An interview with:
THE MODERATOR: We are joined now by our race winning owner, Coach Joe Gibbs, and our race winning crew chief, Adam Stevens.
Coach, that got pretty exciting. Tell us your thoughts on today’s win.
JOE GIBBS: I just admire Adam and the team and Kyle. As everybody knows, we had to overcome a lot today. I think Adam can kind of talk about the car at the end. That early spin, kind of look at that and say, Oh, my gosh, our day is going to end early.
I think with Adam and Kyle, they have a way of fighting through adversity, doing a great job. Adam told Kyle right off the bat, Hey, the car is not really hurt. I think it probably took something away from the car, but they just did a great job fighting all day.
I think obviously the caution at the end there really helped us. I think we were a short run type car at the end. It just shows you how hard Bristol is. We had so many things happen to our cars today. We had loose wheels with Martin, loose wheels with Erik. Denny, obviously speeding on pit road. A lot can happen at this racetrack. It’s very hard to win here.
It’s a thrill for us. For Coy, we had our whole family here. I say ‘our whole family’. We had Jackson and Miller, two grandsons here. Coy obviously for our family. Everybody is excited. Obviously for Mars, a huge deal for Skittles, for Norm at Interstate, and obviously for Toyota.
THE MODERATOR: Adam, three wins now for you on the season. Headed to a track that you swept both races last year. You’re in a pretty good spot right now.
ADAM STEVENS: Yeah, you know, we’ve been pretty – what’s the word here – close all year. This was probably about the worst car I gave him to go race with this year. This new tire combination, aero package threw off our old setup. We didn’t make a lot of headway in practice. We weren’t as good as we hoped to be.
We got some good tracks coming up. Hopefully we can get back on our horse, give him something he can race with a little closer next week.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll open it up to questions.
Q. Adam, the final decision to go out and take the lead, was it a no-brainer for you?
ADAM STEVENS: I mean, it was a no-brainer for us. It took us so long to fire on tires, but beyond that there was a quick caution after our last stop. I think the back six or seven came about 20 laps on tires or something. They had no reason to pit. If we gave them the lead, they were just going to take it.
I didn’t see us restarting behind those guys and behind the two that were already in front of us, being able to finish any closer to the front than what we already were.
We were just going to take our chances. I didn’t think we would inherit the lead. I thought maybe one of them would come. But they both came. That made it a little bit easier on us.
Q. How do you keep this team from becoming complacent over the next few weeks?
JOE GIBBS: Well, I don’t see Kyle or Adam being complacent, I really don’t. I think they’re driven. I think our Playoff system, the way it is right now, I got to tell you, I think it’s great that we have segment racing. Those points can carry over. If you are really after it, like they are, then you could wind up with enough points, that’s the goal, wind up with enough points that it can really carry you into the Playoffs.
It’s a big deal for us. I think our guys, they’ll continue to fight. Everybody knows how competitive it is up here. It’s hard to win. Each one of these you really cherish. I think the point thing is huge for our racing now that we have segment racing. I think it keeps everybody up on the wheel.
ADAM STEVENS: I mean, I echo what he said. I don’t think complacency is in my vocabulary or Kyle’s vocabulary or anybody on this team that I’ve hired. I can tell you that.
If there’s a trophy and a checkered flag, we’re working 80 or 90 hours a week, away from our families for three or four days a week, we don’t come out here to ride around. We get paid to win. Coach gives us the equipment to win. We have Kyle Busch driving our car. That’s what we intend to do.
Q. During the broadcast, they mentioned Kyle Busch with a top-10 finish today is the first driver in 27 years to start the season with a top-10 finish in the first eight races.
JOE GIBBS: That’s great.
ADAM STEVENS: That’s pretty cool. In one of the prerace shows, interviewing Kyle, I heard them mention that. I thought that was pretty neat. Any time Kyle can scratch his name in the record book, he likes to do that, for sure.
Just a testament to the preparation and execution of the whole team, and a little bit of luck, too. Anything can go wrong and take you out of a race. We sped on pit road, that could easily have been a last stop instead of mid race or early race stop. Any one little thing can happen.
That streak will come to an end, hopefully not next week, but it definitely will at some point.
Q. Adam, I think we know how Kyle can be on the radio. After the lap one incident, how tough was it or was it that difficult to be able to keep him calm with the damage, knowing that could have set you back all day?
ADAM STEVENS: No, it wasn’t tough at all. He was fine on the radio today. In general, I can probably only think of one or two times that wasn’t the case. Like I said, he’s no different than the rest of us. We came here to win. Sometimes those circumstances can change that situation.
That particular circumstance just cost us some track position. Thankfully we didn’t take a shot to a wheel or to the axle or something that was going to do some serious damage. I don’t think it impacted our day too poorly other than having to go to the back.
This race, I don’t know what it is about this spring race in Bristol, tear a lot of stuff up here. A lot of people make a lot of mistakes. Sometimes you end up with a winner that you didn’t expect. I would say today was no different.
Q. Obviously we saw Kyle get to 200 a few weeks ago. Today he ties Lee Petty for the Cup Series win list. Does he continue to keep impressing you, I don’t want to say defying everything that’s put in his way, but keeps doing what he does?
JOE GIBBS: I think we’ve kind of talked about this because he’s got off to such a good start. The 200 wins. He has a way about him. He does not get complacent at any time. He gets mad. I think Friday he was kind of upset some. I normally call him and talk to him. I tried to stay as far away from him as I can because he will vent to me, too. I get called names from time to time.
I think his competitive spirit, he’s one of those athletes that when he’s around the racetrack, things don’t go well, he gets upset. I think it’s because it means a lot to him. Then I think you see that show up on race day. His competitive spirit I think is something we kind of all admire and we’re kind of used to. I think it says a lot about his competitive spirit.
Already mentioned Jackson and Miller, my two grand-boys were here with their buddies in the back. It was their responsibility, the race today. We’re in good shape. I try to get them over there with the Monster girls, but to be quite truthful, they said, They’re out of our league (laughter).
Q. Adam, what would you attribute so many loose wheels today to? Do you have any idea what was going on there?
ADAM STEVENS: Generally you see a little bit more of that on the concrete tracks. There’s a lot of grip. It’s hard on the wheels. You’re loading and unloading a lot here.
Beyond that, there’s a lot more high frequency vibration that probably tends to shake some things loose. If you get them tight, they don’t come loose. I don’t know if guys were in a hurry trying to make up track position because it’s so hard to pass. But that’s about all I could tell you.
Q. You have Gabehart as one of the Cup crew chiefs. Your greatest competition may be under your own roof again. How do you handle that?
ADAM STEVENS: It’s been that way for years, it seems like. Trading paint with our teammates, sharing notes all at the same time. It’s not something that we haven’t done before, and we’ll continue to do.
THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by our race winning driver, Kyle Busch.
We’ll keep going with questions.
Q. This is a strange weekend in that the industry honored Darrell Waltrip, the winningest driver here. Kyle comes out as the winner. This whole mystical storyline, because Kyle wins everything these days. Are you feeling this might be part of something magical?
JOE GIBBS: That’s for me?
JOE GIBBS: I just think you never get complacent in pro sports. Certainly we don’t I know around our place. It’s so hard to stay up there. That’s the hardest thing in pro sports. It was the hardest thing in the NFL. It’s the hardest thing over here.
These race teams here are the most competitive racing teams in the world. They come bouncing back. So I don’t think he can afford to get complacent. I think our group, I know they’re going to work hard.
I appreciate everybody back at the race shop. I think Kyle and Adam will both tell you we have people there that are super competitive, working extremely hard. We try to put banners up on Tuesdays and Mondays, honor them, get them in there.
I think our whole team, you win with your people. I think we got great people. I really appreciate that. The Lord has blessed us with a bunch of great guys. They’re very competitive and smart.
I think this thing runs in cycles. Kyle has kind of defied things because he’s won so much. Hopefully we can keep that going.
Q. Erik Jones mentioned several times this week he’s working on an extension. Can you comment on that? Where that puts Christopher Bell?
JOE GIBBS: I think for us, you don’t comment much on the future other than to say Christopher has a place with us long-term, and so does Erik. That’s our goal. That’s what we’ll keep working on. It’s great to have young people coming, young talent. It’s very important for us. We all know that.
Q. Adam, correct me if I’m wrong, but I think I heard you come over the radio after Kyle sustained the damage and say it might help you guys. In that moment, were you very calm? Did it actually help you in the long run?
ADAM STEVENS: I don’t recall saying that.
The way that we received the damage, we got hit pretty square on the bumper cover. It kind of shoved it up and forward. That would not be an aero detriment. The quarter panel was loose. Could have changed the balance in the car in an unfavorable way.
If we were off after the damage, it was because we weren’t very good, I don’t think it was because of the damage.
Q. Kyle, I know you’ve been answering a lot of these types of questions lately. What does it mean to tie Lee Petty, move behind Rusty Wallace?
KYLE BUSCH: I’ll say it again. It’s pretty cool to have the opportunity to go out there and win these races. When you win these races, the numbers will just continue to add up. The addition of that, getting to Lee Petty, I mean, you’re starting to get into some really heavy company that’s at the top 10 of the all-time wins list of our series and our sport.
I feel as though I’ve just done my fair share and have been with some amazing people over the years that have gotten me to this number thus far. We’ll just keep going.
Q. Following the race we were talking to Kurt, he said he told you he was going to wreck you if he could have got to you. Where did he tell you that?
KYLE BUSCH: He told me in Victory Lane. I told him, You can’t tell people you’re going to wreck them before you do it because when roles are reversed that person is going to wreck you because you already told them you were going to wreck them. So I guess if I’m ever running second to Kurt, I’m going to wreck him (laughter).
I don’t know. I’m glad it didn’t turn out that way and he couldn’t get to me because I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to be in that situation. I’m glad I could finally hit my marks halfway decent and drive away a few more inches towards the end of the race.
I think he was trying really hard. I seen him get crossed up in my mirror a couple of times off of two. I think he got in the fence. It gave me that extra gap to bring it home.
Q. (No microphone.)
KYLE BUSCH: I’m sure he did.
Q. Was the Cry Me a River comment directed at your brother?
KYLE BUSCH: No. Why would it be at him? No.
Q. What was it in regards to?
KYLE BUSCH: C’mon. Anybody else? Does anybody else know? Nobody? Oh, my God. Haters, really.
What was the comment?
Q. Cry Me a River.
KYLE BUSCH: I was coming to the checkered flag, I said Cry Me a River. I didn’t say the word ‘haters’. I wanted to make it to where I didn’t have to say the word but I have to because obviously nobody understood what the hell it meant.
Q. (No microphone.)
KYLE BUSCH: Now I can tell him Cry Me a River.
Q. Adam, Kyle said in Victory Lane that he feels as if even though you have three wins, Penske might still be the championship favorites. What is your take on that? Is that where the battle is right now?
ADAM STEVENS: I would hesitate to pick who’s best right now. I mean, they’ve had us covered today. We weren’t very good, like I’ve said a dozen times already.
I don’t think being fast in the first seven or eight races of the year really means that you’re going to go to Homestead and wear everybody out. Certainly their program is in a good spot. I think we’re in a good spot.
I think if we do our jobs, hit it right, we can run with anybody. I don’t expect that will be different when we get down to the Playoffs.
Q. Kyle, in races where you’ve finished with your brother 1-2, you’re 2-0 against him now. Is that fun to be able to race Kurt for a win down the stretch like that? What’s going through your mind?
KYLE BUSCH: I mean, it doesn’t matter who it is. You’re just focused on trying to get away. We had a way better long long-run car today than we did short-run car. I knew if I could just get some gap, some space, I’d probably use up a little bit of that gap in the first three laps for the next five.
I was hoping we would start to stretch back out. With the amount of laps we had on our tires, you would think we were in long-run mode with how far we’d gone on tires. If you fire back off on restarts, you’re kind of back earlier than mid run, I’d say, just with air pressure buildups and everything else. You’re just playing it out, trying to run hard.
Again, regardless of who is behind you, that’s what you’re trying to do. To see him in my mirror, to see him closing in on me, I was like, Surely I can’t lose this one to my brother.
He gave it one hell of a fight. What’s crazy is I think I won the spring race last year, then he won the fall race, then I won the spring race. Three in a row for the Busch brothers?
Q. It’s four.
KYLE BUSCH: Because I won the previous fall? That’s pretty funny. I didn’t know that.
Q. They all run together.
KYLE BUSCH: They do. Busch and Bristol, sounds familiar.
Yeah, I mean, just a great show. They weren’t very good in practice this weekend. I didn’t expect them to be there where they were. Time and time again, they never cease to impress this year. They’re running good.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, congratulations on the win. We’ll see you next week in Richmond.
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