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April 21, 2018
THE MODERATOR: We will begin our winners press conference. We are joined now by the crew chief of the No.18 M&M Flavor Vote Toyota, that's Adam Stevens, and the owner of Joe Gibbs Racing, that's Coach Joe Gibbs.
Gentlemen, congratulations. Three wins in a row. Second time the 18 team driven by Kyle Busch has done that. Pretty much an incredible roll. Who wants to kick it off? Coach, lead us off with the charge, talk about this dominant streak you've been on.
JOE GIBBS: I just want to thank really everybody on the race team. Adam leading the show. He and Kyle have a great chemistry. I think it's showing. Kyle, I don't know if we've had a run like this the last seven, eight races. Just really it was a total team effort tonight.
Not sure I've ever been at a race where we had four of our cars kind of start off where I thought we were going to have a tough night. They just all kept working. Erik finished 15th, Daniel 10th, Denny third, then Kyle the win. It was a great night. It shows our guys' hard work, pit crews. I want to thank everybody back at the race shop, J.D. and everybody back home.
We love coming to Richmond. It's a great place for me personally because it's so close to Redskin Park. It's great, we have a great fan base here, everybody out there at the end cheering. Just a special night for us.
THE MODERATOR: Adam, I thought Denny had some interesting comments on describing this three‑in‑a‑row streak. Done it in dominant fashion, methodical fashion, then today on pit road. Talk about the versatility of your team during this stretch.
ADAM STEVENS: That's a good point. I never really thought of it that way. To win races at this level, you really can't have any weak links. Sometimes you have to have good fortune. The key to that is preparing good cars and making good decisions. That all starts back at the shop. The hard work and dedication of all the men and women at Joe Gibbs Racing that put their heart and soul into these cars, give us something we can be competitive with. Then it's up to us at the tracks to make good decisions, have good practices, make good changes, not make any mistakes.
A huge part of that tonight was pit stops. Didn't have green‑flag runs early. Late we started getting some cautions. We were able to rachet it forward by virtue of some strong pit stops. The cleaner the air got for us, the better our car got. We were able to make a couple adjustments late and were able to win this thing.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Adam, two things about Kyle. Tonight he started 32nd and worked his way up. What enables him to do that? Also on restarts, he seems to be almost unbeatable when he has the advantage. Why is he so good on restarts?
ADAM STEVENS: Whoa. It's going to be a while to answer these questions fully.
We started in the back because I screwed up qualifying. It was a crew chief error. I told him to run two laps. He took that at face value. By the time I realized that our second lap wasn't good enough, he had already crossed the line, shut it off. There wasn't enough time to get it fired back up and try again. You wouldn't want to put another heat cycle on them any.
We didn't make (indiscernible) with a tight practice schedule, only having three sets of tires. We didn't have the tires up to temperature when it was time to go. That was all on me. We started in the back and only had two laps on our tires. A lot of those guys had five, six, seven laps. That was part of the advantage moving forward.
I think we made really good changes. Going into the race, probably had a little bit more motivation to probably maybe be a little bit more aggressive than what we would if we would have qualified in the top six or seven like we probably should have. We had to make bigger changes to make sure that we were going to have what we needed in the race. Paced himself. Didn't have too much coming up through traffic, which is what you need to do.
Then the second part of question about restarts, it's probably a better question for him. And look who just walked in.
Part of it's being aggressive, knowing how hard you can push without slipping over that edge. That's one of his strong suits. The crispy edge (smiling).
THE MODERATOR: We are also joined by the winning driver of the No.18 Toyota, that is Kyle Busch.
Kyle, three wins in a row. In the larger, grand scheme of things, you tie Buck Baker, NASCAR Hall of Famer, for 15th on the all‑time Monster Energy wins list. Talk about that and the overall dominance of the 18 team.
KYLE BUSCH: Well, it was a great night tonight. I wasn't sure we were going to have any dominance. I don't think we necessarily did. But we certainly put ourselves in position all night long to have that opportunity and that chance to go out there and win the race, thanks to our pit crew. Guys did an amazing job the last two pit stops. Got us out front where we needed to be, got us the lead. Our car was fast enough on the short run to be able to hold onto it there.
I thought the 4 and the 14 were probably the best on the long haul, especially after about lap 60. They seemed to be pretty good. That one run that came, I don't know, green flag cycle of stops, it seemed like I was closing in on those guys a little bit. I was trying to bide my time and see if the race was going to go green. You're trying to pick out your tire strengths. That was going to be, what, 68 laps till the end or so. Trying to bide my time, trying to hold onto the car, make sure I had tire to race those guys if it came down green all the way. It didn't.
Pretty cool to win three in a row. That's really special. Certainly we did that in '15. Almost won four in a row. We ran out of gas, half a lap to go. Next week we go to Talladega. I think it's easier to win the Power Ball than win at Talladega. We'll give it a go anyway, see what we get.
To tie another Hall of Famer is a lot. It's a huge deal to climb the ladder of wins. I don't know what else to say, just the got to be thankful of Joe, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota TRD, M&Ms, everybody that's been our partners that's helped me get to this point in my career. Having Adam Stevens as my crew chief the last few seasons has been a phenomenal experience. We'll just keep digging.
THE MODERATOR: We'll continue with questions.
Q. Coach, it seems like the crowd was embracing Kyle in his win. It's not always that way here. Have you noticed that this year? What do you think is behind that?
JOE GIBBS: Yeah, I have. A bunch of the guys out there stayed late. They were all cheering, rowdy. I went over the fence and thanked them.
Yeah, I think everybody in this sport has respect, and they have respect for Kyle, the way he competes. Like I mentioned, Richmond to me is a great place that I personally like to come home to because I do the hospitalities. We did a bunch of them. I had four hospitalities with our sponsors. It's really great to come here and get a chance to say hi and thanks to everybody.
Q. Joe, did you see Kyle go into the stands after the race?
JOE GIBBS: I did not. Did you?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, buddy.
JOE GIBBS: Oh, my gosh. You should not do that. That's a risk (laughter).
Q. That was my question. Do you encourage him going into the stands?
JOE GIBBS: No, I do not. Anyway, I think that's great, though. Went up there and he came back. That's what's even better. They didn't keep him (laughter).
Q. Coach Gibbs, last week you mentioned you had a number of meetings scheduled with NASCAR to discuss the pit gun issues. Any updates?
JOE GIBBS: I think we had real good meetings. I think we've done a good job of addressing it. I think we have the game plan, NASCAR does. Everybody met on it. RTA, everybody. I think we got a plan going forward. I think it's one of those things we just got to work our way through.
Q. Last week you said this was the track you felt you were good at. Adam threw himself under the bus and said he hadn't figured this place out. What can you say about that? Can you go into the fall race here thinking you learned something, Adam?
ADAM STEVENS: That's a very, very dangerous thing to do right there.
Richmond, it's always a little bit different. The setups change. What it takes to be fast tonight might not be what it takes to be fast even tomorrow night, let alone a few months from now.
It wasn't a dominant effort. Nobody dominated really. You saw four‑car races for the lead pretty much the entirety of the race. It's all about the little things at Richmond. You have to have all the details right, and small adjustments can show up big on the stopwatch.
Sometimes it's easy as driver and crew chief to forget that. Sometimes you're a little closer than you think you are when you're far off. That's what I'm trying to sell him. We'll see if he picks up on that here.
KYLE BUSCH: I'm not buying.
Q. (No microphone.)
KYLE BUSCH: I knew how to run this place before I got with him. Took him to figure it out running with me (smiling).
Like he said, there's little nuances here that kind of wear at you. You can miss some of the little fine details that we've done for so long that have made us so fast here.
I think we picked up on some of that here this weekend. There was a lot of discussion in our hauler and stuff like that after practice on what‑‑ after first and second practice and our team meeting about what our cars were doing, what we didn't feel like we had right still. Obviously I called Adam this morning, as well. We were kind of going through some thoughts I had again. He obviously went to work.
He had probably a busy I say morning, he had a busy afternoon getting the car prepared in just a short period of time that the guys have with the garage opening, having to be in inspection so soon. They did a really good job. Car was fast.
I was mightily impressed that first run of the race, pretty stoked about how our day was going. Kept my head down, kept myself focused all night long trying to bring home a win.
Q. Kyle, I have a bad memory, have you gone into the stands before after a win?
KYLE BUSCH: Maybe once, but probably not.
Q. Why now?
KYLE BUSCH: It was a 10‑year anniversary. You know what? I was wondering if I'd come out alive. I think it certainly was different tonight. I saw a lot of yellow there at the front fence line. I saw a little bit of black, which was the championship jacket from our season back in '15.
Don't worry, I was definitely eyeing it out, like who's there, who's there, who's there. Saw a lot of 18 stuff. So I just decided to go up there, get some guys and some kids some high fives, what's up's. Fortunately I got back out of there. They held onto me for a second, then my brute strength ripped me out of their arms and brought me back to civilization on the racetrack.
Q. Kyle, when Denny was in here, he said you're ultra‑focused on winning more championships. Is it possible maybe you get more determined over time when it comes to race wins, three in a row, whatever it may be?
KYLE BUSCH: I'm like a fine wine: I'm getting better with age. No, I'm really full of it, aren't I (smiling)?
The biggest thing is the continuation of trying to get better. I think you can always improve. It doesn't matter how old you are, how young you are, what things you're doing behind the scenes, what film you're watching, what notes you have. I think you can always get better. That's just kind of what you try to do.
It always seemed so easy for Jimmie when Jimmie was doing it. It's like, What is he doing, how does it seem so easy? I wouldn't say we're to that point yet. Obviously we haven't won five in a row. But finishing in the top three seven weeks in a row is impressive for me. I like to continue that anyways, all throughout the season have that shot when it comes down to the final 10 weeks and go after another championship for sure.
Race wins is where it's at. But more importantly, championships is where it's at. Would love to deliver more for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Q. Kyle, from a fan's perspective, do you think they were entertained watching the race? Did they get their money's worth even though the first 90% was calm? Do you think the fan reaction to you winning was overall maybe more cheerful than in previous races or previous years?
KYLE BUSCH: Man, hard for me to say. I was inside my car. I thought I was plenty excited from where I was at. I had a lot of things going on.
As Adam said, there was a race for the lead I guess much of the day. Three cars up there, four cars up there, whatever. Then it seemed there was kind of a gap it seemed like behind me.
Overall I hope the race was good. I hope they saw some entertainment out of the fact that we could all race as hard as we raced. The comers and goers were coming throughout the run. Guys were getting better as the night went. There were different players leading, wasn't one guy leading 300 whatever laps of the race. The last 50 seemed kind of chaotic with the cautions and crashes, things like that. Overall I think you had a little bit of everything, hopefully.
The fan reception? Yeah, I think over time it's going to continue to get better. I think it's been going that way for a while now, I'd say. But maybe with some things kind of happening in the last year or two or three, it will continue to get even better yet. We'll see some more seas of yellow.
Q. Adam, coming to a restart, there was six to go, everybody pitted. Were you surprised nobody even tried it?
ADAM STEVENS: Well, yes and no. There were quite a few cars on the lead lap there. You thought a couple cars might try it. But historically with that many laps on tires here, that many tires in the box, that many laps left to go, it wouldn't have worked out for them. I guess overall probably not.
Q. Kyle, how gratifying is it to reel three straight wins, especially Bristol and Richmond, after a rough start to the season?
KYLE BUSCH: 'Rough start'? Where you been? Okay.
The last three weeks have been really special. Short tracks I feel like are one of my better suited racetracks, one of my specialties. I like to think that anyways. I love racing anywhere, but the short tracks kind of seem to fit in my wheelhouse. I love running my super late model teams, give me a chance to run some more short tracks throughout the year, maybe gives me that little bit of an upper edge for how cars need to be at slower speeds, bullring type racetracks.
It's been a great year thus far. We had a rough start at Daytona. From there on out, we've been really strong. We just got to keep it rolling. We got to another plate race next week in Talladega. That one's never really always in the driver's hands. It's kind of always in fate's hands. We'll just take what we can get.
Q. Unrelated from this race, how impressed were you with Noah last night?
JOE GIBBS: Overall really impressed. Kyle does a great job of finding young guys. Got to brag on him. But he really does. He spots a lot of them. He's racing in the other series sometimes, smaller series away. Has a way with the Truck Series, too.
Noah last night was impressive. It was a big night for Toyota. We're thrilled to have tonight go the way that it did for Toyota. It's a big deal. They're a great partner. For them to be here, Bob Carter, Ed, Dave, everybody was here for the team. It's a big deal for us.
I think Christopher is impressing us, too. We're thrilled with the young guys we've had in the car. Ryan the week before. That program is a huge program for us. We put a lot into it. Kyle has his Truck deal. We got a natural thing there. If young guys show something, we got a place to put them in Xfinity to give a shot, too.
KYLE BUSCH: I thought Noah did a phenomenal job. I was really impressed with his run in second. There beating on Christopher's back bumper trying to get a win for himself. Did a great job.
I wasn't sure that he would run that well. We kind of mentioned a few weeks ago about he's kind of stuck fifth to eighth in the truck. Obviously our stuff is not that good. We got to get it better.
Q. Samantha doesn't seem to like these late‑race restarts. Does she seem relieved in Victory Lane?
KYLE BUSCH: She's a really good mix of not quite a Kim Burton and not quite another wife that just goes back to the bus and doesn't pay any attention. I love her to death for supporting what I do, being out there on the box, being a part of our team, what we do. She's a huge part of that for me anyway. I enjoy that she likes it as much as we all do, that she's out there supporting us.
She lets me know what sometimes goes on on the pit box, what sometimes goes on behind the scenes with the guys and their attitudes, things like that. It's kind of cool to have her with that.
But she gets a little excited and gets a bit ramped up. I think we saw her and her displeasure a few years ago when Carl knocked me out of the way for the win, and she feels the wrath just like we all do with the disappointment in not being able to score victories.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations, guys.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports