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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
March 17, 2010
HERB BRANHAM: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to today's NASCAR teleconference in advance of Sunday's Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway, the Food City 500. Our guest today, defending champion of the Food City 500 Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. Kyle swept last year's two races at Bristol. Overall he has three Sprint Cup victories there. He comes into Bristol 15th in the series standings.
Kyle, just to open up, only four other drivers have won three consecutive Bristol races in the Sprint Cup Series. It would be pretty cool to become the fifth obviously. How do you feel about your chances of doing just that?
KYLE BUSCH: We hope our chances are good. We have a great team led by Dave Rogers on the M&M Camry looking forward to going back to Bristol, a place where we've been pretty successful in the past. We're looking forward to it. We feel like we've got a good baseline setup that runs well there. We're hoping for some magic to come back and hopefully get us back into Victory Lane.
The way we know how to run around there, it should be fun, yet it should be challenging now with Bristol making some changes to the retaining wall and making the racing surface a little narrower and the way the competition has picked up. Everybody has been really, really close on the short tracks. Certainly won't make it easy.
HERB BRANHAM: Thanks a lot for that opener. We'll go to the media now for questions for today's guest, Kyle Busch.
Q. I know you're focused on Bristol right now, but I did want to ask you about Darlington coming up in a few weeks. What, in your opinion, makes that track so tough for drivers to handle?
KYLE BUSCH: Well, I think the biggest thing about Darlington is it's just so narrow and so tight and there's basically one specific groove that everybody tries to race in because that's the fastest way around. When you get to race side-by-side, you have to pick and choose your way around them. It makes it difficult. It's been tougher with this new car, with the way it's a little bit more especially difficult with just having to try to find your way around the cars in front of you because you get a little aero tight or loose depending on how your car is that day.
There's been a lot of work done to it in the past few weeks to hopefully make that scenario better. We're looking forward to seeing how that plays out and how the Goodyear tire test went down there. Won there in the past in 2008. Looking forward to getting back there to do it again.
Q. Where would you rank Darlington on a difficulty scale compared with other tracks? Is it the toughest track on the circuit or not?
KYLE BUSCH: To me, no. I've had some pretty decent luck there. I've been pretty decent there. To me it's not all that difficult. I mean, some of my more difficult tracks are places like Pocono or Loudon, stuff like that, even though I've won Loudon before, too.
It is a very difficult track. It is very challenging. But as long as you respect it and understand how fast you need to be going, what particular time in the race, you can do pretty well.
Q. Robin Pemberton today said the spoilers will be on the cars for Martinsville. Do you feel are you ready for it? After yesterday, are you ready for it at Talladega as well?
KYLE BUSCH: You know, I feel like it's a change, something that's to the betterment of the sport to try to make these cars a little bit better. I'm looking forward to it. I definitely think that NASCAR wouldn't have done it if they didn't think it was for the better. We'll see how it goes.
Being as though the first race will be at Martinsville with the new spoiler, shouldn't make that big a deal 'cause there's not a really lot of aerodynamics there. Once we get to places like Texas, Talladega, some other racetracks that are really, really fast, like the All-Star Race at Charlotte, the 600 there, too, it should bring out hopefully what the drivers were looking for, that's a better ability to run side-by-side and produce some better racing.
Q. What did you think of the test yesterday?
KYLE BUSCH: I wasn't there, so I'd have to lead you on to talking to some other drivers about that. From what I hear, it kind of put the car back a little bit more like what the old car was. Sometimes when you're in only a five, six, seven-car pack, trying to pass, it makes it a little bit difficult to pass. It seems to lose the draft just a little bit. But that's all I've heard so far. Until I get out there and feel it for myself, see what the characteristics are, I'd be lying to you if I said much more.
Q. Obviously there's been a lot of talk lately about self policing and retaliation. Through your experiences of moving up the ladder to this series, was there a time when you received a lesson on the track based on what somebody did, whether it was just bumping you, spinning you out? Looking back, was that something you look back and think, That was a tough way to go through it at the time but that was a good lesson, or are there such things as good lessons in those situations?
KYLE BUSCH: There's a lot to that question. I was racing at Loudon a few years ago with Kasey Kahne. Unfortunately on my mistake, I made contact with him off turn two, spun him out. He backed into the fence. Then a lap later when I came back around, he turned up into my racecar, kind of retaliated right then and there under caution and bent my car up pretty good while I was running fifth.
I've been through it. You know, I've never been through the case which happened last Saturday. But this series, like you said, this sport has always been self policing. The drivers try to take things into their own hands. Sometimes it gets a little too far.
The best scenario I had a few years ago when Tony Stewart wanted to get back at me for racing him too hard at Vegas. He missed his chance and got into the wall a little bit and I went on to finish second, he went on to finish 12th or 13th and was real mad at me after the race. A couple weeks later we sat down in his motorhome and had a discussion. I felt like that was probably one of the best things that I've done in my career. He was a veteran driver. You felt a little bit more I wouldn't say (indiscernible), but you got more of his point when it comes from a veteran driver who has been around the sport and who has been through some of the same things I went through at that time.
Q. Looking ahead to Martinsville. You've had some top fives there in the past. The last seven races it's been Denny or Jimmie who won those races. What do you see as the gap between yourself and those two? Is it a matter of luck that's kept you away from winning those races and those guys from dominating those races?
KYLE BUSCH: No, they've had the dominating cars and they've been the dominating drivers. I'm not going to say I can get in Denny's car. I've been in equipment that's pretty close. I've been in equipment that's been pretty close to Jimmie, too. I think I ran fourth to him that time. I think my best finish there was fourth twice.
It's a difficult racetrack. It's not easy for everyone. I mean, Jeff Gordon went through a spell of being one of the best guys there. Dale Earnhardt was one of those guys. Richard Petty back before that.
You know, I feel like I've gotten better there, but still I've never really been one of the drivers that's been the one to worry about going into Martinsville.
I think just being able to get through there with a good solid top 10, maybe a top five finish would be good for us and our team. Where we're at right now, we want to get through Bristol and have a good, strong run, get through Martinsville, have a good, strong run, get on to Texas where we know we can run well.
Q. After last year's race at Bristol, what knowledge are you taking into this year's race that will give you the edge to win?
KYLE BUSCH: Well, I don't think there's an edge for anybody. Sometimes it's about circumstances, it's about luck. For ourselves, we're looking to take the same setup that we've run there in the past, maybe a couple different minor things we're going to change. Nothing too big.
You know, the things that you learn, you can be patient. You can lead 430 something laps and not win, yet you can win the final 28 laps and go on to win. Doesn't matter much where you're running until after the final pit stop, see how things play out in the race, see how you position yourself at the end of the race.
We look forward to going to Bristol because I've been able to do all of those things. It's been a fun place for me to race. I've learned how to grow accustom to the track relatively quickly since it's been redone. Hopefully we can have the same success yet again.
Q. For those who are new to NASCAR, could you explain why you think the spoiler is going to be better for drivers?
KYLE BUSCH: Well, I mean, with the rear wing, we've just kind of sort of fought getting these cars to turn. It seems like we've over (indiscernible) downforce on the rear of the car and not enough on the front to have the cars carry the speed we need. We're also hoping this change helps produce better side-by-side racing, being able to run side-by-side, not have the car on the inner side or outer side of you make you loose or tight when they get closer to you. It's all about air. It's relative to how everybody else moves it around your car.
If you're out there running by yourself out front, we've seen that lead car just be able to take off and run away from everybody else because nobody is disturbing his air. When you get back in traffic, it seems like it makes it a little bit more difficult to try to chase down the car in front of you because he's taking air that just seems to not to be able to go through cars.
Q. I want to ask you about Bristol. At Bristol, we've seen drivers like Darrel Waltrip, Cale Yarborough, your brother Kurt go on streaks where over a short period of time they win a bunch of races there. You won both last year. Do you think you're on a streak like that? Why do you think this track producing finishes like that?
KYLE BUSCH: To answer your second question, I'm not sure why this racetrack produces results like that. You know, to go on into your first one, I hope I'm not on a streak. I'm hoping I'm on something that lasts for a long time and isn't a couple-year blurb.
Bristol is one of those places where you get it figured out, you can run well there. Jeff Gordon had it figured out. He was finishing top three for a lot of times he was there. This new car came along. He's kind of missed a little bit. I think he's going to be pretty good this weekend. I remember last fall racing with him quite a bit. Mark Martin was really good there, too. Those are some guys we're going to be worried about this time around as well as Denny being a good guy to race with and of course Kurt. He was real fast there last fall. I think he finished third. I'm not sure if he led the most laps or might have been in second for the most laps. He'll be fast there, especially with Addington. They'll know what they're doing there. They'll be somebody we have to worry about.
Q. Back in 2007 at Bristol you won the first race with the wing on the car. Now you have the chance to win the last race with the wing on the car. Do you allow yourself to think about that?
KYLE BUSCH: Not really. I haven't thought about that till you just brought it up. It would be neat to be able to get it done. It will be the last race as far as what NASCAR is looking to do in the future here with the spoiler. Hopefully we're that guy that we can get it done. We'll have to see how it plays out on Sunday.
Q. You've had to mature and learn in a public arena. What has racing taught you that you might not have learned anywhere else?
KYLE BUSCH: Just the amount of teamwork and the amount of work that goes on in this sport, whether it's media members, TV people. I mean your team, the people behind the scenes that work in the offices, all that kind of stuff. You never really recognize how many people actually make this thing tick and make this thing go. That's been a big deal to me, is trying to understand that, learn what everybody's place is, learn what everybody's position is, why they bring this up or why they say those types of things, all that.
You know, to me it's been a big learning experience going through all that. When you grow up as a kid, for instance, seven, eight years old, you look at the sport and be like, Man, that's what I want to do. I want to drive racecars around in circles every day, every weekend, just do it for a living. Then you get here and it's like, Wow, there's a lot more involved than I had no idea what happened until you get here and you're behind the scenes and see it.
A lot of people think it's easy and it's the best job in the world. It very honestly could be. But there's still a lot that goes along with it in order to make it all tick and make it worthwhile.
Q. Have your learning curves gotten drastically shorter in recent years?
KYLE BUSCH: A little bit. I mean, I'm still learning things every weekend. I've been doing a lot of stuff this year around Dave, trying to learn Dave as a person, trying to learn still how to work with the team. They're not new to me. But working with the guys, being able to come back year after year, work with the same group of guys, be able to not have anything go stale, keep everybody excited about what's ahead, what we can do next.
Q. Having a few races under your belt this season as a Truck Series owner, how do you see your season going so far this season? I know you had been trying to get Johnny Benson a spot on your team. Where are you at that point right now?
KYLE BUSCH: I mean, things have been difficult, to be honest with you. We've had a lot of phone calls, a lot of people interested. Just unfortunately we haven't had things go down the way we would have liked to to get some sponsorship on these trucks to make sure everything is funded for the whole season.
We're going to run the whole season regardless. It would be less of a financial burden on myself not having to buy all the resources, buy everything out of my pocket, to now have to run the whole deal. That was the reason we did this, because Miccosukee was here in order to make sure we could run the year. It's been a challenge, yet it's been something to learn off of as well.
As far as Johnny Benson being involved in Kyle Busch Motorsports, same thing. If Kyle Busch can't find a sponsor for his own trucks, it's challenging to find one for him. I love the guy. Would love to have him in my race trucks. Unfortunately, there's nothing out there that's been able to come to fruition yet. Maybe once I get my deal up and sold, we'll be able to move forward and put a full courts press on Johnny Benson's deal.
Q. Have you learned anything being a truck owner that you can carry over into your Cup Series team?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, of course. I mean, I think you recognize and you see how hard it is to get sponsors. So it's probably just as hard to keep sponsors. It's pretty easy to do. You do everything right, when you win a lot of races. Through tough times, there's tough times people have to go through. You look at Kevin Harvick last year, what he was doing in the Cup Series, was struggling a little bit, not running up to par, how RCR would like to run. You'd hear the rumors that he was looking, or that Shell-Pennzoil was looking. You don't want to put your team through those burdens. You want to make sure that everybody is achieving and striving for the right goals. In order to do that, you can't have all that as a distraction.
Q. I know you said you weren't at the tire test, but we get so many comments from race fans. In my opinion, sometimes I scratch my head. They say, Why are there so many tire tests all the time? Can you explain to the fans the tire test thing.
KYLE BUSCH: I think a great person for you to ask that question to would be Rick Campbell and the guys at Goodyear. As far as me being a driver is concerned in NASCAR, we work trying to make sure we get the best tire out there possible in order to race on week in and week out. Goodyear wants to make sure they have the best tire out there possible, that we feel safe on, we can race on. We don't want to have the tire debacles we had at Indy. That doesn't look good for us. It doesn't produce great racing. We're here to sell a product that is fast cars going around in circles for a few hours, it should be entertaining for people to watch. No matter if it gets strung out single file, it should be exciting and drama about how the strategy is going to play out in the race and stuff.
The way Goodyear picks people to do the tire test is just a random draw. They just decide. They need to have a team from each manufacturer, whether that's Chevy, Ford, Dodge and Toyota. Now with only Penske Racing being the only Dodge team, they're probably going to let up a little bit on making sure they get a Dodge to every test. If you give Penske Racing every single tire test, that's not going to be fair to the field, giving them all the data to take back to their seven-posts, wind tunnel tests and stuff like that.
As far as just being able to go to the racetrack and test tires, it's good for the drivers because we get a feel for what Goodyear is going to come out. We can take the information back to our teams and get some of that information down on paper and try to go through some stuff to make sure that we understand it as a group and as a company in order to make sure that we can go back there and try to win that race.
Q. This afternoon it was announced for the All-Star Race, going into the final segment, when the cars line up behind the pace cars, before they take the green flag, they all have to come in for a mandatory four-tire pit stop. What do you think that may do to the strategy of trying to win the All-Star Race and where would it be beneficial for you whether you want to be in the front or back or middle of the field?
KYLE BUSCH: Well, I mean, I haven't heard this, this is the first I heard. Seeing as though it's going to be a mandatory four-tire stop you want to be up front because you know it's gonna come down to your pit crew. The pit crew is going to be under the gun, under the pressure in order to get the job done to get you out first. You need to get out I'm going to say first, second or fourth. You don't want to be third because then you're going to be stuck on the inside. You can probably come out second because you know the leader is going to start on the outside lane. You can try to beat him down into turn one and slide up in front of him.
The outside typically goes around the corner a lot better on the final run of a restart anyway. As far as all that's concerned, it's going to be a big deal on the pit crews in order to make sure they're ready, pumped up, and not too excited to where they make a mistake.
I think it will be good. Last year I remember I think we had a break after segment three into segment four. Some guys decided they'd take two tires, no fuel, four tires, all that stuff. To us, we restarted third or fourth. But we had taken four tires and no fuel. Well, when we did that, that tightened up our car too much. We thought about it too long. You just got to make sure you have the right adjustments to your car and you're ready to go for that final segment.
I don't remember whether it's 10 or 20 laps, but it's crunch time. You got to get out front and want to be in the first two rows for sure.
HERB BRANHAM: Thank you, Kyle, for spending some time with us. Best of luck at Bristol extending that winning streak.
KYLE BUSCH: You got it. Hopefully we can get the M&M Camry to Victory Lane.
HERB BRANHAM: Thanks to all the media who participated on this call and yesterday's call we had with Jeff Gordon.
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