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MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 15, 2018
Q. With the season overall, the wins this year, a lot of career highs. Would you consider this year successful regardless of the championship?
KYLE BUSCH: I would say it's certainly been a successful year, but I don't think it would be truly successful without being able to bring home that championship. Obviously, that's what we strive for and live for and build our seasons around each and every year is to be able to get to the final four.
We know you've got to be in it to win it. Certainly, we've been there now the last four seasons. We've only brought it home in the first year. So got to figure out ways to bring it home every year and have more opportunities to collect these trophies.
Q. Would it be more disappointing this year considering the season you've had?
KYLE BUSCH: I don't know. I guess it depends on who you lose it to. Obviously, Harvick's done a phenomenal job. Those guys and that group have been so good all season long, even in the late stages of last year. You lose it to him, and it's like, yeah, okay, I can see why they got it. In all honesty, I feel like we've been right there toe to toe with them. He wins a week, I can win a week, he wins a week, I can win a week, Truex wins a week, I win a week, he wins a week. That's kind of the way this season's gone.
Q. With Logano it would be a little bit more disappointing because he hasn't had the season that the other three have?
KYLE BUSCH: I would agree with that statement. He's been there. He's been consistent. He's been good. He hasn't necessarily performed to the level of the big three, and that's no shake on them at all. It's just the fact of the matter. So if he wins the title over the rest of us, then that would certainly be a little bit more disappointing.
Q. Everyone's got their own reasons, but why are you guys going to win?
KYLE BUSCH: Great question. I think everybody does have their pros and have their cons. For us, I just look at it as though we've been really fast here as a group every single year we've been down here. First and foremost, you have to have a fast race car. Last year we were the fastest car. Fastest cars don't always win the race. You've got to have other things go your way. It's much easier and your job is a lot more calculated if you have that fast car.
Q. Other drivers in the past have said the first championship is great. It's really the second one that sets you apart. Do you feel that way too?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, I would say so. Obviously, you kind of see it right now with this group of four. You've got three one‑timers and a zero timer. But that will allow either another one‑timer, which only leaves Jimmie as the only repeat champion, or finally you see another guy kind of step into his own with being able to win two. There's been a lot of great champions in our sport, and many of them only have that one championship. I think it would solidify the first in making your history in this sport.
Q. Does the talent level of the group of drivers force all of you to elevate your game?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, definitely. Logano's nickname was sliced bread for a long time. I would say that Kevin, myself, and Truex ‑‑ Truex, especially, the last couple of years has certainly come into his own in being the best of the sport as well too and having fast cars and doing a good job with them. Truex has won championships before in Xfinity and last year here in this format, and I think that you do.
You've got to be the best of the best on that day. I felt like we were that guy. Truex, we ran Truex down, and I tried to put myself in position to pressure him, and he did a good job of not folding under the pressure and being able to make his car just fast enough that I couldn't get by.
Q. Have you replayed that in your head and know what you'll do going into that if that should happen on Sunday?
KYLE BUSCH: I've replayed it in my mind over and over again. When all is said and done, and again during different times during the year, trying not to get too far ahead of myself on whether I would be a final four contender. Now that I have, I've yet to go back and watch last year's race. I'm starting that now. That will be tonight's project and tomorrow's project, obviously. It will be interesting to see what I can learn and figure out. You try to learn from your mistakes and not allow the same thing to happen over again.
Q. So you've never watched it back?
KYLE BUSCH: I have not watched it back yet.
Q. I would say yesterday you were as focused now as you were in '15, maybe even more so, but you're in a good spot. What are your comments on that? How do you feel?
KYLE BUSCH: I wouldn't say I'm any more now than I was last year, or '16 or '15. I feel like, when you get to this final four, with the amount of things that I do and work on for myself and for my team and all that, I've gone through the same steps every single year. So I feel like we've got the right things going our way, and what I do and my routine, my ritual for preparing for this week has been really good. I think it's topnotch. It's only worked once, so maybe I need to figure out something else to do.
Q. Kyle, you mentioned the second championship kind of starting to set one of you guys apart. You worked on that a little bit with the wins this year. Do you feel like this season has started to set you in your own different legacy in the Cup Series?
KYLE BUSCH: No, not necessarily. I've won eight races before in 2008. I think, ever since I've joined Joe Gibbs racing, we've obviously had great success, and it's been a lot of fun, and we've had a good time with Toyota, with M&M's, and with different crew chiefs, but mostly with Adam Stevens. You know, it's now just time to win these things and finish the job and bring it home.
It would certainly be nice to have more than just one championship when we're all done.
Q. People talk about Cole and Martin having a dynamic that makes them click. What is it about you and Adam that makes you guys work so well together?
KYLE BUSCH: I'm not sure what it is exactly. I think we're both really fiery. We both dig in and put our head to our work. We do a good job. I talk about the car, and he listens, and he's able to figure things out that can help me and help the car fix what we have going on. He's not scared to be able to put out there too, hey, do you think you're doing this wrong? Maybe if we do this this way, that will help the car handle differently.
So I think it's a good relationship that way, that we can talk back and forth and kind of communicate that way.
Q. Do you think you're still getting better as a driver? Like are you a better driver now than you were four years ago?
KYLE BUSCH: I think so. I do. I think I'm yet to see my prime hopefully and crest that top. I'll probably start thinking of retirement once I crest that top.
Q. What do you do ‑‑ is it just like little things in the car, little things in your own driver tool kit that you think you're better at now?
KYLE BUSCH: I think you always learn through any experience. Any experience, any losing experience you have, you figure out how not to allow that experience to happen again. And in your good situations as well, when you are winning, then you're thinking about how did I do that? What did I do to overcome the loss and make it a win? And I've been through a lot of those situations. That's just experience.
So I think you continue to grow and evolve, and especially the way the cars drive and change and your competitors change as well too. That way you've always got to be ‑‑ it's always a moving target, so you've always got to be ready.
Q. Do you think you'll know when you hit that peak and crest that top?
KYLE BUSCH: Has Jimmie gotten there yet? I don't know. I hope not, but that's to be argued later on down the road. I don't know if you ever know. It may be three or four years after you crest that, that you're like, man, I'm on a downhill here. You hope to never really have that thought, but right now I feel pretty good about things.
Q. In July you said Martin Truex was a huge asset to you guys as far as team briefings, et cetera. How is the dynamic going to change once he's under the roof at Joe Gibbs Racing? Because you've been the alpha dog for so long over there. Hamlin's had his hot spots, but you've pretty much carried that place.
KYLE BUSCH: I don't think ‑‑ can I use that line? I'm up for renegotiation soon. I don't think it's going to change much. I think that Martin and Cole are very good at what they do, and they're phenomenal competitors, and they've also been awesome teammates. They've been in all of our team meetings. Cole is always on the phone. Martin is either on the phone or in there with us. So I don't see a whole lot changing there.
I think it's just going to kind of clean up that relationship, and that way of them working out of our shop and just being, you know, more in tune with what we've got going on on a day to day.
Q. You talked about how you've had great success and great seasons. Does the Harvick penalty impact your perception of him at all or increase motivation? Not possibly more motivation, but does it add anything to your mentality?
KYLE BUSCH: I think the only thing you kind of look at there, like the first question across my mind was how long? How long has that been going on? What else are they doing? Things like that. Those are kind of the only kinds of things. Besides that, there's the line Zipadelli used where there's probably not a car in this garage area that's legal.
So I think it's just a matter of how you interpret the rules sometimes, and what everybody's doing to try to push those and push those envelopes. If you're not pushing, you're not trying.
Q. But the rules are kind of set by how NASCAR inspects and not necessarily the rule?
KYLE BUSCH: I would disagree. I think there's rules in the rule book that are made for a reason, and then there's the way that the inspection process happens. People always work and try to figure out ways of being able to work around that every chance they get. There's people that study the inspection process and how to get around the inspection process and make their stuff better that way, sure.
Q. What's this week been like for Samantha? Do you think Brexton's old enough to recognize the difference of how big a championship would be for you rather than just a normal race win?
KYLE BUSCH: I don't know that Brexton kind of gets it yet. I know he knows we're going to the racetrack again. We've told him we're going to race for a championship, and he's saying the word championship, so I think he gets it. But overall, you know, I don't know that he'll see the difference in it being another race, maybe just the meaning afterwards, have it happen that way.
But Samantha, you know, she's normal, as normal as can be with hopefully a pregnant woman. So it's all just kind of continuing to move along. She's been very supportive and helping me and giving me a little bit more space this week, which is the things I've kind of had to do and need to do in order to prepare and get ready.
Q. Kyle, is there anything during your 2015 season that you learned at Homestead that maybe you can apply this weekend? Or maybe something that you said, man, I don't need to do that again, that you can apply this weekend?
KYLE BUSCH: Oh, man, '15 just ‑‑ it just kind of all happened, you know. We were a good car, a fast car, and did everything normal and right, and it just kind of worked out for us, you know. I wouldn't say we were flashy. We didn't do anything crazy. Carl in '16 was stupid fast and had the best car. Things just didn't work out for him, obviously. Last year we were the fastest car, and those guys tried a different pit strategy. We didn't follow suit in that, and the caution just didn't fall our way, so we got behind.
So I don't think you can necessarily take any year exactly and relive it and think it's going to come out in the exact same way. You just have to have ‑‑ you've got to be ready for every situation that comes at you.
Q. What do you think you have to do different to win your second title?
KYLE BUSCH: I don't know, man. If I knew that, I'd already be done. We wouldn't be talking about it beforehand. We'd be talking about it after hand, how I did it. It's just a matter of sometimes you've got to let the game play out and come to you.
Q. The racing has been good this year, just marred by crazy off the track stories and changes coming next year. How confident are you in the direction of the sport and the leadership in the sport?
KYLE BUSCH: We're focused on this weekend right now. We've got to race for a championship, so I'm not worried about anything else.
Q. Kyle, with the race starting earlier than it did last year, is it going to play into you guys' hands on Sunday or the crew chief's hands? And will it affect the handling?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, it definitely will. Is it 30 minutes up?
Q. Yeah, 30 minutes, 45.
KYLE BUSCH: So it's certainly going to play a different role in just how the beginning of the race plays and how the time in which you have on a hotter racetrack with the sun still being out, things like that. The more important time of the race coming down to where the sun's coming down, that's kind of difficult, especially if you start getting restarts, a lot of restarts in that time frame of day that you can't really see. So if something happens, obviously, it's hard to react quick enough.
Q. You've come a long way since the first of the season and all the emphasis on the young guns then. Is it any surprise to you that the four guys in the Championship 4 all have ten years or more?
KYLE BUSCH: I wouldn't say that's a surprise, no. You saw through Phoenix it could have been anybody like an Almirola or a Chase or a Kurt or somebody like that. Obviously, Kurt would have been another experienced guy. But, you know, everybody's always had their different chances and things that have come through the playoffs for them, but it's also just about now with playoff points, stages continuing to carry on through each rounds of the playoffs, that it's how your season goes. So you've got to have an entirety of a season, which is good for the way we race and what's been happening for us the last four years.
Q. You mentioned learning around the rule book and things like that. Does Adam do that, and do you expect Adam to do that so he can get the best advantage for the car?
KYLE BUSCH: I expect Joe Gibbs to do that. I expect Adam to do that. I expect our lead engineer to do that. I expect our guys in the shop to do that. I expect me to do that. Absolutely, everybody's got to figure out what to do to make our program the best it can be.
Q. Where will you be tomorrow night?
KYLE BUSCH: I don't know, what's tomorrow night?
Q. Truck Series championship with Noah.
KYLE BUSCH: I don't know yet, haven't decided yet, whether it's pit box or on the roof. We'll figure it out.
Q. But you're going to watch it?
KYLE BUSCH: Oh, yeah.
Q. Have you seen a driver of Bell's caliber come along in ‑‑ I mean, I would say he's probably the most talented driver I've seen come along since you. Can you speak to what you think his potential is in this sport?
KYLE BUSCH: I think Bell has a lot of potential. I think he's also worked with a lot of really good people too. Being with KBM, being with Baxter, and being with Rudy and being with Joe Gibbs Racing with Jason Ratcliff. Jason, we're lucky to have kept Jason. He's a Cup level guy, no question about that. For him to stick it out with Joe Gibbs Racing to go back to the Xfinity racing and work with Christopher Bell, I hope that reaps the benefits it should, that he gets to move back up to Cup with Christopher.
He has the whole situation, and he's obviously done a great job with it. There's no question about that. He's definitely talented. I've seen him race late models and have gone to those when I was hurt in 2015. He is a lot of fun to watch behind the wheel as well too. He's getting it right now, and I wish him the best this weekend. I hope he brings it home.
Q. The 16th year, Kyle, with the current track at Homestead. You've raced in the vast majority of those races. Obviously, now, it's mainly run up against the wall because it's the highest bank you can go. What do you need to be able to actually pass people at, say, 25 laps or so to go?
KYLE BUSCH: When you get into the run that far and you get lap traffic kind of messing up the top and other guys have to go to the bottom or the middle or wherever, that's when the track really starts to show its character that you can move around it. When you have slow guys running around the top of the racetrack, you've got to go somewhere else. You can't get stuck behind them. So that's what makes that place fun.
The challenging times of that race are like last year, the final run of the race, when I ran Truex down and he was at the top and I needed to run the top, and I couldn't run the bottom anymore. It was too late in the day to run the bottom. In that time of the race, the lap cars don't give you any more of a fit. They just roll over and get out of your way, so you have your lane the whole time. You never have to come off of that top anymore. That's when it starts to get difficult and becomes kind of one lane‑ish, and you're not able to make the moves you want to make.
Q. Would starting earlier, as was noted earlier, make that maybe 2 percent easier?
KYLE BUSCH: I think that gives ‑‑ by the time the end of the race comes around, it's still going to be dark out, and it's still going to trend its way to the top.
Q. Given how crippling a speeding penalty would be, and it was last weekend, do you guys back up the tolerance at all, or is it harder towards tolerance this race?
KYLE BUSCH: You definitely back up tolerance some. You give yourself more leeway there. The six feet, four feet, whatever you're going to gain on pit road isn't worth it in the end in order to lose the 16 spots ‑‑ actually, you lose the whole field because you're a penalty car. You go to the back the whole way. Yeah, you'll back up your stuff a little bit.
Q. Martin Truex said he wouldn't because he can't afford to lose two or three spots. Is that the confidence you have in your car compared to the other guys?
KYLE BUSCH: I think that's just the confidence you have in your car, your rolling time ability, and your pit crew as well too.
Q. You guys race all year. There's always going to be things that come up, good, bad, indifferent, just like in this race. Is this, from your seat and your years of experience, is it any different, or is it different just because of the circumstances? How hard is this race?
KYLE BUSCH: I think, depending on how you build your mindset, it could be the most difficult race, or it could be the easiest race in what all kind of happens and goes down. Sometimes you get done with a race, and you're like, man, that wasn't hard at all. And other times you finish the race, and you say that was the hardest thing I think I've ever done. It's just a matter of how it all plays out and what happens.
Q. You said build your mindset. I guess, is that something that's part of the preparation (inaudible)?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, you can tell yourself how hard it's going to be, and you can make it harder on yourself. You say, hey, let's go out and do our deal. If it becomes pretty easy, cool.
Q. Do you get butterflies in a late race situation like this? Does your heart pound, as much as you've been through?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, I think so. I think last year in the situation between myself and Truex, like, yeah, I wouldn't say you're nervous, but you're just feeling everything and pushing everything. So you're tensed up a lot more than what you would probably normally be just trying to not mess up and hit every single mark exactly perfect.
Sometimes that's ‑‑ I go faster in those situations, and sometimes I go slower in those situations. So you've always just got to try to keep a level head and a frame of mind of being able to go out there and just focus on the job and the task at hand.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports