Toyota Racing – Kyle Busch
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Daytona Media Day – February 14, 2018
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch was made available to the media in Daytona:
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
How are you preparing for tomorrow night’s race?
“I think the biggest thing for tomorrow night, you got to go for points, be smart, get some points out of that race if you can. Obviously it’s a big deal to have stage points, we kind of saw that last year with everything going on. Even if you can win the thing, obviously that would be even better to get that stage bonus point. But to have the points collection just kind of starting with that race is going to be important. So you got to be cautious and mindful of what you got going on, what you’re doing, because that’s the car you want to start the Daytona 500 with. It’s also the car that you’ve qualified with. You’re not allowed to touch it after qualifying. Everybody has speed dialed in. I wouldn’t say a lot of guys have a whole loft comfort dialed into their cars. You might see some exciting moments. Hopefully none that we’re caught up in.”
What is your take on concussions at this point, the protocol, safety measures that have been taken the last five years? Are you up to speed on that? Do you think more can be done?
“I mean, I think any time that you learn and science comes out about the concussion protocol and the things that happen within the brain throughout a traumatic experience like that, we can always learn from and get better at. I wouldn’t say we’re ever perfect, we’re ever satisfied. Certainly NASCAR has done a great job. I think Dale Jr. has been the leading guy on all of this stuff. I got to applaud him and the research and things that he’s done with the guys, I think it was up in Philly that he went to, talked to. There’s been a big push on that, trying to make sure that we’re all safer. If there’s races that we got to be held out, then so be it. That’s kind of the way that our season has gone on, the way the points structure is now, you can have those opportunities of being held out, skipping a race, not totally getting taken out of the running for a points deal. I think it’s been a good push so far from NASCAR’s side and from the driver’s side, trying to keep it as safe as possible.”
If you were making a list for restrictor plate drivers currently, who would be the top two, three, four?
“I’d probably say, I mean, right now with this package, the last couple years, I look at Brad (Keselowski) and Denny (Hamlin) as being the top two guys. I think the speed of (Ricky) Stenhouse’s car was pretty important last year. He did a good job with it, won some races. But I got to look at Brad and Denny, the things they do, as the guys you kind of watch, see if you can mimic, emulate some of the stuff they have going on in order to get yourself through the pack and up towards the front.”
Anything in particular they do besides putting themselves in the right positions?
“It’s like they’re outside the car and they can see the things that are happening behind them better than I can. Like, I can only see what’s happening behind me, the guy that’s directly behind me. I can’t necessarily tell the run that he’s getting and where the energy is coming from behind him. It’s like those guys are standing outside their car, they’re feeling or seeing what all is happening, where to get that energy from, all that sort of stuff. I liked it better when there was a guy in front of you, you could chase him down, try to pass him by yourself, you didn’t have to worry about what was happening behind you. Now it’s all about what’s going on behind you, having the right people pushing you, getting the air bubble, if you will, to push you forward. They’ll back up, get it built up, packed up, then it will sling them forward. Any time I feel like I’m trying to back up and get that energy, inertia going, somebody will pull past me. I can pass Kyle Busch, let’s go, instead of helping the line go forward. Take my picture, that’s what I call it.”
Like three‑dimensional chess?
“Yeah, I mean, I don’t think it’s like chess, you got to play moves ahead. I think there’s the buildup. Everything is kind of happening around you, behind you, and you got to take advantage of that. I’m not very good at that.”
You were part of a brand shoot with NASCAR last month. What were your impressions of how that went?
“It went fine. I mean, if I would have known that was coming probably four days earlier than I did, I probably wouldn’t have had many of the comments that I had. But there was still another shoot that happened. Whether or not I got asked to do that one or not, I’m not sure, the one with all the fantasy choices, that commercial.”
It was all part of that same thing.
“I didn’t get asked to do that one, so…”
You didn’t know you were going to this one?
“No, huh‑uh. What they had for us, I mean, you’ll see the commercial, it comes out this week, but a mix of some of the young guys, some of the old guys. I think it’s a pretty cool spot. There’s some drama to it. But the one that we’ve been seeing this past weekend with the fantasy pic, that girl, you’re in, you’re in, you’re out. I wouldn’t ask for that one. Ryan Blaney telling me I say no, that he knows personal and firsthand, he’s full of it.”
I wasn’t going to go there.
NASCAR is trying to play you off each other when stuff happens on track, how is that important do you think? You’re a young guy, digital age, Twitter, is it all tied together?
“Yeah, they do a lot of that stuff. They did a lot of that stuff with Media Day. They do a little bit more of it here today with some shoots and things like that, where you’re making your own gift, you are the gift, if you will. Other than that, though, playing us up against one another, the whole Denny and Chase (Elliott) thing, whatever, through the last half of the year, I mean, fine. That’s the action, that’s the story that’s out there. I think our sport is a lot about storytelling, getting that story out there, being able to draw it on in weeks that go. When it does go weeks at a time like that one did, it’s pretty good. It’s like, What happens next? You got to tune in next week to find out, you know. But we can’t script all this stuff, folks. It comes naturally a lot of times.”
Based on performance?
“Exactly. You still got to win. You still got to go out there, run up front, make a name for yourself, do what you need to.”
Did you see what happened with Noah Gragson?
“I don’t know everything that went down with that. Noah said what he said about how it kind of got taken a little bit out of context, from now on he’s going to be vanilla. That’s what happens. When people want to play the game of mixing words and things like that, you turn us into robots. We can’t say the things that we want to say or do the things we want to do because it gets us in trouble or gets us in a bad light. It’s really unfortunate for Noah. I know fact of the matter, because I own that truck that he got crashed out on, everything was locked up on that thing, he was just hanging on for the ride. He didn’t have any steering. Obviously what he said, you know, he just blurted it out. It came off the wrong way. Once you say something and it’s out there, it’s like deleting a tweet, everybody already saw it.”
Do you want to say something to your fans in the Netherlands?
“We love our fans everywhere, but especially anywhere overseas. You guys are awesome, so keep following the sport of NASCAR, keep following your favorite driver here, Kyle Busch, with the M&Ms Toyota. Hopefully we can win for y’all. Come see us sometime.”
With 40 entries here, what do you think tomorrow night’s race will be like? There won’t be anybody desperate to race their way into the field. You will be wanting to get points.
“Yeah, I think it’s still going to be about getting points, who is going to get those points, what moves are going to be made towards the end in order to get yourself in position to gather some of those. I think that kind of puts a little bit of different drama into the Duels. You don’t have the drama of who is going to make the race, make the field, who is going to go home, miss The Great American Race. You have the drama of being able to pick up the stage points. We did see how important all those were through the season last year.”
When you look at guys who have won restrictor plate races in the last few years, it seems there’s guys that win more often than not. Why are these guys winning more at restrictor plate tracks?
“Yeah, you got to be good, but there’s still a lot of luck involved. You got to be out front. When your cars are fast, you need to do a good job, you know how to lead it, get yourself through traffic, you’ll be out front a lot of the times. The 2 car is very hard to pass, he’s very fast. When those guys are out front, they seem to be able to control the race. Last year I think it was a Duel, maybe the Clash, Denny was trying to go for the lead, get to his inside and pass him. No, Denny was leading, trying to hold Brad off, they ended up crashing. So hard to hold those fast cars back, if you will. They do a good job of being able to predict the lines and how they build the inertia and everything behind them.”
Is there a skill and art, anticipate making a move?
“Yeah, I don’t ever really think when something is going to happen. That’s a spur‑of‑the‑moment thing, it just does happen. As far as being able to make your way, make your maneuvers and things like that, Brad and Denny are probably some of the best at being able to do that. I try to watch a little bit about what they do and how they do it. I’m just not very good at emulating that. They have a really good sense of what’s going on behind them, how they can make the lines kind of build up that inertia, that pressure, it kind of shoots them forward. The only thing I see behind me is a car. I can’t really see what’s going on three, four deep. Any time I try to back it up and stall it in order to get that inertia or get that run going, somebody just pulls out and wants to pass me. Obviously I’m doing something wrong.”
The Brickyard is the cutoff race this year for the Chase. That’s basically your track. Do you see that one as whoever has the No. 1 seed could be in play?
“Yeah, possibly. Certainly I think Martin (Truex Jr.) was right with us last year. He was pretty fast. But it has been sort of my wheelhouse the last couple years, which has been a good thing to have that opportunity to go to Brickyard every year and be fast there, try to win that thing. But, you know, it’s an important race being the cutoff race. It’s nice to have that momentum going into the Chase. Richmond (Raceway) has been really good for us, then it hasn’t been very good for us. We’re kind of back and forth on that one, where it seems like the Brickyard(Indianapolis Motor Speedway) has always been pretty good for us.”
If you’re a driver desperate to make that field of 16, that’s a tough race to try to do that.
“It is, because it’s a tough place to pass it, especially when your car is not very good. When your car is really good, you can be out front, then it’s fine. Even if you’re fifth or sixth, you got to make your way to the front a little bit, you can pass some of those guys if your car is really good. More times than not, it can be a challenge for others.”
Are you on the drivers council this year?
What have you found that experience to be like? What more can that group do to continue to grow and help impact the sport?
“I think it’s big. I think that we have had a strong impact in this sport. I think we’ve done a lot of great things, many of those I can’t say, many of those I’ve forgotten of. We have a good presence of the drivers council. Last year I think it was missed a little bit on NASCAR’s part and our part, the communication between the manufacturers and the team, the RTA, about this driver share deal. That’s probably the biggest thing that we’ve missed on lately. The council, though, we have a big voice in trying to make sure we get the group back together to figure out what we’re going to do with that going forward. That’s our next topic, agenda, to do what we can to work on that. Past that, it’s as things kind of come up and progress, we talk about it. I think it’s a good thing that the drivers can have a face and a voice with NASCAR themselves. It’s not always that awkward when you have a problem or have some trouble with NASCAR, that they don’t know where you’re coming from, because they do kind of know where you’re coming from. Even though we may meet four or five times a year, it still gives you a good chance to have them kind of get to know you, get to know how you say things.”
The driver share?
“The data sharing, yeah, the thing that’s coming out through SMT that all the manufacturers are buying into now. It’s sharing all the driver traces, so anybody can see my driver trace any time they want to now. That’s a big issue with me especially. Some of the other drivers have also voiced their opinion on that. We’re still trying to work on that.”
Why is that a big issue?
“Because I’ve spent 13 years in this sport to figure out how to drive a racecar, make it go fast, do the things I do to win races and championships. Now you’re going to hand all that on a piece of paper to a young driver, they’re going to figure it out, as long as they know how to read it.”
Whoever gets it still has to be able to do that.
“Yeah, they still have to do it, but at least they know what I’m doing. If they study up on it enough, you’ll know how to beat me, I’ll know how to beat you, whatever it might be. Also the other part about it, too, that’s our signature. Us driving the racecar, that’s our way of figuring out how to make cars go around the racetrack fast. It’s not necessarily what we’re doing or how we’re driving or racecar in particular moments, that’s how we’re setting up our cars. The other part of it, too, the more and more like how I became good at Martinsville (Speedway), it wasn’t just by myself, it was from Denny Hamlin, it was looking and studying and learning and talking to him, figuring some of the things he was doing and why. That’s how I became good at Martinsville. Well, if everybody else starts to do these things and drive Martinsville a particular way, you’re going to have a boring ass race, nobody is going to pass each other, they’re going to be doing the same dang things, because that’s the fastest way to get around there. I don’t see it as being any positives to anything we’re doing as far as the sport. When you have everybody that’s going to have an opportunity to figure out how people are doing things, drive the same, that’s not a positive thing.”
Did you express your displeasure with NASCAR?
Did you get a response?
“They’re saving the manufacturers money because other manufacturers were scraping the screen through the race view thing, the video game, so they were getting this information already. It’s not quite the same information. It was very choppy and dirty. So that’s why they just decided to hand it all out to everybody and give it away for free.”
Are they getting more data off of Race View?
“Both, more data and better quality.”
On the same topic of young drivers learning, we hear all the time in the NFL how many hours are spent in film study. How many hours would a driver do?
“If you’re not doing that in this day and age, you’re an idiot. You absolutely should be doing something. Whether it’s five minutes, 10 minutes, watching a few laps, watching restarts, watching the first part of a run or the end of a run, whatever it might be, you should absolutely be doing something, watching some film.”
Is that straight‑up broadcast feed or do you have different feeds from different angles?
“Well, about everything is on YouTube, so…”
It’s taken from the broadcast?
“Yeah, broadcast is some of it. There’s other stuff, too. I can’t give away everything.”
“That’s how we look at it. They don’t.”
Is that like an NFL team giving the other team their playbook?
“Essentially, yeah, because it’s the drawn‑out lines of how you do your job, how you’re doing stuff. So absolutely, yeah.”
Have you taken notes on restrictor plate races, saying this is what I need to do here?
“You take mental notes more than you take written‑down notes because the restrictor plate races change so much, the rules change, the cars change, things change with those. But since the Gen‑6, is that what we’re on, since we got to this car, especially the last two, three years, it’s been the Penske guys, especially Brad, that has been really, really good at this game. Denny has been really, really good at this game. Those guys is who I watch.”
Does the charter system allow people that want to get in the sport the opportunity?
“Absolutely, yeah. I think it gives somebody an entryway of some sort of path to have an opportunity to come in. So I don’t agree with just the 36. I think it’s fine to have more, if more want to join. I don’t see that as being a negative at all.”
It’s been 20 years since Dale Earnhardt won the Daytona 500. Do you remember what you were doing? Did you watch that race? Do you remember anything about that day?
“I’d have to say I must have been at home and laying on grandma’s floor, sitting on grandma’s floor, staring at the television, watching that race. That’s about what I can remember. I remember the year before vividly watching that race and thinking, Dale is going to finally win this thing. Then he’s on his lid just a few laps before the end. That was kind of where we were every single off‑season, every single February, because we weren’t racing yet. I would have been 12 maybe, going on 13, something like that. I would have been sitting there watching the television, seeing whether or not Dale was finally going to be able to win the Daytona 500. All of the rescripts or the replays of what the announcers are saying and all that stuff, 20 years of trying, all that sort of stuff, you know, I remember that from back then as well, too, kind of happening, going through your mind of Dale winning the big race.”
You talked about always being a Jeff fan. Back then Jeff fans weren’t necessarily Dale fans.
“Look, I was never a detractor. I was never a hater of anybody. I was always a fan of the sport, a fan of anyone. I was a Jeff Gordon fan number one, but from there I liked to see Dale win, I didn’t mind seeing Rusty win, I didn’t mind seeing Dale Jarrett win. I was watching, learning, seeing the sport evolve and play out, never really saying, I can’t stand that guy, I hate that guy. I was never that guy.”
But you are that guy?
“But I am that guy, yup.”
Can you explain what it was like when you used to be able to talk to each other on the radio, and why couldn’t they do that every race, play it on TV?
“Oh, I mean, I didn’t mind it. I actually thought it was great. When they outlawed it, I thought it was the worst idea ever because we were still tandeming then. Now you can’t talk to the guy you’re tandeming with. It was actually the drivers who were spotting each other and everything. Joey and I, I thought we were one of the best pairs at it. Whether I was leading or whether he was leading, we would talk to each other as the front guy, like, Hey, go to the middle, go to the low, go wherever as the lead guy. The back guy would also be trying to come on the radio and say, Block here, I’m going up, I got to go up, go down, go down. You were always saying those things. The spotters up there were drinking coffee or beer or whatever, trying to keep themselves intertwined somehow. I thought that was really good. Ever since we’ve gotten away from the tandem thing, I don’t know that it’s necessary that we need it. Besides the strict comedic value with it would have if it was broadcast on television of us chewing each other out for something.”
Have drivers, like Daniel Suarez, came to you for advise as they’ve grown in this sport?
“He still comes to me sometimes. There’s times, when he first started, it was every week. It was weekly, weekly, weekly. I’m like, All right, buddy, at some point you’re going to have to get off the bottle and do it for yourself. Then he kind of stopped for a little while. Then there was kind of a little bit of spurts here or there that he would ask, which was fine. Then it just kind of shut off. Hasn’t come a whole lot. When we’re in our team meetings, have the weekly meetings, talk about what our cars were doing, what was happening in the event prior, I think he’s learning a lot there. I think he’s taking all of that in. But as far as asking or prepping and getting some information about coming forward, he utilizes that more now as a group setting instead of just singling me out.”
Are you jogging with Sam now?
“Am I running with Samantha?”
Yes. Are you working out on a regular basis?
“Absolutely, yeah. We’ve been working out. I wouldn’t say jogging. She hates that. She won’t go running. She’d rather stay in the gym and work out in the gym, do HIT training, things like that, high intensity interval training and stuff. Weights, cardio, all that intertwined into itself, I hate that, but I do it every day.”