Toyota Racing – Kyle Busch
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Charlotte Motor Speedway – May 23, 2019
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch was made available to the media in Charlotte:
Kyle Busch, No. 18 M&M’s Red, White and Blue Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Talk about your hopes of repeating and becoming a back-to-back Coca-Cola 600 champion.
“That would certainly be the goal and all of our aspirations here for this weekend. We’ve certainly unloaded pretty close and felt like we had a fast Camry in practice. I really like the Red, White and Blue M&M’s Toyota, so hopefully we can qualify up front here tonight and get a good starting spot for Sunday night.”
Last week Denny Hamlin said we don’t need a 600-mile race. Do you think we need a 600-mile race like the Coca-Cola 600?
“I believe I was asked the same question last week as well too. In my opinion I think there is tradition. I think Denny (Hamlin) thinks otherwise. To me, I just remember being a kid growing up watching the 600 miler on TV. It certainly meant a little bit more years ago. The farther back you went, I think it meant even more because it was kind of man versus machine. Would the machine make it? Would the man make it through the 600-mile endurances race? These days the cars are essentially almost bullet proof and so are some of us drivers – just kidding. I think it’s just today’s society is just different than what it used to be. If that means that a shorter race will be a better race, then I’m all for it. I’ve also been on the flip side of that where I go run some short track races across the country and they used to be a 100 lappers and now they’re 200 lappers or they used to be 200 lappers and now they’re 300 lappers because they think longer is better. It depends on who you talk to and what side of the bed they woke up on.”
Brad Keselowski said Hendrick Motorsports is the team to beat right now. Where would you rank Joe Gibbs Racing compared to other teams?
“He (Brad Keselowski) said Hendrick (Motorsports)? I think Hendrick has certainly found some speed. They’re certainly getting better. They’re waking up. They’ve come to play a bit more lately. As far as the (Team) Penske group goes, they don’t really qualify well but they always race well. Then you look at the SHR (Stewart-Haas Racing) cars and they qualify well and they’ll race well typically. It seems like the SHR cars are trimmed out a little bit more than some of the rest of us. They get more speed out of their cars but maybe they don’t have it for the long haul. Where it seems like the JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) cars are kind of a compromise. We might not qualify on the pole or be the best in qualifying, but we’ll also race well. I wouldn’t call it middle of the road, but I feel like we’re in a position to win each week. We put ourselves in position to win each week and just due to certain circumstances for us in the 18 car, we’ve kind of eliminated ourselves a couple times this year. That’s certainly been frustrating, but we’ll keep fighting.”
In 2018 the 10 fastest cars in each race earned top-10 finishes in those races 70 percent of the time. This year, that rate has increased to 90 percent. Have you noticed a heightened dependency on pure speed and if so, has that changed your team’s focus in planning for a race?
“Can you send me those stats? I need those for my Monday meeting. I don’t know how much that has to do with track position and being up front. I feel like this year when you are the leader or you’re running in the top three, the air is so much different there that if you can maintain that position then you can hold that spot for pretty much the entire run. In years past, you could have a better opportunity to kind of pass some guys. If you were 16th or 18th or whatever and you’d kind of work your way up to the front and get into the top 10 and then you could maintain the top 10. You could still continue to drive up through the field. I don’t know how all of that is exactly formulated and relative to competition, but certainly when you have a faster car and you can keep it up front, your statistics are better. It’s always nice to have fast cars. Kevin Harvick says it the best – you can’t drive a slow car fast.”
In your mind, why has Joe Gibbs been so successful?
“Joe Gibbs has been successful his entire life. There certainly are some stories through his books and things that he’s written with Game Plan for Life that you learn a lot about them and you learn about some of his sacrifices and some of the poor decisions that he made and where he’s been able to change his life and change the direction of it through his early years. When you look at him as an NFL football coach and the success and the things that he did there – he hired a lot of great people and he also hired a lot of good players and things like that, but he was the brain child behind all of that. He’s got to take some credit there. I think the same can be said for him and his racing and his race team as well. He hires good drivers, he hires good crew chiefs, he keeps good people and the veteran people. The better the people that are there and the better they are, they continue to move up the ladder and stay with the company for a long time. I’ve been there now 10-12 years, whatever it’s been and a lot of the same faces are there from when I got there that are still there today. They’ve been there for 20-25 years. We have our team Christmas dinners every single year and we give out 20-year awards, 25-year awards and there’s a lot of people that have been there for that long. It’s pretty special that he’s been able to have that allure or the camaraderie and the chemistry within the organization to keep people there forever and to treat people well that they want to stay. That comes all from the top.”
What advice do you have for drivers making their first Coca-Cola 600?
“It’s a long-ass race. Don’t even focus on – you want to work on your car handling a little bit, but you can’t necessarily focus on your car handling for the first 300 miles and then you can kind of start to pay attention through it at mile marker 400 to 500 and then 500 on is where it all comes to play. That’s when business picks up. That’s when you need to be in position in order to put yourself in position for a final pit stop or the final couple of pit stops that’ll gain you track position and get you up in the position that you need to be in. If you’re running mid-pack through the beginning part of the race, there’s really nothing to worry about. You just try to stay on the lead lap. If you do go a lap down, you just try to stay one lap down because there may be an opportunity for you to get a wave-around or something with the stage breaks and stuff like that. You can’t get impatient and try to overdo it.”
How do you go from different vehicles in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series?
“You just have to know the difference between the three vehicles. For me, I feel like I do it not enough as much anymore as I used to, but I still kind of understand the different vehicle dynamics that they have between each other – the aero dynamics that they have between each other and the different driving techniques that they have. I kind of formulate a plan when I go from truck to car to car or whatever it might be that the driving techniques on this one that I can use the same on this one but modify it a little bit and then do it over here is kind of the same thing. A lot of guys think that when they go from Truck, Xfinity, Cup that they can drive all of them the same – same lift points, braking points, all that sort of stuff at all of these race tracks. That’s not true. If you’re at a braking point with a truck, you might be able to use the same one with the Xfinity car, but you’re going to have to be different with a Cup car. Or it could be the same with the Cup car and the truck, it just all depends so you’ve got to formulate all that in your brain and figure it all out and I have enough experience doing that where I feel like I can do it.”
How will this package perform at Pocono with a long straightaway and flat corners?
“I’m not sure exactly. It all depends. It depends on how the weather is up there on what happens and how the race plays out, how good the race will be – if it’s cloudy or sunny or whatever, what the track looks like now a year removed since we’ve been there. I think restarts are obviously going to be interesting. You go down the front straightaway and everybody fans out, but some guys push. You know pushing is a big deal now because of how much drag the cars have. When you can put two engines together essentially on one car, that’s what’s happening when you’re pushing because the air over the first car doesn’t have time to go down and hit the rear spoiler. It keeps going straight across both roofs and only hits one rear spoiler. That’s why it’s faster to push. Guys will be doing a heck of a lot more of that. Bump draft is going to be important down the straightaways and stuff coming out of Turn 1, going down into Turn 2. Once it kind of single files out a little bit, I’m not sure we’ll see a whole lot different. As a matter of fact, I’m going to be pessimistic here, it might actually be a tick worse because the wake, the aero wake that you have from the car in front of you to behind you – I’m thinking Turn 2 right now is going to be a disaster. When you’re trying to close on somebody and you’re making ground up on them in the middle of the corner and then your car lifts and takes off and goes to the wall and knocks the wall down – there’s nothing you can do to protect that as a driver. That’s what is so frustrating. That’s what happened to me with (Kyle) Larson last week. Like I had speed on him through the middle of the corner and he washed up a little bit in front of me and my car just found his wake and took off and went to the fence. There’s nothing you can do. People are like well, you just drove into the fence and I’m like yeah, that’s what I meant to do. I drove it in the fence. Exactly. Like no, the air took me into the fence, but whatever. It’s a challenge. It’s way bigger now than what it was.”
Is there an art to side drafting to put your competition in the wake so it puts them at a disadvantage?
“When you’re side-by-side with somebody you’re always trying to side draft them and slow them down and get yourself in the right position for when you’re going down a straightaway to getting into the next corner, things like that. There’s an art to it. There’s a science to it. I guess that’s probably all I need to share.”
How will it change to take the shifting element out of Pocono with the gear change?
“I have no idea. Shifting at Pocono has always kind of been – when we went from shifting to not shifting it didn’t do anything. It didn’t save anybody any money. It didn’t do anything. All it did was reduce gear temps. In my opinion I think it’s better if you’re able to shift. You can have an opportunity to have different gearing and stuff like that for the betterment of you and different than somebody else that you’re racing around. It might actually help you be able to make moves or passes or whatever but in all retrospect it’s probably not much different.”