Toyota Racing – Kyle Busch
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Chicagoland Speedway – June 29, 2019
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch was made available to the media in Chicago:
Kyle Busch, No. 18 Skittles Red, White & Blue Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Question about your teammate Erik Jones. He is kind of in this limbo if he is going to return to Joe Gibbs Racing. Have you had any conversations with him or given him any advice on how to handle it?
“I have not had any conversations with Erik. I’m not privy to all the details with all that is going on. Obviously being through Kyle Busch Motorsports and the Xfinity Series; he could have or should have won the championship that year. Since being in the Cup car, he’s had good runs, but he has had a lot of bad luck. He has had bad luck take him out of good runs. It’s kind of frustrating I know. He is a Cup Series winner, which is cool, but we are a performance-based business and you have to perform. So however that happens, however that is, you have to make that happen.”
It is the first time in years that another driver at Joe Gibbs Racing has four wins other than you. What is like for you to have someone at Joe Gibbs Racing that is driving you that way?
“It has been good. We have had the relationship with Martin (Truex Jr.) for a long time. Even with years back, with him being at MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) and being a part of the Toyota family. Then he moved out of that role to Furniture Row; they came back to Toyota and that is when he got teamed up with Cole (Pearn, crew chief) and they have been on a hot run ever since. Cole is a smart individual. He does a great job. He has good people around him, and Martin is a good driver. I have gone up against him in our Xfinity days, back in our rookie seasons, so I know what he is like and good he is. It’s nice to have him under our roof and in the same equipment and to be able to communicate with them and to be able to share with them. There are race tracks that he is really, really good at and shines at and does well, and there are race tracks that I am good at or better at that we can go back-and-forth on. It could be any one of us each week. We have all the tools necessary at Joe Gibbs Racing thanks to Joe (Gibbs, owner), and everybody that has built this place and gives us everything that we need.
Do you see it as a friendly rivalry with Martin (Truex Jr.)?
“I would say that it’s a friendly rivalry. The way we go about it, we put everything out on the table. We have crashed each other a few times, and we have been pissed at each other a few times, but a couple weeks later we are back to business and we are joking around in meetings and we are working with one another and stuff like that. You are going to have those situations that happen just because of how close we are running. We try to give each other the space you need and the respect that each of us deserve. Sometimes we run into one another, but that happens. But it has been good overall.”
How do you think you and Martin (Truex Jr.) are alike and how are you different?
“I would say we are nothing alike and he would agree with me on that so that he is not in my wheelhouse whatsoever. He’s more laid-back and more reserved. He comes across way different than I do. I am a bit more outspoken and brash. I think that is where we can complement each other. There are times in meetings that I just want to come out and blurt out something and I kind of just hold it in and I let Martin say it and he says in a better way than I ever could have thought it. He kind of gets my point across or vice versa. If I feel like he doesn’t say it hard enough, then I will get in. That’s the same with Denny (Hamlin). (Erik) Jones is a little more reserved, a little more inexperienced, but he has been speaking up a lot lately. So, it’s a good mix of what we have as a team.”
When you look back on the finish here, what do you remember? With the new rules package is there potential for a finish like that again?
“I think what stands out most to me about last year’s finish is about every detail. I remember I had a good lead and I was kind of just biding my time and there was a lot of traffic that I had to pick my way though. My brother (Kurt Busch) was in it, (Ryan) Newman was in it, (Ricky) Stenhouse Jr. was in it. I kind of got bottled up a couple times. I think I picked the wrong groove a couple times and gave (Kyle) Larson a good opportunity to close the gap on me and catch up. Then, we had the last lap. Getting into turn one, I knew I needed to take the top and take Larson’s line away from him because that is where he was running, make him do something different. He went to the bottom, and I thought he was going to try to try a slide-job. He just didn’t. He knew he couldn’t complete it and have the momentum off the corner to stay side-by-side. He got into my quarter-panel and put me in the wall. After that, it was gloves off. It was on after that. Iconic finish, dynamic finish that will be known and recognized for a long time. Typically, you don’t see those at mile-and-a-halves. It was nice to have something like that happen especially to kick off NBC and (Dale Earnhardt) Junior being there. That was really fun. You just never know if you can see finishes like those. It’s shame that we don’t have finishes like that each and every week. We would have people waiting in line for grandstand tickets if we did. It comes along ever so often. Hopefully we can continue to put good races like that on though.”
Can you talk about your level of success this year? And how it compares to previous years?
“This year has been pretty good overall, but certainly I think we have underachieved on a few fronts. There has been some races that we have thrown away that we should’ve, could’ve won. I can count three right now: Vegas, Texas, possibly Martinsville, Daytona. It has been a good year. We had that stretch of top-10 runs and felt pretty good to start the season strong. But as I said, winning is everything in this sport. Getting out there and being able to score the trophies is where it’s at. Thankful to have the four wins that we do, but it would be pretty crazy to have seven or eight.”
Are three trucks in the top six and improvement?
“I knew someone was going to ask me this question. Yes, and no. Yes, certainly it was an improvement. It’s good. For as bad as the race started off for Todd (Gilliland) and the 4 team, it wasn’t looking very good early but they rallied and they had good long run speed. If I’m being brutally honest, there was probably four trucks that fell out of the race that probably would have run inside the top ten that probably would have pushed Harrison (Burton) back a spot, and Todd maybe three spots. It’s all relative. Seeing improvement and getting better is where it is at. They are working really hard to be able to do that. I know that Todd is working hard. I know these guys aren’t taking it for granted. It’s just a bit frustrating to not see the wins come to fruition when I remember back to 2014, myself, Erik Jones and Bubba Wallace, we all won 14 of the 24 races. I know the potential is there; it’s just trying to get us there.