’m championship eligible at Homestead (Miami Speedway) that I can go to Denny Hamlin and really rely on Denny on how good he is at Homestead.”
Should NASCAR make drivers give up positions if they jump restarts?
“Yes, I’m okay with that. For instance, people – I was probably really close to the edge of jumping a restart at Richmond (International Raceway) or jumping out of line. Whatever it was, I took the lead because of that, but if they would have said, ‘Hey, give those spots back,’ if I would have fallen back behind Matt (Kenseth) and Denny (Hamlin) and they said, ‘Okay, you’re good. Go ahead,’ I’m okay with that. It’s probably the better thing to do to allow the race still to play out without having as big of a penalty as if you were black flagged and had to do a pass through on pit road. That just kills your race, you know? At least you still have a chance where you’re not just totally taking advantage of a restart.”
Is Matt Kenseth still the same consistent driver?
“Same ole’ consistent Matt (Kenseth). That dude – he will out consistent you each and every time. I don’t know how he does it, but he’s really good at it. Matt has this weird sense of being able to run a looser car than I do – people think I drive it loose and he drives it looser than I do – and yet he’s still able to come through with some really consistent days and does a really good job of being able to get the most out of his car and his stuff and his guys on pit road – everybody – to just out top-five, out top-10 your butt each and every time.”
Is the key to the Chase consistency?
“You’ve got to have one or the other. If you haven’t got consistency than you better be winning. If you’re having consistency than you don’t have to be winning, but there’s nothing better than being able to win and move yourself automatically.”
Does Kevin Harvick have an advantage having won in this format?
“I guess if I was in (Kevin) Harvick’s situation, I’ve always got Phoenix (International Raceway) in my back pocket. He’s just dominated us there the last four or five times we’ve been there, so I look at that. But if he doesn’t make it through the second round, then the third round don’t matter, does it? I think though that he’s certainly one of the top guys I look at. I look at us four (Joe) Gibbs (Racing) cars first and then I look at the 4 (Kevin Harvick), I look at the 22 (Joey Logano), I’d look at the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) because you can never count them out and then from there it’s pretty even in my book.”