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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
January 29, 2008
THE MODERATOR: We have Patrick Carpentier, who incidentally is the only NASCAR Sprint Cup series driver who actually lives in Las Vegas.
Patrick, talk about how the test has gone. This is your other hometown track.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, exactly. It's nice to sleep home, come back testing the next day.
But it's been not too bad. Yesterday we struggled a bit at the beginning of the test. Today has been a little bit better. I'm working with my teammates quite a bit. Kasey drove my car earlier this morning, and we changed few things and stuff like that. It's been wonderful. They've been working with me, helping quite a bit.
Every track is different. Every track we go to. Been testing all winter. Went to a few tracks. When you leave that track, you're like, I think I've got it down. You come to a different track, you've got to learn again.
No, it's been fun. It's been good. We've been improving since we been here and need to keep improving until the end of the day today, but so far so good.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Patrick.
Q. Are you going to be able to live in Vegas this year?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, this year I'm not moving. We love Vegas. Been here since '99. My daughter, my son were born here. They got a lot of friends here. They're still going to school, so I don't want to take my daughter out of school.
There's direct flights from basically everywhere in the States back to Vegas, so for this year we're going to stay, definitely stay in Vegas.
Q. I remember you raced here in 2004. You won pole, finished third. Do you have any memories of driver introductions after the truck race?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Well, the grandstands were packed for our race, because there was the truck race before us. Everybody was still there (laughter).
No, it's different. I mean, it's very different from what I'm used to. There's a lot of people. Went to Phoenix last year, Homestead, everywhere. It's unbelievable to see the motorhomes, motor coaches lining up outside the track, be packed.
That's what we like. That's what we like, is to race in front of a lot of fans. That's what you get with NASCAR, so looking forward to that.
Q. (No microphone.)
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Actually, it was within hundredths of seconds, so pretty much the same time. I was a little bit relieved there.
But, no, he said -- it's such a big learning curve. I mean, it's in the way you describe the car. For us, I think, we're so used to having a car that's stuck, you know, the back end of the car is stuck to the track and you go through the corners and you know the car is going to be there. But with these cars, it's how much on the edge you can drive them and how much you can push them towards that direction.
I think sometimes we're just asking if a car that's too comfortable to drive but not necessarily the fastest car. Now they're putting Kasey's setup on the car. I think it might be pretty loose for me. I might say, Man, this thing is really loose. Because once you get that setup, you really got to drive in almost all the way the middle of the corner full throttle and just keep the back end of the car down.
We'll see how it goes this afternoon, but it really helps me in the way I describe the car. If his car is really different, I'll say, Maybe that's what I need to have and get used to. I have to get a bit better car. He's pretty nice to just say, Stop this test. Got in the car, says what he thinks about it. It's always helpful. Elliott is too tall to get in my car, but he's helping any way he can.
Q. You've had a chance to drive a lot of different vehicles. With the Car of Tomorrow, what do you find the biggest advantage with this car and the biggest disadvantage?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: I like this car. To me this car is a lot closer to an open-wheel car as far as the suspensions and the setups. I was talking to Kyle Petty and said, Man, a few years ago we used to have 15 guys working on the cars and two guys on the computers. Now he said there's like three car and 15 guys on the computers trying to make these things go fast.
To me it's closer to what I'm used to. We're used to having a lot of guys working with data acquisition and stuff. We won't have it in the race weekend.
I just like the car. I like the way it feels. The thing I didn't like about it, I did some bump-drafting at Daytona. The front end is pretty easily damaged. After it was damaged, I couldn't stay in the draft. It's fragile. You've got to be careful with it in that sense.
I mean, the difficult part to me is just understand what I need with this car to really get it up to the top of the chart. It's going to take some time, just driving it, getting used to it. I love that car. To me, I like it better than the older car.
I think the older car, everybody had a lot of experience on it and it would have made it even harder for us. But it also drove a lot more like a stock car. Once you lifted off the throttle going into corners, the car was going really sideways and it was doing things that this one is not doing as much, which makes it easier for us a little bit.
Q. Patrick, do you think you have a leg up on some of the drivers who are not used to all this data acquisition because you are used of to deciphering it?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, from looking at the time sheet, not today (laughter).
But, I don't know. I think it helps us. I wouldn't say a leg up, but it really helps us to even the field out a little bit because they don't have as much experience with that car. It allows us to come in and pick it up a little bit more.
I mean, with the older car, they got so much experience with it, how to set it up. Even the drivers knew exactly what they wanted out of the car, how to set the thing up. For us, I think it's better in that sense.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks for coming in, Patrick.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Thank you very much.
THE MODERATOR: We've got with us now Jimmie Johnson.
You're going to be racing a little different car, talk about how the test has gone so far and coming back here to race, trying to go for four.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: It's really the first test that the 48 team has had on a downforce track, big like this. We've been learning a lot, from myself learning about this car, how it feels, what it does. Chad has been learning a lot about it and what adjustments work and don't work.
We still have some question marks in our heads. We haven't sorted things out like we had hoped, but we're getting closer. And I think by the end of the second day in Fontana we should know a lot more about the car and have a better idea of things.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Jimmie.
Q. Are you surprised that Toyota is as good as they are at a downforce track like this?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I really truly think - we've talked about it a lot - that this is the best year for a team to move over to a different manufacturer. We don't have the flexibility, manufacturers don't have the flexibility, to show what they can engineer, build and bring to the track. Everything is common and the same.
With that in mind, I think you have to unfortunately rule out some of the manufacture influence and think of the race team. We know that Gibbs is strong. I think the Hendrick cars, we've been good. But I don't think we're where we want to be yet. We're still learning and developing some things.
The ones that have impressed me is really the 99 car with Carl. Those Roush cars have been good, especially Carl here. He's been real fast, not only for one lap, but over the course of the run he's been really impressive and I think the best car so far.
Q. It's got to be hard, you dreamed and hoped all your life to get where you're at. You won two championships, now everyone is like, Can we beat him? Can we get him out of here? Get another guy in there? Is it hard in the mindset to come back, even though you want to win three in a row, to hear the opposite side of it, which is the same guy again winning the championship?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Possibly. I haven't been around or really cared if people have liked or didn't like the fact that I won two championships. I worked my ass off to get here and I'm happy to be doing what I'm doing.
But every year's a new year. I know that this year is going to be a totally different discipline. I saw a lot of teams at the end of last season coming on strong. I think Roush is going to be somebody to worry about. I think that Gibbs, I don't think Tony had the year that he wanted. Denny had two-thirds of the year that he wanted, but the end didn't turn out how he would have liked. Kyle is going to be fast, we know that.
I think this is going to be an exciting new year. Regardless what we've done in the past, I'm not carrying any of that over. The sport is so humbling. We're struggling our butts off right now to be 18th on the board. So we've got a lot of learning to do. I've got to figure this car out.
There's a couple things that feel different, car acts different than the old car. We're still working through some changes. We'll just keep plugging along. I hope at the end of the year we can win a third and if it does bother people, make them madder (laughter).
Q. Do you feel other people shooting for you, watching you? Do you feel people coming on stronger?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don't feel it any more than I would in any year. I think when you drive for Hendrick Motorsports, Rick has a history of setting a high mark. The company has a lot of expectations of its drivers, its crew chiefs. There's a lot expected of us. I feel more pressure from that environment than any outside environment.
Yeah, as far as feeling other teams coming on, I really do. I think I mentioned a second ago the Roush teams, Gibbs, Childress was very strong last year, I don't expect them to lose anything. I really think that Evernham's cars are going to be there.
Kasey and Elliott and that whole program, they're way too strong to suffer through another year like they did last year.
Q. (No microphone.)
JIMMIE JOHNSON: As far as the cars on the track, I think what I saw in our test session, it's gonna be a handful. Typically the cars end up tight there. My car and my teammates, once you were three or four cars back in line, the car was really loose and really uncomfortable to drive.
So I think there could be a lot of crashes. There could be a lot of ill-handling cars. Daytona always does challenge us over like Talladega. It's just such a different animal. So I do expect it to be its typical Daytona: be difficult and tough.
But the fact that the cars were so loose there in the test session had me a little nervous. I look forward to the shootout and also to drafting practice when we have more cars out there to really see what they're going to do. I hope that they're better. I don't think it will be. I'd be foolish thinking that. Once we all get out there in the big pack, we'll learn more. I expect the car is really difficult to drive.
The next 50 years for our sport, specific to Daytona, I think that our sport has done a great job of remembering the people that brought us here, the people that built the sport, made it what it is. And the venue, the track, Daytona, it made NASCAR what it is today. I really am proud of everyone before me, and look forward to doing my part to carry that tradition on.
You still listen to every driver but maybe an Indiana native that says that Daytona is the biggest race. That's just keeping history alive. I only think it will get bigger and bigger as years go by.
Q. Coming up on the 50th anniversary of that race in Daytona, is there any way for you to summarize - I don't know how much of a history buff you are - but what the history of that race and track has meant to racing in general?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Kind of feel like I'm the wrong guy to ask that question. I've only been in the sport, this is the start of my seventh season. You know, like I'm sure you've heard from other drivers, it's what our sport was founded on; it's what it was built on. It was Bill France, Sr.'s vision to build that Superspeedway and have it be the race that it is today. It certainly is that.
It's the only race that has a title. When I won the Daytona 500, it was announced in media interviews and other things - I won a lot of other races - but that's the one that had a title. People recognize that and register with that.
It is our largest event. I'm happy to see the tradition there. I think the tradition is going to continue. The desire to win that race will never diminish. It's just going to stay at the top.
Q. Last year you had the new 20-degree banking to deal with here in Las Vegas. It wasn't a problem for you. This year it's the Car of Tomorrow. How is the Car of Tomorrow dealing with that banking? How are you finding it running on this track?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: The track seems the same in a lot of ways. The cars drive differently. The feel of it, looking for it, it's tough to get that same feeling back to the car we ran here last year. We have a different tire. There's some other variables in there that are challenging us right now.
But at the end of the day, it still drives and acts like it did last year. That's been one thing that's been surprising to all of us. We've all had issues with the Car of Tomorrow, thinking it's going to be less of a car to drive.
The competition and the show we put on for the fans I think we all we all felt would be there. But if you're driving the car, if you go from one or the other, it's much less vehicle. It's got less downforce and all these things that make it harder to drive.
But we still end up with the same race. Martinsville was still an awesome race. Dover was the same. Talladega was awesome. You get back to that same thing. It's still a race car on that track, and we're still seeing that same stuff here.
Q. What would you find of is the biggest advantage of the Car of Tomorrow and the biggest disadvantage?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: For the teams or?
Q. For you personally as a driver and for the teams.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think the challenging thing for us -- for the teams, your hands are tied. There's only so many areas you can work. In the past, there were five ways to figure out how to make your car do whatever you needed it to do better. And now with the aerodynamic rules that we have, the common body, the chassis, the way that it is, the limited travel we have to travel the cars in the front, we're all kind of boxed in.
It's frustrating at times as a competitor. NASCAR is smiling. That's exactly what they want. So they've done what they wanted to do, and they've achieved that. When you're working on them every day trying to find speed, trying to find things, that's the challenging part.
I think the of positives for it over the long haul will be that the smaller teams can find speed faster. They can be more competitive. The top isn't going to get as far away. Again, that's by design from NASCAR. It's serving its purpose.
Q. (No microphone.)
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think it is early to tell, but I can say, after working with him yesterday and today, that I'm extremely impressed with his abilities behind the wheel. I've always been around him and raced with him, but you just don't know what's going through someone's mind when you're not a teammate.
I think Tony Eury, Jr. is a very, very smart man. I think you're going to see a lot of great things out of him. I think DEI last year showed last year they had some speed. Junior had some bad luck. Ran well but blew some engines and had some other issues that we knew about. Truex went on and ran really well.
So I don't think it's going to be a clear, defined, you know, moved to Hendrick and picked up X amount of speed. But my impression in working with him, I'm very impressed. He's done a great job.
Q. (No microphone.)
JIMMIE JOHNSON: One, he puts a smile on everybody's face when he gets in there and starts talking about things and the race car. He just has a great sense of humor and keeps everybody lighthearted and laughing.
But inside of that, when he's describing what the car is doing, he has a very clear understanding what the car is doing. And that's something that you just don't know unless you work with someone. And he can break down the corner, know what his inputs are doing to the car. He knows how the car is talking back to him, the direction he wants to go in.
He's not making it up. I mean, you can see a conviction in his eyes how he's describing it. That's what he's feeling. And that's what you need in our sport without data at the racetrack, the other modern tools that can be used. You need to be strong and have a good feel for the car and lead your team down that road to make it better, and he has that. That's something I didn't see or know of before.
Q. Brian France made the announcement last week he was going to get NASCAR back to its roots. I know you said this is just the beginning of your seventh year, but do you think that's the right move? Do you like the fact maybe they're listening to the fans a little bit more? Has NASCAR had too many changes in the last several seasons?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Well, I didn't see the press conference, but I think time will tell what that means. I'm not sure exactly what that statement means. I know that they're not going to come down on drivers as harshly for expressing their minds and being themselves.
But I didn't think we had a problem with that anyway. Some guys I think have smartened up because they made their lives awfully tough on themselves being overly opinionated. But I didn't feel it was the sport coming down on those drivers and keeping them from speaking their minds.
I don't think the stuff I've seen and heard is going to affect me or make me drive any differently, make me act any differently inside or outside of the race car. So only time will tell what that really means, and we'll just have to see how that plays out.
THE MODERATOR: Jimmie, thanks for coming in. We'll see you in a few weeks.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: You got it. Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We've got Kasey Kahne here, driver of the Budweiser Dodge.
I think you're the track record holder here. New car for this test. Talk about how the test has gone so far, what you're expecting for the race in a few weeks.
KASEY KAHNE: So far it's been pretty good. This is the first time that we've tested this type of a track with all the other cars around for this season. It's good to be here. Vegas is a great place to test, good place to stick around and try to learn some things.
So I feel like we made some pretty good gains so far. I'm looking forward to it. The car, the more you drive it, the more you work with it, the better you make it feel, kind of the more you like it. I'm starting to like this car as far as the way it handles, and it's getting closer to the car we used to have at this place.
We just have to keep working, keep fine tuning, and hopefully it will make things good.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Kasey.
Q. You were just saying once you test the car a little bit more you're really going to like it. What do you think is going to be the most enjoyable feature about having the Car of Tomorrow?
KASEY KAHNE: Well, the thing that's been tough is we had a car that handled really well and did things a certain way. We went to the Car of Tomorrow and it was like taking a step back. So on these tracks, it's the same way. It handles so much different, especially when you're off. The more you work with it, the better you get it to do the things that it needs to do to go around the track right, the funner it gets to drive.
I think mainly it's just a matter of time. The more you work with the car, the better it gets. I'm starting to like it. I mean, I didn't care for it much last year at times. I thought we were pretty far off. Right now we seem like we're kind of in the ballpark. Keep working, we'll be, you know, where we need to be.
Q. Do you find it has more power, less power, better handling?
KASEY KAHNE: The car itself I would say is similar in power. I mean, all that feels the same. The way it handles, you know, it's a little bit bigger car. You can tell that when you're driving it. We haven't got around cars yet on a track like this to where you're racing, so that will be a big -- something that will be a lot different when we come here or to California the week before we race here.
That's where we'll learn how it is behind cars. That's where the other car struggled pretty bad. Hopefully this one will be better. I think that was the goal, to make this handle better in traffic so there's more passing.
Q. (No microphone.)
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I'm expecting -- after the test, I mean, the first week I think guys struggled a little bit in the draft. When I got down there the second week, our car was pretty decent just from the start from things that Elliott had learned with theirs, so that was good for us.
As far as the 500, I think every year it seems like everybody takes it easy for a while. You want to be there at the end. You want to have a shot late in the race. So I think you'll see, you know, on restarts it will be bunch up, and then it will get single file around the bottom, and by halfway through the race it's going to be right around the wall like it does.
That gets pretty boring at times. But when people want to race, when everybody decides, Let's go, it's going to be a pretty good race. I think it will be pretty exciting.
The car itself handles -- my car handled well there, so I think did a lot of people's. They bounce more. When you're watching them, it feels like -- you watch someone else, it doesn't feel like they're handles that well, what their cars look like. But when you're actually in them, mine seemed pretty decent.
I think it's going to be fun. I'm looking forward to Daytona. I think there's cars that were definitely faster than others at the test. I think when we go back for the race, things will be equalled out some and we'll have a shot, as good a shot as anyone.
Q. (No microphone.)
KASEY KAHNE: I think things are definitely different this year with Evernham as far as the structure and the plan that's set there to make the cars right, to make them handle for a while, not just for a week. We figure something out, we can keep it and make it better as time goes on.
Is this test going better than last year's? Last year our test went pretty good until I blew a right front tire and crashed my car that I had won all the races with. That was kind of the year at that point. We were fast at this test last year. I think we're top 10 or so, top 15 in speeds today and yesterday at the right times.
I think it's going good. I think we have a lot to learn still. But we've made gains. I feel like when we come back for the race we'll be pretty strong. But I always feel pretty good about everything. Even last year when we were struggling, going into every Sunday, I thought, Hey, we can run good today. We can get things figured out and go fast.
A lot of times we didn't. I look -- I try to look at the bright side, try to make things right. I think they'll be good this year. It might take us a little while. I'm kind of hoping these kind of tests here and California next week or later this week is going to be really good for us.
Q. Yesterday in the AM session, the entire spread on 37 cars was 6/10ths of a second. In the afternoon, 44 cars was 1 1/4 seconds. Is that what you might have anticipated? Are those times different than you might have thought?
KASEY KAHNE: I thought at times yesterday it looked like the speeds were very close. Everybody was pretty similar and pretty close. I thought of Bristol, how close Bristol speeds are in practice and qualifying. It seems like this is going to be similar. I think there's going to be a lot of cars that are very similar.
Once it goes to race time that's all going to change. But as far as practice and qualifying, speeds with the Car of Tomorrow will be closer than maybe last year.
Q. I don't think I remember 6/10ths of a second here as being the entire spread on a practice session. I thought it was amazing.
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I thought -- that's kind of why I thought of Bristol. Bristol is maybe 3/10ths for 40 cars or 30 cars. But that's a short track and that's much different than what we have here. That place is close. You can make one little mistake and go from first to 20th in qualifying.
Q. (No microphone.)
KASEY KAHNE: I think it's too early to tell on a lot of that stuff, you know, how it's going to all work out and things. I feel pretty good about it. I've been definitely happy to have Budweiser colors, be working with those people. It's been a lot of fun.
As far as I've seen at a few bars and a few places it's starting to be more Kasey Kahne Budweiser stuff. I haven't seen as much Dale, Jr. That's definitely a big thing. That's a lot different than what I can remember 'cause all I can ever remember is seeing, you know, Jr. or some of the other guys. So, yeah, that's a big change.
I think it's going to be really good. I think performance is going to be everything. If we perform well it's going to be big and we're going to have a lot of fun with Bud.
Q. (No microphone.)
KASEY KAHNE: I don't have one but I've seen a few of them. I think Gillette Evernham got a bunch, but I don't need those.
Q. Next month is coming up on the 50th anniversary of the Daytona 500. I don't know if you're a history buff at all about the history of your sport, but is there any way for you to summarize what the history of that race, Daytona International Speedway, has meant to racing in general?
KASEY KAHNE: Well, truthfully, I've never been a lot into history. I just haven't been. But as far as racing goes, I think everyone knows, including myself, how big Daytona is, from when it started to where it's at now is so much different. It's grown so much.
Racing is so huge at Daytona. I think of things, when I was growing up watching the 500, every single Daytona 500, you know, I would sit there and watch it with my dad. If we had people over, we'd make breakfast, all that. For us, it was the prerace or whatever would come on about 8:00 in the morning and we would watch it.
I just think it's awesome to be part of the 50th anniversary. The first time I went through the tunnel to Daytona, you know, you see the facility, the track, the bank, you can remember so many races that you've seen on TV, so much stuff that's went on. It's neat. It's exciting. It's a great feeling to be part of that.
I'm looking forward to it. I would love to have a shot to win the 50th anniversary race. I'm hoping that we do. I think we're going to.
Q. (No microphone.)
KASEY KAHNE: Well, I think they're trying things, we're trying things. I got in Patrick's car. I just have driven these cars more than Patrick so I have a different way of explaining things compared to what he does. It was good for me to feel what it felt like, and also for his team to kind of listen to me explain it and talk to Patrick about it.
It wasn't what I would have wanted, but there was parts -- there were certain things his car was doing that were really good, and then there were other things that I didn't care for as much.
We talked about that stuff. They're making changes now. I think they'll be faster after that. I didn't go any faster than Patrick did. We ran about the same speed in the car. They just need to keep working on it and get him a better platform, better setup and they'll go faster.
It's hard to figure that stuff out. It's hard to know -- to get into the sport and know, okay, what's a good car, what's a bad car? That feels pretty good. Is that really pretty good or is it not pretty good? It's difficult.
When I get struggling, even now with experience, I feel like, Man, maybe this is good. Maybe I'm not driving it right. Maybe I need to change this and try different things. I think it's good, especially when you're getting started in the series, to be able to have someone jump in and kind of get their input on it all.
Q. (No microphone.)
KASEY KAHNE: Well, it's all kind of up to each driver as far as what you want, what you don't want. I like the way it entered. It was really fast. It entered, got to the white line really fast compared to my car, which was good.
Other than that, it pushed too much. It didn't turn as well. I didn't care about that as much. That was the main stuff.
Q. How good are you at reading the data on the computers? How interested are you in that? How much do you look at that?
KASEY KAHNE: I'm interested in it. I mean, you can learn a lot from it. I'm best when there's an engineer there showing me and talking to me and telling me exactly what I'm looking at.
I understand it all. I've done it for five years now probably so I understand what you're looking at. But as far as -- there's so much you can look at there. It's nice to have someone there explaining it to you and kind of showing you what's going on. You can put things together by looking at that.
But the engineers are really smart and they do a really nice job explaining certain things.
Q. Are you able to then put your seat of the pants along with what you learn when you're standing there with the engineer and put it together in one bit of information in your head?
KASEY KAHNE: Certain things you can, certain things you can't. As far as throttle and braking, steering, travel, you can see when your car is bottoming out and things. You can definitely kind of think about that, put it together.
But, you know, a lot of the forces, heat and things that they show you, too, is stuff, that's just more for them, working on changing that stuff, making that better.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Kasey, for coming in.
KASEY KAHNE: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We have with us Kyle Busch, driver of the M&M's Toyota.
Before we get into the competition and testing, we also have a small announcement. He's been joined by Tom Waite, president and CEO of Boystown of Nevada. This year the Las Vegas Motor Speedway is going to play host to the first NASCAR Foundation Track Walk and it's going to benefit Speedway children's charities, the NASCAR Foundation and the Kyle Busch foundation.
Kyle, I'll turn it over to you. Talk about your involvement and the fact of who your beneficiary is there.
KYLE BUSCH: Well, it's a great opportunity for me to work with the NASCAR Foundation and Speedways Children's Charities for the NASCAR Foundation Track Walk. For me to be involved with the Kyle Busch Foundation, obviously the founder I guess I was.
But to be able to have this opportunity to help others and to be able to take some time to spend some time with some fans and walk around this beautiful mile-and-a-half facility, teach some people the racing grooves, show them some bumps and grinds of what this place is all about, and also to raise money for a great cause.
So really excited and fortunate to be in this position. Hopefully we can all have a great time in benefitting everybody involved.
THE MODERATOR: Tom, do you want to make a brief comment?
TOM WAITE: Boystown Nevada exists to save children who have been abused, abandoned and neglected and help them become contributing members of society. It's an honor and a privilege to have Kyle Busch, a famous Nevadan, as well as a NASCAR star, to work with us and to help Nevada's kids have a better future and life.
In fact, the kids of Nevada are excited to have Kyle visit their homes. They wanted me to present him with a hat from Boystown, Nevada. Thanks so much, Kyle.
KYLE BUSCH: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and open it up for questions.
Q. You've had some experience with the Car of Tomorrow already. Now you've been testing it on the track. How are you finding it running? Do you like this car better than the previous car? What would you say are the biggest advantages and disadvantages of the Car of Tomorrow?
KYLE BUSCH: Well, it's been a work in progress since we raced it last year at the short tracks and the mile tracks and stuff like that. It's gotten better. We've just been making progress on it here, making it a lot better. It tends to have a little bit less grip than what the other car did, but it sticks still pretty well through the corner.
We're just trying to find the balance of it and where we want it as tight as we want it, as loose as we want it. Trying to make that to where the car handles well through the corners and we can get fast lap tracks with it. The more mechanical grip we can get out of the car the better.
When you get behind somebody you lose the aero grip of the air going over the race car, so you tend to get a little bit looser getting into the corner and a little bit tighter through the middle part of the corner. To help all that out we've just been trying to work on some stuff and getting behind a couple guys and trying to pass and see what all it does out there.
Fortunately I've got a great bunch of guys with the M&M's Toyota Team and Joe Gibbs Racing. The foundation we've got to build from has been awesome. The test has gone really well, not only here but Daytona and Atlanta as well.
Q. Can you talk about growing up in the spotlight, having to basically mature with people watching you. Do you plan to change your attitude off the track now that you're at Joe Gibbs Racing?
KYLE BUSCH: Well, it's different, you know, growing up not as a normal guy or a normal person, having to go to work every day. My jobs are on Sunday and on TV. It's definitely different. It's something that you take for granted sometimes, but you try not to.
The thing you do is just to make the best of the situation you possibly can. When there's stuff going wrong or there's stuff going haywire, you try to calm it down and weather the storm, per se.
But I've been getting better at that. I think the way that things are have been pretty good this year, with the way that Joe Gibbs Racing organization and everybody has been over there, they've welcomed me with open arms. The guys on the team and everybody has been really awesome, really supportive, telling me how excited they are about the year.
My attitude's pretty much the same: to go out there, to do my best, to win as many races as I can, to lead as many laps as I can, and to go after the championship ultimately.
The other side of things as far as the off-track stuff is just about trying to make some friends and throw out some M&Ms of course this year and some Snickers and whatnot, but to also help out with some foundation stuff, do a little bit more with that.
Of course the Track Walk, that's going to start off things a lot sooner than what we did last year. The foundation was founded in May of last year, so starting it up this year at Las Vegas, in the beginning of March, will definitely lead into a lot more things throughout the year.
Q. Denny talked yesterday about communication, there being more communication than in years past. Can you talk about that?
KYLE BUSCH: Well, the communication has been awesome. It's been really, really great between Ollie, myself and Denny, but of course Tony as well. It's been cool because Denny and I, we're real close friends. It's easy to talk back and forth with them. I'm not saying it's a challenge, but I knew the harder part was going to be to get Tony involved a little bit more and stuff like that. He's been great, too.
Everything has really worked well. I've talked to Zippy a lot already this weekend. Working with Denny and Mike Ford a little bit. Of course, my guys, we've been communicating all the time. Steve and I haven't stopped talking to each other or texting each other at night and stuff. We're back and forth all the time.
I think it's just going to benefit the organization more to have us that close together. Over there on the Hendrick side, we were all pretty good. The 5 and the 25 were in the same shop. 24 and 48 were in the same shop. There was a little bit of separation there.
But with the 11, the 18 and the 20 all being in the same building, underneath the same roof, with the engine shop underneath the same roof, the fab shop where the chassis are made, the bodies are built, all that is in one complete -- underneath one complete roof.
I think it just makes it that much more simpler, I guess if that's a word. But all the guys in the shop on the floor, there's no specific team. They all work for Joe Gibbs Racing and they all work on all the different cars. It's definitely a great system.
Q. You dominated last year, led a ton of laps, but had trouble finishing. Talk about finishing.
KYLE BUSCH: The toughest part is when you're leading races or running up front in races, stuff like that, and you come down towards the end of them and you have problems on pit road. Some of that might be your doing by sliding through a pit box or speeding down pit road.
But when it's out of your hands then it's nothing of your doing. It's just something -- that's what teams are made of. You go through the thick and the thin together.
Last year there was a lot of times where I made the mistakes and yet the team stuck behind me; then the team made mistakes, I still stuck behind them. We did what we needed to do, especially in the tough circumstances when I was leaving the race team.
This year it's all going to be different. It's a whole new team, a whole new process of learning those guys on pit road, them learning me in the pit stops and stuff like that. I can't wait to get going and get down to Daytona.
Q. Do you see things shaping up as a Toyota versus Hendrick situation?
KYLE BUSCH: I think we all kind of pictured this last year when all the announcements were made of where everybody was going. But it's probably going to be the Joe Gibbs versus Hendrick Motorsports arena here.
But there's still great race teams out there, like Evernham, Childress, Roush, those guys. They're going to be right there, too. They're going to be fast. They're going to be wanting to take the spotlight away from us, too.
I think the biggest thing that Joe Gibbs has on our side is the Toyota factor. Everybody is worried about Toyota, how well Toyota is going to do. Everybody knows how well Hendrick Motorsports has done and will probably still do this year with Jeff, Jimmie, even Dale and Casey. We'll see how all that plays out. All I can do is go out there, worry about myself, worry about my No. 18 M&M Toyota team, and try to kick some butt.
Q. Can you talk about how you look at the data? Some drivers are into it. They match it with their seat of the pants. Others, like Kasey Kahne said, he really needs an engineer with him. What is your level of looking at the data and at the test dissecting what that means in the car?
KYLE BUSCH: I don't know all the shortcut keys and stuff like that. I know a couple. But I can pretty much sit there and look at it myself. I couldn't set it up and stuff like that with the car and make the thing communicate between the car, but I can flip between the pages. I can upload, you know, a run from two runs ago with the run that I'm looking at. I can overlay them together, stuff like that.
I can kind of figure all that out and flip between the little tabs at the bottom, between the driver tab and the shock at that point, the yaw tab and stuff like that. I've got a pretty good sense of the pie data. I always look at it. I normally go up to it when I'm having issues or having problems or wondering why I'm not as good as my teammates or wondering why I'm struggling in a certain area. It really helps out.
So far here at this test I only went over and looked at it one time. That was when I about wrecked myself over in turn two. There was 19 degrees of yaw in the car, and the steering wheel was moving a full revolution in a third of a second basically. It was pretty amazing, I guess.
Q. When you go out and do your charity work, I remember your brother said people get a certain perception of him and how he is. What is the most surprising, the people you work with, what surprising them most about you?
KYLE BUSCH: Well, the biggest thing are the kids. They don't recognize the fact that I'm only 22 years old. I'm not too far away from what they are, you know.
I know a little bit of that way because it wasn't too long ago that I was a kid. I remember what it was like being one and being with siblings, of course friends at school or people like that.
It's cool with that fact. They can look up to me and respect that because I'm right there with them. I'm not too far.
The other thing is, some of them see what I'm like on TV or what I'm perceived as in the media and stuff. I get there and I'm hanging out with them and whatnot. They're like, Who are you again? This isn't exactly what we expected.
It brightens my day a little bit, makes me feel a little bit better that actually people with sense and see who you are, so it makes it cool.
Q. You mentioned you're 22 years old. About five or six years ago, truck race at Fontana, California, NASCAR would not let you race because you were not 18. I've call it the Kyle Busch rule. With them flirting with this rule possibly of having it be 21 years old to participate in the Cup Series, what would your thoughts be on that?
KYLE BUSCH: Well, right now NASCAR has their own discretion on whether they can let you run or not. What I mean by that, is they can approve anybody they want to or they can disapprove anybody they want to run anywhere.
In the Truck Series you go from the half mile to the three-quarter mile to the mile to the mile-and-a-half and so on up to the two-and-a-half-mile. Busch Series, same way; Cup Series same way.
Normally when you run the two mile racetracks in the Busch Series then you're cleared for, say, the miles, mile-and-a-halfs in the Cup Series. When you run Daytona in the Busch Series then you're pretty much cleared for Daytona in the Cup Series.
You're always watched under a watchful eye. There are some guys racing in the Busch Series this year that aren't necessarily cleared to race until they go through some ARCA races. That's why a lot of people run ARCA in Talladega and Daytona, stuff like that, to get their approval process.
What I'm getting at, is they don't really need to make an age requirement because they can allow anybody they want to to race in the Cup Series at that level determining by their ability to race.
Who I'm talking about basically is Joey Logano. You've got a 17-year-old kid who is the best talent that we've got that we've seen. Not just Joe Gibbs Racing, but NASCAR, that we've seen coming up through the years and the ranks and stuff that has the ability, that can get the job done.
You get him into a Busch Series car this year. He wins a few races this year. You get him into the Busch Series next year, he dominates and wins the championship. The following year he wins the championship again.
You're going to make him run again because he's not yet 21? That's stupid. You know, put him in a Cup car. He's got the ability to do it. It's just about NASCAR going through the approval.
If they think a person isn't quite qualified to race in the Cup Series they can hold them back. I think a lot of this might have to do with just the off-track stuff, the way -- I don't know if I brought it on, which is going to be the Kyle Busch rule again for others again, I'm sorry.
But the ability to handle all the pressures: the media, the sponsors, the scheduling of the Cup Series and what it all entails, because it's way different than the Busch Series.
I don't know if that's the reasoning or what it is. I'd say there's a better way to go about it than just requiring somebody to be a certain age.
THE MODERATOR: Kyle, thanks for coming in.
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