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March 9, 2008
THE MODERATOR: We are pleased to be joined by our third-place finisher in today's Kobalt Tools 500. That is Dale Earnhardt, Jr. He drives the No. 88 AMP Energy National Guard Chevrolet. I believe he's sixth in the points right now. Off to a good start this season, Dale. Your thoughts about your race out there this afternoon.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, we started off awesome. The car was real fast. The tires, you know, have spring rates. We went softer and softer as the day went. That was the wrong thing to do. We had to keep adjusting on the car to tighten it up. The thing was just out of control after a few laps. I wasn't as bad as most of them, I don't reckon.
That was interesting today to be out there. I do say that. I'm glad that's over with.
THE MODERATOR: Let's take questions now for Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Q. Dale, is the tire beyond drivable? Do you understand the predicament Goodyear is in or was it beyond drivable?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, I'll say that Goodyear Tire Company makes good racing tires, they make a safe tire. You know, there's a lot of technology goes into making them tires and I give them a lot of credit. I mean, you know, it's a reputation risk just to be in this sport as a company like that. They can be the quarterback sometimes on Sunday as far as criticism goes.
But they do a good job. This was just a bad combination, this tire at this track. Just a poor combination. I know the tire we used to run would wear into the cords, but you could still run hard on it. It wasn't dangerous. You would run into the cords and run like that for 10 laps. That was a pretty good tire. Even though it was on a cord, you could still run it for a while, get to the next pit stop.
I'll tell you, I'm still seeing the center line in my tires, the mold line in my tire after 30 laps. So I went from running a tire that would wear to the cord to a tire that I still see the center cord after 30 laps. There's got to be several combinations in between that. I mean, Lord, that can't be the next step.
So great racing tire, it's safe and everything, but it's a poor choice for this track.
Q. We heard in your post-race comments a few minutes ago before you came in here talking about it sounded like you and Tony weren't on the same page during the race. Y'all have been obviously together for a long time. Was it a communication breakdown? Did you want to do something that he didn't?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: No, you know, the tires have spring rates. You sort of figure what your game plan is as far as you want to go stiffer on the right front or let the right front fall out from under it as the race goes. They don't make a tire that's exactly the same as every other tire, so you can't have the same exact set every set. They're going to change some.
So what the crew chiefs do is they put them in a sequence which they'll go a certain way until the driver complains, then they make them flip it around. But it's got to go one way or the other. We went the wrong way at the start of the race.
I just made it really hard on him. You know, just in his ear all the time about trying to get on his A game, help me out, help me out, because the car was just out of control. And you just don't like driving cars like that.
But he's my cousin. He's tough. That's why I guess more than anything, besides his talent, I guess that's why I got him, because he's the only one that would put up with me.
THE MODERATOR: Let's hear from Tony Stewart. He was second in today's race. He drives the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota. Tony, your thoughts about how you ran out there today.
TONY STEWART: I'm really excited that I didn't crash. That was half the battle in itself. Been racing 28 years and been a part of a lot of different professional series and never seen a quality of racing tire like I've seen this weekend. It's a little bit like I caught Dale saying. I mean, you know, there's got to be something in between. And if Goodyear thinks that was their best effort today, I'm really disappointed because, you know, these teams spent so much money to come here and the competition is so close.
You know, to tell us a week before we come to Atlanta that all of a sudden we're going to have a new tire and give us the data a week before and expect everybody to figure it out in a week is pretty disappointing.
But, you know, I guess I can't say it's surprising because, I mean, they got run out of Formula One, they got run out of CART, the IRL, they got run out of World Outlaw Sprint cars, they got run out of USAC divisions because they couldn't keep up and make a quality enough product.
You know, this weekend shows their true colors and what they're about. You know, they've done some great things over the years. But, you know, as technology has gone on and as the technology of these cars has gone on, they can't keep up. That's what puts us in positions like we were in this weekend as drivers and teams. It makes for a miserable day out there.
Like Dale said, it's so hard. It's hard enough just to get the balance of your car from stop to stop making the changes, but then when you put tires on and don't know what they're going to do when you put them on, it makes it that much more disappointing. You know, it makes also days like today, when you get lucky enough to finish, you know, second and have your teammate win, it makes days like that great.
But, man, I mean, if the rest of the year, if that's what we got to look forward to, is weekends like this, there will be a lot of drivers going into retirement a lot earlier because nobody's going to want to keep doing this like this.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions for both of these competitors.
Q. A situation where you have to race on a tire that's not raceable, will NASCAR pay attention, will Goodyear pay attention? Are you stuck with what you got?
TONY STEWART: There's drivers that get picked to do tire tests throughout the year and they pick a team from each manufacturer to go. We did the tire test for Las Vegas. About all that we can do as drivers is just do what we're supposed to do when we get there, and that's give them input from set to set on what the car felt like. They don't tell us necessarily before they put the set of tires on what's different about it. It's our job to give them feedback of what was different from that set from their baseline set.
But just like Vegas last year, we all tested one tire. They panicked, brought a harder tire. It was a disaster for everybody. It prompted this last-minute decision by them.
It's not up to us. It's up to Goodyear. The bad thing is they've got an exclusive deal. They have no reason to have to push and make their product better because they have no competition.
So I don't know what it's going to take to get them to give us a quality tire that this series and NASCAR deserves. But they obviously aren't capable of doing it right now.
Q. Junior, is it time for Mike Helton and Brian France and somebody to go to Goodyear and say, We got to do better than this? Is it to that point? You can bitch all you want to, but nothing seems to change. Is it time for NASCAR to step into this and do something?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: There's a big difference between complaining and stating the obvious. You know, it is what it is. It's not a complaint. It is what it is.
So I'm sure that Mike Helton or France, I'm sure they'll say what their opinion is. They probably wouldn't like this any more than the drivers did. I don't think for one the race was all that exciting. We couldn't run side by side. We'd wreck, you know. We had to let each other go by. Every time you got beside a guy, you were just like, Take it. I can't go in the corner side by side. No one else out there really could either.
But, you know, they said they'd give us the data earlier in the year, around Daytona or before. But no amount of time would have prepared you for that. You weren't going to hook that tire up. It was way too hard.
Q. Tony, you made reference in your radio interview that Goodyear doesn't have enough people. Do you feel like that would help solve the problem, if they upped their investment? Two, if you could both answer, is the new car perhaps causing some of this problem with them not being able to get a handle on the tire?
TONY STEWART: I mean, there's a possibility the new car's part of it. But still, I mean, it's not like Goodyear's just started building tires two or three years ago and they don't have an idea of what to do. I mean, they've been in this sport a long time. And if you haven't figured it out by now, you probably don't have the right group of guys figuring it out.
I wasn't saying that they don't have enough people. I don't know if they have enough quality people because the guys they've got obviously aren't getting it done right now. I mean, you know, this week's proof of it. It's like Junior said. The reason we're talking about it and the reason that we're bringing it to everybody's attention is because we don't want to have to race on tires like we raced on today every week. This wasn't fun today. There wasn't anything about today's race that was fun I don't think for anybody.
I mean, do something about this, make it better. It wasn't like we ran three or four green-flag lap runs. We had one green-flag pit stop in that whole deal. That's just how bad the field was. If your car was a little off, it was way off. I mean, you didn't have a choice. It wasn't like you could make the difference as a driver. All you could do is hold on and try to find a spot that was a little better on the track. But you couldn't go there and race guys. Like Junior said, if somebody got to you, got on the outside of you, you didn't have a choice of whether you wanted to let them go. You had to. It was either that or you were putting yourself in jeopardy of wrecking your race car. There were a lot of times you were by yourself you were putting yourself in jeopardy of wrecking your racecar.
It's not that we're just trying to beat 'em up. We want -- I don't know how else you plead with them or get their attention enough to bring something that's better than what it is. I mean, this isn't the first time that they've been to Atlanta Motor Speedway.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I guess the big thing is, is don't do this as Darlington. That's the main thing. I think the COT is part of it. They're putting a lot of load on the right front tire with the bump stop. Puts a lot of load on the tires. So Goodyear thinks the tire is going to wear out worse, they're going to have more right front tire failures. Every time they have a tire failure, they think of it as their product is getting lambasted on national television, that it's bad news for them when the consumer sees it.
But everybody knows that watches the race, you know, there's a reason for a tire blowing. It's not 'cause it's a bad tire. We've never had a tire blow because it was defective. I mean, you know, they wear out and you wear them down to the air. But you just need to slow down if you're wearing tires out that bad.
But don't do this to us at Darlington 'cause that -- yeah, that will definitely be -- that might be able to top how horrible today was or how frustrating it was to run today if this is the case.
Q. Tony, you may want to answer this. NASCAR always seems to feel it's safety first. Is this to you, A No. 1, a safety issue more than anything else?
TONY STEWART: Well, I mean, nobody got hurt today luckily that I know of. You know, it's like Junior said. I mean, it's a PR game. That's the reason that Goodyear spends the money they spend in NASCAR to be the exclusive tire provider. It's good advertising for 'em.
But with that comes a responsibility. And, you know, it is, A, a responsibility of providing safe tires for us. But at the same time you got to provide a product that is competitive and is current and leads us to be able to do the things in the racecar that NASCAR expects us to be able to do as drivers during the course of a race.
You know, what it's gonna take to do that I don't know. I mean, we don't have the answers. I'm not any smarter than their engineers are. But, like we said, there's guys that have been in this business that have been here for a lot of years with that company and doesn't seem like that at this point they've got a very good handle on all those years of, you know, trial and error.
Q. The way that the tires are provided has changed in the last two seasons where there's the lease system, you don't buy the tires, you turn them back in. Do you think the change in the system creates less incentive to make production schedules? Do you think this whole system has anything to do with the tire situation getting worse?
TONY STEWART: I honestly don't know. But, you know, honestly that's not our responsibility as competitors. I mean, that's not at all anybody in NASCAR's responsibility. That's not the teams' responsibilities. That's not the drivers' responsibility. Goodyear signed a contract with NASCAR to provide these tires for the next five years. With that comes their responsibility. It doesn't matter how they do it. We don't care (loss of audio). I'll be honest, I don't want to take them home. I don't have anything I'd bolt them on (loss of audio).
Q. (No audio.)
TONY STEWART: That's the nature of the beast. It strictly was handling. If you could get your car to carry more momentum through the corner, you could be probably 10 horsepower down and run the same lap time as somebody that had 10 more horsepower if you just got your car driving good.
I was happy with what we had today. Obviously when we get back, we want more. But we're on stage, we're three or four races into the schedule. We're still trying to get the reliability. Knock on wood, we haven't had any motor failures, and that's because they're smart enough to know when to push that envelope and when to not. To have us run 1-2 today and to know we've still got more back at the shop, I would say we're in pretty shape in that category.
Q. Dale, first four races, third time you've been the top Hendrick driver. Coming off of last week's finish, too. What has it meant for you to get off to this type of start in your situation?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, I'm desperate, you know, just to get in the top five and the top 10 every week when the car's capable of doing it. There's a real sense of desperation there the last half of the race not to mess it up. We had a good finish going. So I don't want to miss the Chase. The sky might fall.
We'll just keep working like we're working. Everything's good. Tony, Jr. is going good. Today again was frustrating for me and him. But we're past it, looking on to the future.
You know, everything seems to be working out really good. I just want to keep it going. You know what I mean? I'm just trying not to make any mistakes myself. They gave me great, great racecars. They're really good-looking cars. They do a good job building them. They're pretty confident in their ability, so hopefully I can do my end of the job.
Q. With a tire like this, how deep do you have to go into the adjustment playbook? You're trying anything you can find to make it better?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I was just trying to get it to where I could put up with it. I was just trying to get it tolerable. There were a couple times in the race where I had it there, but we'd go -- we wouldn't really even make changes. A half pound of air pressure in the left rear just spun me right out.
It was really frustrating. I'm glad we're past it. Hopefully there was a good lesson learned. Hopefully, you know, Goodyear doesn't like to hear people bashing them tires, and I don't like doing it, but I ain't going to sit here and put up with this. I don't think any of the other drivers or anybody, you know, is going to do it.
So hopefully we can all get along and come up with something better than this. They got a tire test tomorrow at Darlington, and I'm going to go down there.
TONY STEWART: As a matter of fact, we invite all of you to go down there tomorrow, too, and give us a report.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I'd just like to know how that process goes. I went to Texas and tire tested, but they didn't ask me much, what I thought. So I just sit there and, you know, they got these other guys doing the testing. But the times that I've done it, I didn't feel like my input was observed or looked over too well.
I'm going to go tomorrow and just kind of watch and see what drivers are saying and see what they're thinking.
Q. Was there a sense of relief at the end? I know you'd liked to have gotten the win, but you both finished in the top five, no one got hurt, the race was over.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I was glad it was over. I was counting the laps.
Q. Kyle Busch led over 300 laps this weekend in the various divisions. A lot of them were sideways. Is he able to go faster just 'cause he's throwing caution to the wind and driving sideways?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I mean, he's a good talent. I think that everybody -- I never really worked with him as closely as Tony and my teammates that have now. But they all say he's an amazing talent. And he's just got great, you know, seat-of-the-pants feel for a car, and he can drive 'em pretty sideways.
We get sideways, too, but we just ain't never leading when we're doing it.
TONY STEWART: That and we've crashed a lot more, too. So we know what it's like if we make that mistake (laughter).
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: We've hit harder. That will slow you down a little bit.
TONY STEWART: He is. He's amazing to me. You know, I'm proud to have him as a teammate. I think he's been a huge asset to Joe Gibbs Racing, obviously. It's fun to watch him. I mean, the nights that he runs the truck race and we're sitting in the bus, I mean, I normally don't pay as close attention (loss of audio). He's got everything that car is capable of. That's what you want out of a guy. You know, any time you try to fix one of those problems, you can make the problems worse. When it comes to making all the adjustments you want to make, you want to start (loss of audio).
Q. If this tire made it so hard to drive out there, why do you think there weren't more wrecks, more cautions? Could you expound on that a little bit, please?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, I mean, just look at the lap times we were running. What were they, 34-second laps at the end of the tire run, 33.70s. That's why. We were all trying not to wreck.
TONY STEWART: That and you couldn't get close enough to each other. You never stayed around any one person for very long because you just couldn't. I mean, they became so aero dependent because you have mechanical grip, which is your tires, your shocks and your springs, then you've got your aero balance. If you take away that mechanical grip, making a hard tire took away mechanical grip, you're relying even that much more on the aero percentage. And that leads to not being closer to guys.
And when guys' cars are driving as bad -- when we lapped guys, we got a chance to see a lot of guys. We know how bad our cars drove and we finished in the top five. Can you imagine the guys running in 20th, 25th place, how bad their cars drove. Well, we got to see it. The reason they weren't crashing is they weren't willing to run it any harder than that.
When you're not around guys, you probably around -- you know, you're not going to push the issue as much as when you're racing somebody for position and you try that extra little bit and step over that line. You know, we just didn't have those situations today and I think that's why you didn't see any more cautions than you did and you didn't see any more wrecks than you did. It's because guys got separated. You were racing yourself. You really weren't racing anybody else. You were racing your car and how it was driving on the racetrack.
Q. Obviously a lot of advances have been made in driver safety. Is this tire going to end up costing somebody down the road? Is that why you're so outspoken, is due to the driver safety issue?
TONY STEWART: I don't think it's so much that as just, you know, nobody liked the way their cars drove. I mean, a series at this level, I mean, we expect our racecars to drive better than that and we expect a tire that's up to that level of competition that the teams build the cars. And that's not what we had. We had a tire that didn't meet the standards of the competition here obviously. You know, obviously if we crashed a bunch of cars today, then obviously that would have been a bigger concern.
But with no more crashes than we had, I don't think it's an issue of safety as much as it is just an issue of performance and comfort in the car and feeling comfortable driving your racecar. When you feel like you're holding your breath all day, I mean, when everybody in the field was tired when they got out of their cars today, that normally doesn't happen here like that. I mean, when you're that tired, it's 'cause you had to work even that much harder.
It's not that we're scared to work. There's none of us scared to work behind the wheel of a racecar. It's being put in that position that we don't like.
Q. When you guys say you don't want to work that hard, it will come across that way. Can you define how hard it is in the racecar as how hard it would be before and where the line is? I know people will tear that apart. I'm truthfully asking for you to define it, if you would.
TONY STEWART: That makes sense. Let's see if we can put it in a way that makes more sense.
Like Dale said, you know, we're accustomed to running two seconds faster here. We're still as drivers (loss of audio). It's just not as comfortable as doing it. When you go in a corner and you don't know if the thing is going to jump out from underneath you or if it's actually going to go straight when you get to the corner, that's a pretty big concern. That makes you hold your breath getting in. That makes you tense up. That's why we're more tired today than we would be on a day when we have a tire that does have grip.
We're still going to drive these cars to get better performance and speed out of them as we can. So are the teams. We made changes in the garage area during practice and it didn't make the car do anything any different. I mean, it didn't respond to it. When you make changes like that and the (loss of audio).
So don't confuse me saying that. You know, we'll still work just as hard. But we'll go two seconds faster doing it. But it's more comfortable doing it when you got a different tire.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, I'll say that I think what Tony means is that we'd rather be working trying to accomplish other things, like changing my line to get more speed to gain on somebody, to be able to turn the wheel and drive the car.
Today you couldn't go, All right, let me run at the top a little bit, because I knew I would back into the fence. When I tried to catch Tony there at the end, it just slid in there like it was on marbles. You run to the bottom, you're just as helpless down there. (Loss of audio) trying to gain. So really, you're just working hard. Nothing's coming from it.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, guys.
We are joined by Kyle Busch. Congratulations, Kyle. A great performance out there today. Talk about it.
KYLE BUSCH: Well, it was a battle out there, that's for sure. You know, those cars were pretty tough to drive. But overall we had a pretty good car in practice yesterday where we felt okay about it today. And then the track seemed to warm up just a little bit, and that gave us a little less grip for today.
But overall we just kept working on it, kept trying to make it better. We battled a little bit tight, a little bit loose, then a little bit loose, a little bit tight. Kind of all over the board there somewhat. Scraped the wall getting into one one time. Ended up bending the rear-end or twisting the rear-end just a little bit.
You know, that definitely didn't help the handling of the racecar any, and actually hurt us a little bit. Just made me so loose getting in and so loose up off the corner, we had to tighten it up. When we did that it tightened up the center of the corner, too. Couldn't ever get the center of the corner to cooperate with us.
Just babying it around the bottom of the racetrack was what I had to do all day. If I missed it, it just slowed us down so much that those guys behind us would close up. I just had to make sure I hit my marks, was smooth and slow and ran around the bottom.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for our winning driver Kyle Busch.
Q. You won the first Car of Tomorrow race last year. You won the first Toyota race. We have the Car of Tomorrow. You've been called the driver of tomorrow before. You're the driver of now. Can you talk about the impact of being the first to accomplish these two milestones?
KYLE BUSCH: Well, I mean, it means a lot to be able to go out and win any race anytime, but especially here at Atlanta. This place has been such a struggle for me. I haven't had a top 10 finish here. I remember the years of watching Bobby Labonte race around this place, kicking everybody's butt. Sort of reminded me a little bit about it today to be able to race like that, run like that, bring that 18 car back up front, run here the way it used to and the way it should.
As far as all that goes, just being able to work with all these guys, that's what helps me run up front like the way I have. It's not necessarily the car or the Car of Tomorrow or whatever it is, you know, it's just about being be comfortable, you know, for me being able to drive anything at the pace that I need to be able to drive it at. And having Steve, the engineer, all these guys being able to give me what I need in order to drive it faster is all I care about.
Q. Kyle, I don't think it's going too far to say that the way you started off the season and the attention to the way you've been driving is changing the game for other drivers. There's a lot of talk about how you're up on the wheel and maybe some other guys are going to have to match that effort. Do you feel that or are you just doing your deal?
KYLE BUSCH: Well, I'm just doing my deal. I mean, everybody's always said that I've been the aggressive driver, you know, used to cause wrecks, used to be out of control, this and that. I don't feel I'm driving any different than what I used to. I've sort of tamed my style, per se. Now it looks like I'm a professional at it or something.
But, you know, it seems to be working to my advantage right now, so that's all that matters, and being able to go out there and win races. But, you know, for other drivers to have to ante up or step up, I'm not so sure that it's them. I think it's a lot with the car. You know, Carl Edwards had the best car here today by far again. And whatever those guys have got over there that's figured out is really scaring us 'cause, you know, the 16 doesn't show it, the 17 doesn't show it, the 26 doesn't show it, but for some reason that 99 does. Whether it's him driving that thing or whether is the car, it's definitely something that we've got to work on.
THE MODERATOR: Let's also now hear from winning crew chief Steve Addington. I believe this is your first career victory as a Sprint Cup Series crew chief.
STEVE ADDINGTON: Yes, it is.
THE MODERATOR: How does it feel?
STEVE ADDINGTON: It feels great. I'm excited for my guys. I mean, they've went through a lot the past three years. Getting Kyle on board, give those guys their first win, that was an awesome feeling today.
THE MODERATOR: We're also going to call up team president J.D. Gibbs and Joe Gibbs. Congratulations.
KYLE BUSCH: Come on, owner, let's go.
THE MODERATOR: Let's here from Coach Gibbs, then we'll hear from J.D. Your thoughts about the win out there, Toyota's first in the Sprint Cup Series? You got to feel great about that?
JOE GIBBS: There were a lot of firsts there. For us, you know, we started out the year, there were so many changes, so many things, so many firsts. First of all, just really appreciate Kyle.
I wanted to say, Kyle, the decision, we all talked it over, we always do things together. We go to Tony and Tony said, I'd go get Kyle. We went to Denny, Denny said, I'd go get Kyle. As we talked it over, Jimmy and everybody else, we decided we better go get Kyle. We appreciate that. We appreciate him. That was the first course with us. Really appreciate everything he's done there for Mars and M&M's and Snickers. I think that's going to be a great relationship. So that was a first.
First for Kyle, first for Mars, and then of course first for Toyota. So for all of us, I think we were all apprehensive. We started the year, there was a huge amount of change, everything we had to go through. So we really appreciate the way everybody worked and hunkered up.
The other thing I want to say, Steve Addington, that 18 car, they've been through some, you know, real tough hard couple of years. I really appreciate those guys hanging tough, too.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach. J.D. your thoughts?
J.D. GIBBS: What's special about this for us, the 18 car, that's our first car we've ever had, that's our baby, 17 years racing the 18 car. We had so much success a few years ago. To come back now after a few down years, to come back and be this strong consistently week in, week out, I think Steve was joking, he didn't know whether to hug me or punch me, it took me so long to get Kyle on board. I said, it came out of your bonus to pay for Kyle's, so don't get too excited about it (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions.
JOE GIBBS: Can I say one thing about Norm. Norm Miller is not here, our buddy. He's the founding sponsor for our race team. We wouldn't be in racing if it wasn't for him. He's the 18 guy. We really appreciate him. We miss him here today.
But we appreciate him getting us started in racing. I always said, Norm got dumb enough. We had no car, no driver, no nothing, and Norm said, I want to do this.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for this championship team.
Q. Kyle, given how you started this season and other series and everything, is what happened today pretty much when you thought it would happen, even with your record here at the track, the way the car was running, things like that? Did you pretty much figure you could win today?
KYLE BUSCH: No, you never know for sure if you can win a race.
You know, yesterday we were pretty decent. Here today, I've run well here in the past and have been able to run up front and lead laps and be competitive. Then you come down pit road and you have a pit road issue or you make an adjustment on the car and the car completely goes the opposite way and stuff like that.
You're never sure if you're going to be able to win the thing until the last lap falls and you cross the start/finish line with the checkered.
Q. Just talk about your feel in this car. Tony was saying you like the car kind of loose. How have you adapted to it?
KYLE BUSCH: Well, it was plowing today. We kept trying to make changes, kept trying to make it better. But, you know, I scraped the fence in turn one, like I said. That sort of towed the rear-end out, did something to it weird, where it made it really loose in, really loose off. Steve had to make some adjustments to it in order to fix those, which made it tight again in the center. It is just a car you're getting to go around the racetrack the fastest. Whoever can make it go through the corner the best is going to be the guy that's going to be able to win the race.
We didn't have the car that was able to go through the corner the best, but we had the longevity in the car that was able to make it 500 miles.
Q. Kyle, we all kind of gasped second or third to last lap when you were under Dale Jarrett there making that dicey move on a lapped car. What went into planning to make the move on the bottom?
KYLE BUSCH: He was holding the bottom pretty well, was slowing me down a tremendous amount because I needed some clean air on the nose of my car to help it turn. I was getting a little bit tight. He was holding the bottom so good, I just couldn't get a good run through the corner to ever get underneath him on the straightaway or anything.
So finally I just drove up there into the corner underneath him and tried to make him get loose and get out of the way. I mean, I don't know how many laps down at that point, but I know he wasn't on a lead lap. We're fighting for the win. I didn't know how close those guys were behind me. I hadn't looked in my rearview mirror. I was focused up front trying to get as many positions as I could. I couldn't go around the topside of him. I tried going to the top and got so loose I about spun out one corner. So I said, I'm not going to do that again and risk it.
I just had to stay glued to the bottom of the racetrack. I was either going to move him out of the way or he was going to get out of the way.
Q. Your teammate was very outspoken about how bad the tires were out there today. He said you kind of used that to your advantage because you can handle a very loose car. Can you talk about the tires, whether you liked them, didn't like it, how it made the car handle?
KYLE BUSCH: I'm going to say that I didn't like them. But, you know, I just went out there and we all had the same tire. They're going to pay somebody to win the race. And so that's what I focused on, was just trying to go out there and be the one that they were going to pay to win the race. I just drove the thing to the best my ability.
And Steve, he worked on it with me trying to make it better all day long, make the thing where it would get some grip out of it. In the beginning of the runs, I mean, we had some great grip in the thing. You can go the first four or five laps and really haul the mail - maybe the first two anyway. But then from there, I mean, you were just skating, sliding all over the place. You just had to be patient with it and slow it down, get it on the bottom and just pretty much keep that left front right on that line and keep the thing turning in order to make it through the corner the quickest.
Q. Steve, you're one of the calmest crew chiefs in the garage. What have you found in Kyle Busch? We talked when he got hired, you had the news conference. And, Kyle, is it not some redemption that Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. are in here after what you went through raving about your driving talents in a serious manner?
STEVE ADDINGTON: I mean, I learned from him that he gives -- seems to me that he gives 125% in practice. He wants you to fix the car, fix it now, this is my problem. Just makes us work on the car, which makes us a better race team. And then he backs off of it a little bit in the race and does what it takes to run good. When he is in a crowd of cars and stuff, he can judge what he needs to do to beat 'em and does an awesome job at doing that.
In practice, I mean, I feel like he gives 125% and I think that helps us out as a race team.
KYLE BUSCH: The Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Stewart comments. Uhm, I answer this question every week. I don't know. I mean, I'm flattered and fortunate enough to have the abilities that I do, and everybody talk about it the way that they do. All I can do is just go out there and drive my best and do what I'm paid to do, and that's to win races and to contend for championships week in and week out and just be able to, you know, drive the way that I drive. And that's all I can pretty much speak for.
So for those guys to talk about it as highly as they do, I mean, it's nice and everything. But, I mean, they're the best in the world, too. They're here at this level, so they're just as good as I am and that's why they're here. But for me to be able to beat 'em, I've only done it once this year so far, so I've got plenty more times I need to.
Q. Kyle, after what you went through last year, the way you were dismissed from your former team, the emotional toughness of what that was to go through being dismissed so they could find a spot for Mr. Popularity, how badly did you really want to see this day today?
KYLE BUSCH: Pretty badly really. I mean, he's run strong so far this year, too. He finished second last week. I think he was third today or fourth or something like that.
But, you know, for me, it's just to go out there and to work with Steve and to work with these guys here at Joe Gibbs Racing and try to make our cars better. And I knew that I wasn't going to a team that didn't have enough equipment or didn't have good enough equipment to participate or to contend with Hendrick because I've seen it. I've seen Tony be able to contend for races. I've seen Denny be able to contend for championships even his first year out.
I knew the waves of it were going to be there. It's just all about trying to make yourself better on a weekly basis or on a daily basis. And, you know, to do as well as I've done so far for where I'm at, I'm pretty happy, you could say.
Q. Steve, if you just glance at the point standings right now, it looks like either you gobbled up a bunch of smart pills or you have a real good chemistry with your driver. I wondered if you and Kyle could talk about the working relationship you've had. You haven't worked together in the past I'm pretty sure.
STEVE ADDINGTON: Just eat a lot of M&M's. Brain food.
Working with him's great. I mean, like I said, he just pushes you to make the car better. I think that helps. That just helps us in the overall program to make our cars better for him. You know, a lot of people don't know him, to get to know him one-on-one, the personality, have a good time, cut up and joke and stuff like, that it's been awesome. He's fit right in here. The guys love him to death. I believe they'd walk through fire for him right now. You know, and it's real cool.
You know, I warned them. You know, I warned them. I said, He's going to go off on us at some point here. I said, But just let it roll off your back. He's just competitive, wants to win races. It's a cool deal.
Q. Kyle, I know at the beginning of the year you and Tony and Denny kind of wanted to be the first driver to get Toyota its first victory. How important is it for you to be the guy that got Toyota their first victory here?
KYLE BUSCH: Well, it's pretty special. But it wasn't all that important to me. To me, I'm fortunate to have Toyota on our side or we all are fortunate to have Toyota on our side, giving us the help that we need.
You know, for me to go out there and win, it doesn't matter what car I'm driving. I told you I'd drive a milk crate, which is pretty much what this thing drives like. We have fun doing it, doing it to the best of our ability, making it fast. Whatever it takes to go out there and win is what we need.
For me to win the first race for Toyota was fun. You know, it was great. Congratulations to those guys. They deserve it. You know, they've won in the Truck Series. They've won in the Nationwide Series. Now finally in the Cup Series for them.
It took them their fourth race I guess their second year, I'm sure they wanted it sooner, but glad I was able to do it for them.
Q. Steve, you've been through a lot of races and burned a lot of cigarettes to get to this point. It was obvious pretty early that lap times weren't going to be as strong in this race because of the tires. How did that change what you were going to try to do in the first part of the race and did you kind of play a role early on in talking with Kyle about what he was going to have to do with a different situation?
STEVE ADDINGTON: We just talked about there was going to be a lot of slipping and sliding out there today. I mean, we knew from practice there wasn't a whole lot of grip in the tire. You know, we knew it was a long race. So, you know, we were just going to try to adjust on it, try to make it right. You got to believe in what your driver's telling you and try to adjust to fix it.
We went too far at one point, you know, and we had to back off of it. Right there at the end we got it, you know, where we needed it to win the race. I mean, the 99 car was really good. Something happened to him. But, I mean, it's just working with your driver at certain points of the race and trying to get the balance of the car where you need it to be. I'm sitting there watching lap times compared to where we've taken off on restarts before and stuff like this. And, I mean, we slowed down at one point on a restart and then we started getting it back and we ran the fastest laps right there at the end on restarts.
It's just working with your driver and believing what he's telling you.
THE MODERATOR: Steve, congratulations. Enjoy this victory. Good luck next week.
STEVE ADDINGTON: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We'll continue with further questions.
Q. Kyle, just with the conditions, the tire, everything associated with it, how were you challenged today as a driver? What were the things you had to do to overcome that? Was this anything different than what you had to do in the past, how you've been challenged in any other form of racing this?
KYLE BUSCH: This race was a challenge. I'm telling you, it was tough. We're out there on such edge. I mean, it feels like literally you're driving on ice. I have no idea what it feels like. It was the worst I've ever felt in a racecar and I won the thing, so I can't imagine how those poor guys that were running for 30th, fighting for 30th, as hard as they were fighting felt.
My hands are sore. Literally, I can barely even make a fist right now just from gripping the wheel and everything. I think my pinky is probably about broke off from holding the steering wheel the way that I hold it. I tend to use it to push down on the left a little bit.
It was so hard to get the thing, you know, you're such on edge, you're holding the wheel and driving it for all it's worth and trying to get it to roll the bottom of the racetrack, to get it to slow down, to get it to stick to the bottom. When it doesn't stick, you're driving the heck out of it just to get it to calm back down, get the grip back in the tire. As soon as you slip, you lose 3/10ths at least a lap. When I was up behind Carl a couple times, I could get close to him, then I'd fall back off him four or five car lengths because I just lost the grip in the car that one corner. Then I'd go down to the next corner, he'd lose it, I'd have it.
It was just a mess. It was literally one of the toughest and hardest races I've ever had to drove.
Q. Joe or J.D., with Tony's talk about tires this weekend, were you guys concerned about tires? Were you concerned at all he was kind of mentally -- about his focus mentally?
J.D. GIBBS: I would say, hey, if you're mentally shot and finish second, I'll take that pretty often. I'm not too worried about that.
I do think, hey, you did have a concern there on the tires. I would just say from Joe Gibbs Racing standpoint, we've been here 17 years. More often than not we trust Goodyear to make good decisions and they do. Are we going to agree with everything? No, we're not. But I think for us, I think we kind of defer to those guys. And really is our job to kind of take what we're given and make the most out of it.
I think that's what both our guys did today. Even though it was frustrating I'm sure for Tony, you know, I think to come out of there 1-2, and Denny was really good, too, just had the issue there in his car. For us, I think, again, hey, we want to get in partnership with those guys. We respect what they do in the garage, and we appreciate that as well.
Q. Kyle, perhaps this is an impossible question for you to answer. How good are you? In the sense of what everybody is talking about, the FOX guys are like the presidents of your fan club now.
KYLE BUSCH: I'll pay 'em (laughter).
Q. You have the Kyle Busch admiration society. Not that it's not deserved, but do you feel you've reached a level, you've gotten to a point that you have a mastery of this going on right now?
KYLE BUSCH: Not really. There's three of them up there, right?
KYLE BUSCH: I think you're right, J.D., I think that's 50 members.
I don't know. Honestly, it's great that you're asking me that question. But it's hard to answer, you're right. How good I am, I have no idea. I'm only as good as I perform. And the way that I'm performing is great. Whether that's me, the equipment, I think it's a mastery of both.
For me to go out there and to just run the best that I possibly can and try to get Addington to give me the best possible car that I can drive is all that we can do week in and week out. And, you know, if I would have unloaded that Cup car and went out there the first lap on the racetrack this weekend and just drove it like I did here in the test, I would have wadded it up. So that's why I drive in the Truck Series. That's why I drive (loss of audio). At least I'm a mini Jeff Gordon then (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations. Good luck next week.
End of FastScripts