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July 30, 2017
Long Pond, Pennsylvania
THE MODERATOR: We'll begin our winners press conference. We have the crew chief of the No.18 M&M's Caramel Toyota, and that is Adam Stevens.
Adam, that Camry unloaded, seemed pretty quick yesterday. You won a Coors Light Pole Award today, then a driver bringing it home to Victory Lane. How satisfying of a day is that for you?
ADAM STEVENS: That's the kind of weekend we all hope for. It's rare to get one. Just goes to show you the kind of stuff that's coming out of Joe Gibbs Racing, everybody working so hard with their heads down, so many dedicated employees there.
We've just had fast cars for so long and nothing to show for it. It's nice to finally put a weekend together and have a little bit of luck go your way, which we certainly did today.
THE MODERATOR: We also have our race winning owner, Coach Joe Gibbs.
Coach, the 100th win in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for Toyota. How special was it for you to be able to bring that home today?
JOE GIBBS: Well, certainly our partnership with them is just so many parts to it. The most important thing is over a period of time, you go through some tough times, you go through good times. The thing about Toyota, they're right there at your back.
We've worked through some tough issues in the past, but I think we've come out stronger. Because of that, over a period of time, we have a great relationship.
They want to win in every way. Today I just personally thanked Adam. It was a huge deal for us. I said the same thing to Kyle. To see them fight over such a long period of time, I hadn't experienced something where you had that many kind of quirky things happen to real fast cars. You could get discouraged with that. But this team kept fighting.
I want to say a big thanks to everybody back at the shop, just like Adam was saying. We got so many people back there that work so hard that don't get to experience the winner's circle. Say a big thanks to them, J.D., everybody back there that supports us with prayer.
It was a big day for us. Lord has blessed us with a great group of people. It's sure fun.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open the floor up for questions.
Q. Adam, were you glad there was no late caution to make you have to make a decision? Going back to June, what were you thinking when you watched that race, watching Ben have to make that decision?
ADAM STEVENS: Yeah, you know, we talked a lot about strategy going into the June race. We felt like that was going to be the right call. We probably underestimated the tire falloff. The 2 car being the wild card of being on pit road when that caution came out, it definitely probably forced more people to pit than normally would have because they were going to restart behind him with tires anyway.
I take 100% of the blame for that. That was a situation that he was prepped for, and a call that I made. It didn't work out. With the benefit of hindsight, I'd obviously do that over again.
I was thankful there wasn't a late race caution today. We had such a tire advantage on them, we knew they would come anyway, so we had the lead, we were in a good spot either way.
Late race cautions are never fun. They always set up an opportunity for somebody to do something completely different and beat the dominant car. Been a part of those on both sides. I just rather the dominant car win in my mind.
Q. Adam, did you find some redemption in that today with the pit call, it actually working in your favor? What were some of the adjustments you made throughout the race?
ADAM STEVENS: The first question there, I don't really know. Whenever you're forced into a position to make a decision, which happens three or four times a race, you make the best call you can with all the information available. You don't get the benefit of deciding if that was a good call or not until you come off pit road and see what everybody else did. I don't really beat myself too much over those unless it's egregiously wrong, which happens sometimes.
Today our car was fast, super fast in clean air. When we lost that track position, when those guys stayed out, had to restart fourth, got into one just a little bit too hot, slipped our rear tires, it really threw the balance off for the rest of that run.
We didn't make a lot of adjustments. We didn't compensate for that at all. It was just a deal where he got himself in a little bit of a bad spot. Maybe that set of tires wasn't lined up great with the other ones. It looked like it was on paper. Once we got those off there, it was back to normal.
Q. Coach Gibbs, now that you and your organization has won two of the last three races, is there more or less pressure to keep performing?
JOE GIBBS: Well, I think with multiple cars, obviously right now our focus will be the 20 and the 19. Not that we're not going to go for it each and every week with the 18 and the 11, but I think our focus now, we'd like to get Matt in. It would be a longshot obviously with Daniel, but he's had three straight top 10s right now. Who knows? Something could work out for him also.
Our focus is just our entire organization, everybody doing the best they can to put the best cars we can out there each week, and take our shot.
Q. Adam, you scored nearly as many Playoff points today as you had all season. Even with the speed that you've shown, how much of a concern was it with how few Playoff points you had coming into today, the gap that was building with some of the other cars?
ADAM STEVENS: That's a great question. It was a huge concern. I didn't really have any fears that we wouldn't make the Chase with our points position. So it was all about the Playoff points. You only get 'em one at a time when you win the stage. We've won the second most stages. But the 78 has won a bunch.
Those add up, but they add up slowly. You have guys that busted off a couple wins. You get in these short three‑race segments, those Playoff points are going to be colossal. The sooner we can start racking them up, the better. There's no better way to do that than to get to Victory Lane.
Q. Adam, you pitted a lot later than most other cars. Did you expect the fresh tires there at the end to pay off as well as they did?
ADAM STEVENS: I did, yes. It was a matter of doing something different than those guys because we were far enough back that we weren't going to be able to jump them by short‑pitting them. They could just come the next step and still be in front of us when we cycled through. We had to get ourselves in the spot where we had a tire advantage. Plus they came out in some traffic. We waited until we weren't going to come out in traffic. We had a little bit cleaner air. It definitely paid off for us.
Q. Coach, Daniel Suárez scored his third consecutive top 10. Talk a little bit about his progress this season.
JOE GIBBS: Yes, I mentioned that. As everybody knows, Daniel got moved up a year quicker than what we really thought the game plan was going to be. So you kind of go into this year, he had a lot, a lot to learn in a short period of time.
I really think for him, he seems to have just kind of a steadiness about him. He gets off sometimes earlier in the races and may fall back some. Really, towards the end of these races he's shown that right now he's solid. He can definitely be a solid top‑10 car. It's three in a row for him.
We've been impressed. I think everybody has. ARRIS, DeWalt, everybody that is on that car, Subway, we talk about it all the time. I think they're really pleased with Daniel and the progress he's made.
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by our race‑winning driver, that's Kyle Busch, who won for the 39th time today in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, and the first time here in 2017, punching his ticket into the 2017 Playoffs.
Kyle, how sweet of a victory is this for you?
KYLE BUSCH: It's pretty cool, finally being able to get the monkey off our back, get to Victory Lane this year. It's been a long time coming. It's well documented, it's been over a year, but it's finally very rewarding to achieve victory, especially here at Pocono. It's M&M's backyard, with one of their main plants in Hackettstown. We appreciate being able to go see all those guys and gals on Thursday, inviting us over, giving the team guys and their spouses a tour, whatnot. It was fun to do that.
Of course to be able to get to Victory Lane with this team, with Adam, all the guys, it's not due to lack of effort, it's not due to lack of speed. We've certainly figured out a lot of different ways to lose those races this year. It feels really good to finally capitalize on finally having a fast car, Adam making a really good decision to kind of long stint that last run, put tires on late. It really paid off for us.
THE MODERATOR: We'll continue with questions.
Q. With you and Denny winning now, how do you think the environment around the team is going to change entering the Playoffs?
KYLE BUSCH: I don't think it's going to change any. I think everybody at the shop is pretty levelheaded, pretty focused forward on what their job is, what their task is, being able to go to work. That's what they've been doing all year long.
That's the good thing about our shop, it's one for all. Everybody that's down on the floor that builds and assembles all these cars, you know, there's no wraps on them until Wednesday or Thursday before they have to get loaded up in order to get in the hauler.
The guys and gals there just do a great job of being able to work on building fast racecars. Denny and I have been able to capitalize on that fortunately. As Joe was mentioning before I got in here, Daniel is running up front, looking pretty good. Matt has always been fast. He's a sneaky one. One of these days I'm sure we're going to be fighting him for some race wins here in not too long.
Q. This is technically the final track for you to get a win at.
KYLE BUSCH: Finally, somebody, technically, there you go (laughter). Asterisk.
Q. Talk about what it feels like to do that, and what are your plans for the one you technically haven't gotten yet?
KYLE BUSCH: It feels really good. I wasn't sure which one was going to be last. It's funny how Charlotte was always my favorite track as a kid growing up, watching the All‑Star races, the night races, the sparks flying. One of the most eventful races and most memorable finishes was the '92 All‑Star Race there. I recall seeing that as a kid.
Always loved and enjoyed Charlotte. That's the last place I have yet to 'win' a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at. It's pretty cool to get it down to one. We certainly have had fast racecars. We've been really close at a lot of these tracks to continually make history, but haven't been able to do so this year. It feels good to get this one. Hopefully it just kind of snowballs from here and we're able to continue with wins.
Q. Kyle, you've been so close the last couple times here. You took both poles here this year. Did you feel at some point you would finally get yourself in Victory Lane? Now that you have, you're seeing that reality, how does that feel for you?
KYLE BUSCH: I mean, it feels really good. There was certainly some frustration today, as well, too. I got past Brad on the outside that one time through turn three, then got back down into turn one. For some reason it slid out from underneath me. I fell back to sixth. That was really frustrating. I thought that was actually the moment of the day. Okay, there's another Pocono race.
Just tried to forget about that, focus forward on being able to get back past those guys in front of me. I couldn't do it. That was frustrating again. I knew we had a really fast car. When all those guys ducked off to pit road, we picked up half a second at least. The car was really good. Liked clean air. I couldn't do anything with it in traffic for some reason. That was probably the most frustrating point for us today.
But again, Adam made a really good call. When all those guys ducked off, we knew they would all be bunched up together coming off of pit road. They were going to be into lap traffic with fresh tires, so they were going to be minimized of being able to utilize their fresh tires, not running as fast as we could run when we ran a little bit longer. It kind of put us in a different position on the racetrack when we came off pit road. So great call for our team.
Q. Kyle, you know we sit around and look at stats. Did you know how many laps you've led this year before today?
KYLE BUSCH: Second most.
KYLE BUSCH: Okay.
Q. Could you ever envision leading a thousand laps and not winning?
KYLE BUSCH: No. But I didn't set the record?
KYLE BUSCH: That's a record you don't necessarily want. I was afraid I was going to set that one, too. I'll let old man Harry keep that one.
No, I mean, that just goes to show you we've had speed, we've been right there, we've been able to do what we should be doing. That's running up front. It's just been, you know, a bit frustrating on the finishing side.
Grateful to finally be able to get the finish that our team deserves and what these guys have been busting their butts all year for, for the last year, not just this year, but for the last year, of not being able to reward them with a Victory Lane celebration.
Q. What did you and your crew contribute in today's victory?
KYLE BUSCH: I think the biggest thing was just unloading fast when we got here. There were abbreviated practices yesterday. When we unloaded off the hauler, we were really quick. We made some subtle changes to the car. A couple of them didn't actually make it any better. We backtracked, focused on what we knew made us fast here the first time around.
Adam and the guys did a good job of that again today, making good race calls for the racecar today. Then that final pit stop, just running it a bit long, having that fast car was able to put us in the right place on the racetrack when we got those tires and came out.
Q. So much of the talk this year has been the strength of the 42 and the 78. You've led the second most laps. Do you think this puts you in the title conversation with them, maybe as a favorite?
KYLE BUSCH: I don't know. We normally tend to fly under the radar most times. But, you know, it's not one that I need to go out and beat our chest to say that we should be in the conversations. That's for other people to decide.
I think our stats and our runs and our speed shows for itself. Those guys have just been able to capitalize on race victories. That's what we haven't been able to capitalize on.
It kind of goes every once in a while that we're all not all that flashy. When our backs are against the wall, I would say we haven't necessarily had that situation thankfully, so we haven't had to go out there and win, I mean in those Playoff instances, like some of these other teams have. The 4 has been able to do it, the 78, a couple other guys.
We just methodically go about our races, that's our mentality. When it works for us, we go to Victory Lane. That's how we get to Homestead.
Q. What did you think about qualifying and racing on the same day? Would you like to see it done more often?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, I thought today was great. I didn't have any qualms about it whatsoever. I'm up at 8, 9 o'clock in the morning anyway. Might as well be doing something. So qualifying at 11:30 wasn't bad. Getting a bite to each for lunch, a drivers meeting, changing our clothes, going back to a traditional schedule, was not that big a deal.
If you're a driver that has a lot of hospitalities, a lot of different sponsors, things like that, it's going to be difficult to balance that on some weekends. But for me today, it was pretty easy.
I wouldn't mind more days like that. Obviously with my XFINITY and Truck efforts getting cut back more and more each year, that's going to be more Fridays at home with my son. That's going to be more fun for us drivers.
You'd have to ask the crew guys what they feel about shortened schedules because I know last week's was pretty touch with really long days, long hours in the garage area, then being back early in the mornings again. Totally different lives. I'm all about the crew guys, not necessarily about the drivers.
Q. You mentioned some of the bad luck you'd had this season, the restart at Talladega, the late caution here last month. You seemed to say a couple of those times that it seemed like finding new kinds of bad luck. Now that the drought is over, put into words how frustrating it was.
KYLE BUSCH: It's definitely frustrating and aggravating and disheartening. I think that's the biggest thing, is we work so hard in this business, we've had fast racecars. It's not like we've been running 10th to 15th every week and don't deserve to win anyways. I think the fact of it was we were running up front, we should be able to capitalize on those good fast racecars and get to Victory Lane. That's what pays our bills. That's what makes our sponsors happy.
But thankfully the sponsors have been showing their support every single week, every single time we've gotten to the racetrack. I've been getting phone calls and texts from all of our peers that we have that say, Man, this weekend is it. We're still behind you. We believe in you. You guys are fast. Keep digging. Just comments that keep you motivated as much as you can be motivated besides thinking about what next this weekend is going to happen bad.
To finally get that monkey off our back, it's a sense of relief. I feel like now I wouldn't say the pressure is off, but at least now we feel like we can breathe a little bit easier, we can continue to focus forward, which is getting ourselves ready for the Playoffs, being able to have a continuation of these runs like we had today, being able to win some more races.
Q. You mentioned the word 'relief'. I thought you seemed subdued on the radio after you won. Is relief the reason? Why weren't you as vocal as you typically are sometimes?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, I guess it was, I mean, relief. It was finally. It was just like, you know, I didn't really know if it was over yet, I guess. I was just waiting for that moment. Something was going to happen.
But today probably more than any other day, I had a few last week, too, man, today is your day, today is your day. Today there were a lot of people, actually a few from M&M's that were texting me as well this morning. That feels good that they had a sense of feeling as well, getting us to Victory Lane. Hopefully they can have more of those feelings every week and text me that. It feels pretty good.
Q. Could you talk a little bit about the pass for the lead with Kevin there. He said he got a little loose. What is your take how that transpired?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, that's what it looked like from my vantage point. He kind of got off in the corner a little shallow. I knew he was going to have to give it wheel. And when he gave it wheel, the back end just kind of stepped out from underneath him. He got loose.
When he slid up the track, I wasn't sure how far he was going to slide. I kind of throttled up in order to get a run on him because as he slides up, I want to get my nose underneath him and get there. But he jammed on the brakes a couple times in order to get the slide back under control. When he did that, he backed right up into my nose. I couldn't react fast enough. I bumped him.
No harm, no foul. I didn't mean to do that. I actually relifted and tried to let him gather it back up before I got back on the gas and was able to drive under him. Thankfully nothing crazy happened out of that moment. He recognized it, so that's good. Nothing intentional. Wouldn't even call it a bump‑n‑run for the win. He had it enough under control that the bump didn't really do anything, so that was good.
JOE GIBBS: Our sponsors, huge deal for us, Mars, Caramel, Interstate Batteries. It's special winning right in their backyard. Thanks.
KYLE BUSCH: Thanks, boss. I'll handle it from here (laughter).
Q. Your spotter Tony is also from the area. What does it mean to get a win for him right here in his backyard?
KYLE BUSCH: Means a lot. I thought about that after the race was over. Remembered this is one of his home tracks as well, too. That was pretty cool.
Tony does a lot for me. I appreciate him, what he does for me, does for KBM, does with me. We go super late model racing throughout the year. I ask him, and he doesn't take a dime from that. He's a pretty cool dude.
Means a lot to be able to get a win for him here, his home track. He's been trying for a long time. He has a couple Trucks wins. I don't know if he has an XFINITY win. Technically he swept the weekend this weekend. He won with Christopher Bell this weekend. Excited for him.
His family being from close by, his brother won last night in the modified ranks, won seven in a row. Those guys are on it. Pretty impressive for Matt Hirschman to win those races, too.
Q. Your teammate Denny said he would like to see the substance PJ1 on the tracks, saying it was a necessity. Do you think that would be something good for the track maybe in the future?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, I would agree. I think this place could utilize something different. I tried moving around. We were one of the fastest cars here. I tried moving around in the outside lane a couple times. There was nothing there. I mean, car would wash out from underneath me. I would lose two sometimes 2 to 3/10ths of a second a lap by moving out of the groove. I was just glued to the yellow line all the way around the racetrack.
Anybody that was in front of you that was on the yellow line as well, too, keeping the air from your car was doing that, keeping you from being able to advance.
Drivers need options. When racetracks can be wider than one groove, then that gives drivers options and gives us the ability to move around a little bit, and hopefully make passes.
I think the Loudon race was a blast. I thought restarts were pretty hectic and chaotic a little bit there, but it gave you the opportunity to run wide, run low if you wanted to, you could run high, then low in the same corner. You were all over the place.
I think this place could certainly utilize some of that action as well, too.
Q. As we enter some of your favorite tracks of the year, does this win today help you enter these places a little bit more relaxed instead of a stressed‑out look?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, I think so. I wouldn't argue against that point. I think just being able to go after today, after taking the checkered flag, it was finally a little bit of a relief. At a moment in the race today I think I was running sixth. I was counting how many guys in front of me had wins, how many didn't, who I was hoping didn't win today, you know.
We don't have to worry about that any more. Now we can just focus on how we're going to win the race, what we're going to do. You try to do that every weekend, but sometimes that thought does cross your mind.
Q. Can you talk the importance of your relationship with M&M's these last nine years, finally getting a win at their home track.
KYLE BUSCH: It's great. I mean, I love the family and everybody there that does such amazing things for me and for my family. I think that's what makes the relationships live in this world, is having that close‑knit relationship you do with your sponsors.
Fortunately for me, I'm very fortunate in this aspect, it's a family‑owned operation. So the executives don't change. When you look at all the rest of some of these companies in our sport, Target, for instance, the leadership changes, their thoughts change on what they're going to be doing, they leave.
With the relationships and everything that Joe has, that I have with the family, as well as the upper management at M&M's, certainly some of those people have changed over the years, but the key board members obviously with the family, they keep thinking that NASCAR is a good investment for them. They see the return on the investment for them, for their company. They can make it work.
You got to work hard to make it work. That's what the business people do. It's been a really good thing that we've been able to have that relationship over the course of these last nine years. They've just been really pumped and excited about us, what we've been able to do and accomplish. A couple years ago in 2015 we brought them their first championship. Thankfully it was just in time for some other unforeseen circumstances that happened. I won't get into all that. But obviously just excited about being able to try to do it again this year.
THE MODERATOR: Kyle, good win for you. Congratulations again. Good luck in Watkins Glen.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports