March 7, 2021
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Las Vegas Motor Speedway
An Interview with:
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by Kyle Busch driver of the No. 18 Ethel M Chocolates Toyota, who finished third in today's race.
We are going to go straight into questions for Kyle.
Q. What do you think this can do for you and Ben getting the car better throughout the race for a good finish?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, I mean, it's all about building blocks. I felt like today was a good building process for us. I just always kept trying to give the best feedback I possibly could. Being able to tell him what the car was doing, where we were coming from with the adjustments we were making. He was making good adjustments all day. Seemed like the first two or three of them really didn't do anything. We started taking swings with wrenches in the back window, stuff like that.
I don't know, man, it's interesting. Last week we were on the simulator for Homestead, same thing for this week for Vegas. It's just not correlating close enough for us. If we can get that better and closer, I feel like there's something there.
Off on balance to start. Got way better towards the end. Still there was room for improvement there at the end. Overall our speed was a little off. We weren't going to keep up with the 5 or the 2. Definitely on restarts we could see that I was really slow, just getting attacked on by everybody, drove backwards. Took me a while to fight my way back up front, but that was our day.
Q. At this point is it too much of a leap to say it's Hendrick and Penske at the top, then you guys are sort of like the next step half behind?
KYLE BUSCH: I mean, certainly the Hendrick guys have come to play. They were really fast here last year with Chase. I thought Chase was fast early in the race. I never saw the front, so I don't know. I think I seen him up there.
So the 5 was just able to close the deal and finish it off. But, yeah, they certainly are pretty quick. It was interesting how the 2 was up front, the 2 was fast all day. I think the 22 never really got there. The 12 I think was okay. Yeah, I mean, we as JGR, we are definitely a little bit behind. We'll continue to try to work on that and get better.
But as the perception seems to be, Hendrick and Penske are certainly ahead of us, yes.
Q. We saw all afternoon the restarts just wilder than I think we've ever seen them, especially here in Vegas. You talked about the restart struggling for you. Is it that important to get those or can you build your car enough to where you can get better in the long run?
KYLE BUSCH: I mean, it definitely makes your life a heck of a lot easier if you're able to get clear on the starts and to be able to get a gap, get single file, then be able to go race the guys that you want to be racing around.
It single files out first, second, third. It goes in order, right? That's when it starts to clear up. If you're back in eighth, it takes a while for it to single file out for you. That just kind of hinders your opportunity to get up towards the front.
We were able to pick off a few cars there at the end of the race and work our way up I think from eighth to third or something. But it takes a long time to make up lap time on guys and to get position further forward in the field.
In a perfect world you want to be fast right off the start and get a gap, then try to hold on.
Q. You referenced things maybe not correlating as much from the sim in some ways. What are you seeing? Has that been something that's happened in the past and this is just a constant issue or is this something a little bit different?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, I mean, every track is different. Every week it seems to be close or far away, whatever. It's interesting on how we can figure it all out.
But, yeah, I mean, last year, once we lost practice and everything like that, we knew we weren't going to go back to practice, we would go to the simulator every single week. I spent five hours there working on things, trying to get us the right balance that I feel like on a sim and a raceable one where I feel like I can drive the car a particular way that you need to drive it in the race on there, then in real life. It's just not quite correlating between the two.
This week we came to the racetrack super, super tight. I mean, eight numbers tighter on the racetrack than it was in sim. Typically when you're good in sim, you're about two numbers loose. I don't know. That's a 10-number difference, right? It's just a big deal.
I mean, a lot of it is tire. We have to figure out the tire model, and try to make what we think is right there. I don't know, we'll keep working on it. That's the only tool we've got.
Q. How does that challenge you and Ben? To work through something as severe as this, what does that do for you behind the wheel and that communication?
KYLE BUSCH: I mean, right now I don't know. I need to go decipher with him. I can't really answer that question exactly with a whole lot of knowledge.
In my opinion, I would think that as we probably go a few more races, we would just have to look at our setup, how we start, how we end some of these races, then what tracks we're going to that mimic this. We go to Kansas, I would take this setup right there, look at the two Vegas and Kansas setups from last year, look at this Vegas setup and see how we want to build our Kansas setup. Try to come up with a way of being able to do it, forget about the simulator, you know what I mean?
That's where it gets complicated and challenging, we're trying to utilize and make that tool better so we can really come out here and look like heroes.
Q. What kind of difference does it make when you're in the car, when you see the fans, what do you think?
KYLE BUSCH: I mean, yeah, I thought the crowd count for what we're allowed to do is fantastic. Looked like they were sold out for the opportunities that we had to give the fans to come out here, be at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Excited for that opportunity, having them back. It's what our sport is built on. Obviously having fans around has been significant to us for years. So it's pretty cool to see all of that. Hopefully some more of these communities or governments will allow fan access and we can continue to build on that more and more, continue to do it safely so we can all enjoy a little bit more of normalcy again.
Q. Are you surprised or impressed by how quick Kyle Larson has been out of the gate here at Hendrick?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, no, I mean, Hendrick has good cars, right? They got a really good driver. Larson obviously is a talented one. He's done a fantastic job in the races he's had so far. He got held out there on tires one time today, was coming back towards me, then it kind of leveled out. We came in for tires the next time, and he just flat out shot to the front.
There was no keeping up with him. Those guys have got it going on, have done a nice job. It was impressive to see. Congrats on him getting a win this early in the season, for him on his return.
Q. You're showing speed this year so far. A win may not come as late in the post-season. How much pressure is on yourself and the 18 team specifically in getting a win with four drivers now locked into the playoffs?
KYLE BUSCH: I mean, yeah, it's pretty interesting how this season's laid out so far. Everybody is a different winner. It's pretty cool for parity and for separation. I think that even adds to another different winner from last year. I think that's 14 of 16 races or something like that. It's kind of crazy to see all that going on.
It's definitely putting pressure on some of the other teams, some of the teams that have had a rough start like ourselves first few races being terrible. We kind of had a hole that we had to dig ourselves out of. We've been working on that each week, getting closer.
We keep starting these races too far back or too far off on balance with the race car, we miss points in the first stage, and that's just been killing us.
THE MODERATOR: Kyle, thanks for joining us tonight.
KYLE BUSCH: Thanks.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports