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July 1, 2018
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by the winning crew chief, Adam Stevens. We're going to open it up for questions.
Q. You don't score points in either of the two stages, don't know if you would have thought you'd be here before the race even started. What went right that last 107 laps?
ADAM STEVENS: We just weren't very good, to put it honest. We missed it all weekend. Short practices and limited sets of tires. We didn't unload very good. Barely made any gains on it through practice. Took a swing at it for the race. Probably made it a little bit better. It just wasn't very good.
This tire combination is pretty finicky. The grip level is low, especially with the track conditions and the bumps. He just had his hands full and we had our hands full. We kept working on it and made it a little bit better. I think we missed the splitter height a little bit. Any time we got some clear air on the nose, it was a different racecar.
Through a couple adjustments late and ratcheting up with some track position on some good pit stops and some good restarts, we kind of showed the speed we had late.
Q. You were able to gain the lead off pit road. What makes those guys so good at what they do? How was that important when that can make a huge difference?
ADAM STEVENS: I mean, obviously pit stops have been a huge part of this sport for as long as the sports been around. That's not going to change. What makes them so good is practice, hard work, dedication. We have a whole department of people that put their time and talent and energy into that. Optimize it the best we can.
We have a great mix of guys that really work well together and believe in each other, believe in what we're trying to do as a team. When you're this far off, making as many changes as we have, as we did today, for them to keep their heads down, for the driver to keep his focus, keep his elbows up for as awful as we were, to come out of here with a win is really rewarding.
Q. Do you ever think or wonder, Is there anything this guy can't do behind a while with a car that wasn't the best it could be?
ADAM STEVENS: Things he can't do? It's all situational. He's a one‑in‑a‑million talent. The sport hasn't seen too many people with his level of talent. To get the chance to race with him, win some races with him is what every little boy dreams about.
But to his credit today, it would have been easy to get frustrated and throw in the towel, as hot as it was, as far off as we were. I'm sure he didn't have real high hopes going into the race since we struggled in practice and we struggled in qualifying.
Listening to him on the radio today, as focused as he was, as committed as he was to making it better, any time I told him something, he believed it and he got on it. His feedback to make the car better even through all those trials and tribulations was as good as it could have been given how poor our car was.
Q. I will read you what Kyle said. I hit him first, I roughed him up, he roughed me up, that's racing. From the team perspective, are you and the guys sort of expecting Kyle, if he can get to the guy who just moved him out of the way, you're expecting Kyle, he has every right to pay him back, win the race that way?
ADAM STEVENS: Sure. We kind of finished when we were running before that whole fiasco, both of us did. Probably wouldn't have gotten there if the lap cars would have left a lane, which traditionally they do. They're not obligated to do that.
He closed that gap when we got bottled up, took his opportunity to get into us. I don't have any problem with that at all. He didn't wreck us. He definitely got into us. He got the lead. We got into him and we got the lead back. That's the way we all grew up racing at some level. You smile and you move on.
One of these days it will happen again and we won't get it back. Just the way that it goes.
Q. (No microphone.)
ADAM STEVENS: I was biting my nails, saying prayers, just waiting for the race to be over. I'd have to go back and watch to pin it down on who held us up the most.
Q. Did the weather have any impact on the crew?
ADAM STEVENS: Not so much for the mechanics and the engineers and myself behind the wall. For the guys that go over the wall, a lot of them pitted cars yesterday. Not all of them as a complete crew, but quite a few of them did. When you're doing three or four stops on Saturday, eight or nine stops on a Sunday with as hot as it is, you have to be prepared. We all knew the conditions, what they were going to be when we came in. They focused on really staying hydrated, limiting the reps during the week so they were fresh for this weekend.
Q. Did you expect Kyle Larson to dump Kyle considering that Kyle Larson hadn't won yet this year? Is it his reputation he's not going to dump somebody?
ADAM STEVENS: I didn't. I never expect to get dumped, no. I don't believe that he dumped us in any way, shape or form. He just gassed it up and used whatever tools he had necessary to try to win the race.
If you flipped those roles, would it happen that way? It's quite possible. It seemed just like a hard racing move to me.
Q. Even with the win, what more does this team need to do to be more dominant, stronger? The Stewart‑Haas cars seem to be the class of the field throughout the good part of the race. Are they starting to distance themselves?
ADAM STEVENS: That's a good question. I really feel like it's week‑to‑week. You have to take each race, all the tracks are so particular, the tire combinations, what you fight, what you work on, how that transfers to another place. But, yeah, they are fast. They were fast all weekend.
This tire combination and this racetrack, us unloading so far off, we got to unload better. We have to get it dialed in before we get here if we want to be able to compete consistently with a short schedule like this. We didn't have a lot of time, a lot of tires, limited practice. You have to unload close when you have limited practice time like we had this weekend.
Q. Can you give a perspective from a crew chief's point of view, we know Kyle Larson runs the high line a lot of times. Traffic helped him, but he closed the gap. Is there an appreciation of what he's able to do that most people don't understand? Can you explain what that appreciation might be?
ADAM STEVENS: Kyle is the best at running the top. At any track we go to where that groove opens up, he's going to be a threat. Doesn't matter if his setup is perfect or if his car is the fastest, he can squeeze that last couple percentage out of it running the high line. You see it, gosh, here, you see it at Homestead, you see it anywhere.
It's super impressive how close he can enter on the wall and how quickly he can get back to the throttle and have complete control of his car so close to the wall lap after lap.
I don't think there's ever been anybody that I can recall that's been able to do that. I'm sure it's the dirt track skills and the way he grew up, what he raced growing up. It just speaks to his talent. It's not easy to do. It's super easy to make a mistake. You're really walking a fine line. He can walk it better than anybody.
THE MODERATOR: Adam, thank you.
ADAM STEVENS: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by Joe Gibbs, winning team owner.
How does it feel to be back in Victory Lane?
JOE GIBBS: It feels awesome, believe me. To get to come to Chicago, the thing I always reflect on is all of our sponsors that were here today, just a huge deal for us. Toyota, all the people were here. It's a big deal. Every time we get a chance to win a race, I realize how fortunate we are. I always like to emphasize that our sponsors here in this sport are really partners. They're on the car, part of the car. We wouldn't be racing cars if it wasn't for Mars and Skittles. Just a huge thanks to them.
Called everybody, thanking them. Today was just a day where they never gave up. You were talking to Adam. Just a great job with the car. At one point on a pit stop about halfway, he said, Hey, look, we're just going to come on pit road and work on this thing. We're not going to run 12th all day.
They made several adjustments to it. In the end, the way it came alive, I haven't seen that very often. Kyle never gives up. He's after it. Our pit crew did a great job, too. Just a total team effort. Really want to say thanks to everybody back at the race shop, J.D., everybody in the front office, everybody in our team. I wish they could be here with us and help celebrate.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.
Q. What do you think about how the Stewart‑Haas cars ran today? Are you catching up to them?
JOE GIBBS: I think they've been very strong this year. I'd say they probably have the lead. All their cars seem to be strong and fast. I think they've just done a great job. When you see that in this sport, I think what it says to us is we got to work hard. We got to go to work and get after it. We need to try to get all four of our cars. We did a good job today. All four of us were in the top 11. That was a good day for us.
Daniel fought back and did a great job. Erik, two top 10s in a row for him. Denny came back from that spin. All the way across the board, I was proud of our guys today.
Q. Kyle was greeted by a rather large boo. That's nothing new to him. Nothing new for you. What is it like for you to watch a guy who wins and gets booed that way?
JOE GIBBS: I think, first of all, our fans, if there's anything you really appreciate, it's the passion that they have. For any driver, I think particularly the guys up at the top, you're going to have a certain number that are going to be cheering for you, then there's going to be a bunch, if you're winning, are going to cheer against you.
I really appreciate our fans. I know Kyle does, too. I think that's the thrill of our sport, is the way they care about it. Yeah, I think it's just one of those things that happens particularly in a race like everything happened today. You just know there's going to be a lot of emotion involved with it.
Q. With the strength of Stewart‑Haas Racing, are they almost like the Dallas Cowboys to you?
JOE GIBBS: No, I actually hated the Dallas Cowboys, so it's not quite that. That's a joke, okay? I don't want the nasty letters, okay?
No, but I do think, you think back to football, one of the things I miss is those great rivalries. Certainly was Redskins and Cowboys was a great one. You weren't on the fence. You were either a Cowboy or Redskin.
I think up here the great thing about our sport is you have drivers competing, and the fans, a lot of them have their favorite drivers. The drivers compete. I think then the race teams compete. You see a lot of Hendrick and Roush and everybody out there. The race teams compete. Then obviously the manufacturers compete.
There's Toyota guys, Chevy guys, Ford guys. I love that about our sport. Because of that, there's going to be a lot of cheers and a lot of boos. But I love that part of our sport. I think that's part of what makes our sport so much fun. I really enjoy that part of it. Every Sunday or Saturday night, whenever we're racing, I love getting up knowing you have a chance to go and compete, try to beat the best people in the world at racing cars.
Q. With what Kyle Larson has done in his career, the electricity he presents to the fans on the track, in your years in the NFL is there an athlete he compares to that provided that electricity, must‑watch ability?
JOE GIBBS: Yeah, I think it's hard for me in that sport because there's so many great players over there that had charisma, the way they approached things. People ask me that question a lot. I really can't pick out one player.
Certainly the way he handles everything is just great. Of course, his ability and talent. I saw him coming. I said, Man, this is a problem. He's extremely talented. My grandson was racing go‑karts at Woodbridge. I go up there, there's Kyle Larson on a Wednesday night racing dirt go‑karts. I think he loves it. He's really good at what he does. Got a lot of respect for him.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.
JOE GIBBS: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by our race winner, Kyle Busch.
We'll kick it off to questions.
Q. When Kyle Larson is behind you and gaining on you like that, did you expect a harder hit or do you think back, if he wanted to dump you, he could have dumped you at California, he's just not the guy who is going to take me out?
KYLE BUSCH: Okay. I don't know. I thought he was going to pull a slide job. When he didn't try to do a slider, then I wasn't sure what his next move was going to be. I was like, Surely he's not going to drive into the side of me. Then he did. After that point, all games are off right now, all bets are off. It's wide open here from here on out back to the checkered flag.
He got a run on me off turn two after I got in the fence, just stalled, killed my momentum. His side draft was able to propel him by me. I tried to retaliate with a side draft. I wasn't close enough, wasn't really getting anywhere with it. He got by me. Getting into turn three, it was just about following him in there and seeing if I couldn't cut left under him, if he would slide up. He didn't slide up. I drove off in there as far as I could, got into the back of him. Once I did that, he was kind of sliding loose, I was trying to get back to the start/finish line after that.
It was it was a proud of kind of once it's done to you, it's fair game, it's on I guess. That's kind of what transpired.
Q. You and Kevin and Truex have dominated the wins this year. Do you stay around, see what I can do, shake your Skittles, you made it fun throughout the day?
KYLE BUSCH: It was a handful, that's for sure. We were really, really far off. I don't know what we had going on early in the race. We were not very good. People would say once I got the clean air, we were better. Yeah, we were. Clean air was certainly helpful. We watched the 78 drive through there a few times today. They were way better than we were.
I don't know what we were missing. We were just missing something that we kept working on, trying to find. As the day went, our adjustments went, we kept getting closer and closer to it, closer and closer to the front. We made the most of it there once I think we restarted sixth, we drove our way to second place. I was like, Okay, we got something now. At least now we're in the ballgame.
After that, we just had, you know, a race to the checkered flag. It was a long run. It was longer than I wanted it to be with Larson getting the top rolling, chasing us down. He got to about five lengths back about five to go and kind of stalled out. I thought after that he got in the fence, too. After that, I was, We go it down. Then the lap cars got in the way, drug me into Larson's grasp again, the race was on all over again.
Q. You mentioned the lap cars. Would Larson even have had a shot if you hadn't been slowed down by those cars?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, I don't think so. When we were getting through some of the lap cars that were yielding and being gracious enough to let us through, he had gained for a long time and got to within about five or six lengths, then he hit the wall, then I opened it back up to 10 or something. That's what I remember hearing from Tony.
Then after that, I kind of maybe held that for a lap or two, then I was getting dirtied up by the lappers. He was able to close back to me, get into my grasp again. If it wouldn't have been for that lap cars, we probably would have been better off, finishing the way that way we would have.
Obviously it was beneficial to the fans and everybody else we had those lap cars in the way for a bit of a show that we put on. Hopefully many of the fans with rewatch it and relive it and figure out it was actually a pretty good race, taking away one of the names on top of the roofs and showing their pleasure for NASCAR racing, what it's all about.
Q. Kyle was in here and mentioned how much respect he has for you, how much he likes racing you. When you see him, is that something you enjoy going at it with him? Do you feel like he's a good competitor?
KYLE BUSCH: Absolutely, yeah. We've always raced each other super hard and super clean. We've never had issues. We've been back and forth with each other at Bristol multiple times, whatnot. It was Bristol this spring maybe, I kind of gave him a bump‑n‑run for the win on that one. Today maybe that was kind of what he thought that he had on me in turn two. If you try to race somebody, if he would have been able to be alongside of me and race me clean, he would have raced me three and four. Once contact is made in a race, it's kind of like, Okay, every man for himself. Even me, when we had that race at Bristol, I got into him with five to go, I thought I did that too early because he could get back to me. He never was able to get back to me.
That was the race.
Q. Is it more fun for you to win a race like that as opposed to just beating him by two seconds, no contacts?
KYLE BUSCH: Yes and no. Certainly I enjoy winning races more cleanly than having to rough people up. But I guess when you're the guy that gets roughed up first, again, it's fair game. I thought it was a fun race. It was a challenging race. We weren't very good. We shouldn't even have been in that position. Thankful to my team and everybody I got with this Skittles Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing, Adam Stevens, everybody that did a phenomenal job to get me there. Pit crew won the race off pit road for us.
If it wasn't for all those situations, we wouldn't have even been talking about this. But it was a good day, a great finish, an exciting one for that, especially at a mile‑and‑a‑half. People don't necessarily see those very much any more. Man, you just got to be pumped for that. It's cool.
Q. Next week 4th of July and Daytona. What do you do to prep for the night race at Daytona?
KYLE BUSCH: It's going to be a hot one there, too. Right now it's all about getting your fluids back in you throughout the entire week. You're not going to get them all back in one or two nights. It's going to take the entirety of a week. You'll start over again after that race goes.
It's Daytona. It's restrictor plate racing. It's entirely different than what we plan for the entirety of the season mostly. A lot of different planning goes into that.
4th of July plans. I think we'll be down in Florida already. Hopefully there's some pretty good firework shows. We'll check it out.
Q. If you had finished second, would you have felt it was a legit move by Larson, you would just return the favor if you were behind him to take the lead for another race?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, that's the way you'd have to look at it. Obviously it would certainly be a heck of a lot more disappointing for me to lead that many laps, to get run down, to get a race taken away from us by the lap cars. The blame for me slowing down or the blame for a race being exciting was the lap cars. We saw that same situation with Chase and myself at Dover last year. Chase got held up in lap traffic. I just went to the top, was able to get rolling, ran him down and passed him. There was a lot of blame that week after from a lot of fans and stuff talking about how the lap cars were in the way, whatever. That's a fact of racing. That's a product of what you have to do. You have to pass those guys sometimes.
It would have been a tough one to swallow, for sure. I would have been in Chase Elliott's shoes. That wouldn't have made me happy knowing he wasn't very happy either. Thankfully we don't have to go through that scenario. We now go to Daytona and look for another one.
Q. Is there anybody in particular who you felt did something egregious or was it guys staying ahead?
KYLE BUSCH: I don't know what position they were racing for, but they were racing very hard for it. They were just side‑by‑side. When that happens, there's just nowhere for me to go. There's no clean air. One was on the bottom. I think there was a middle lane kind of open, two on the top. I got by Newman, I got plugged up off of two, lost my momentum. Newman came to the bottom. We were three‑wide with lap cars in the backstretch. I couldn't turn off three to the bottom like I would have if he wasn't there. I don't think Stenhouse knew that. Stenhouse kind of right reared me, got me steering up the racetrack towards the wall. That killed my rear tires for the next two laps. I was just sliding for dear life.
I don't know if anybody really did anything wrong, let's say. But there was an awful lot of lap cars that were way more gracious, let's go with that.
Q. The last lap of today's race is going to be replayed for decades, treated like Petty and Pearson in '76. In other sports kids dream about hitting the home run, winning shot. When you dream about having these signature moments happen, is this kind of moment?
KYLE BUSCH: Yes and no. I'd much rather not would have had to slam past him in order to win the thing. When I was going down the backstretch, I was like, Hell, no, you're not taking this one away right now. This was kind of where I was at. I was just going to do anything that it took for us to be able to get back to the start/finish line first.
With the move that we made, I felt, was it an aggressive move? Absolutely. Was Larson's an aggressive move? Could he have gotten off the throttle sooner and not hit me into the wall off of two? Absolutely. It goes both ways sometimes. Obviously it's going to be good for the storylines and good for the replays of exciting finishes here at Chicago. I'm glad we were on the front end of it, I guess. I'm sure one of these days it will come back on me somehow. It's just the way it always evens out. We'll hopefully not see it this weekend.
Q. You and Harvick with both won five races this year. What do you have to do to get that edge on him, get your second championship this year?
KYLE BUSCH: I don't know. You got to make Homestead. Both of us have to make Homestead. That's what it comes down to right now. If we both make Homestead, it comes down to that race, it's all about just beating him, beating that guy, out‑racing him.
Last year we did. We didn't out‑race the 78, who was the class of the field all year long. Actually I felt like we were the best car at Homestead last year. We just didn't have a very good pit stop, had some issues. I don't remember what else happened. I had to come from so far behind. Logano, had a hard time pacing him. There's just so many different factors. It's way too early right now to kind of talk about that.
I think we've got a great shot of racing Larson, Harvick, the 78, I'm sure some of these other guys. There were some uptick in competition from the Penske guys. I'm sure one of them is going to have something to say about it, too.
Q. How do you feel about your truck program at this stage of the season? What has been your initial impression of Christian?
KYLE BUSCH: Truck stuff, man, it's been frustrating lately. I don't know why. It's like they're allergic to Victory Lane right now. Every week they seem to figure out a way to throw it away. Certainly got to get a lot better at being able to close out some of these races.
Noah was good first stage, second stage. Third stage he wasn't there. Todd passed him, who Todd was horrible for the first and second stage, then had a flat there at the end.
We got to get some wins. That's what it's all about. Those guys got to show what they're made of.
As far as Christian, I thought he's been doing a really good job for his first couple of starts in a big heavy stockcar, at those short tracks that are tough to pass, doing a really good job. He qualified up front, raced up front for most of the event. Got flat run over in Gateway. It would be nice to see him have that finish. I think he would have maybe won or finished top three. He's been doing really good. We just got to keep that stuff fast and up front, take an allergy pill.
Q. Kyle Larson came to the Victory Lane area to talk to you. What do competitors say in a situation like that? Are you appreciative he comes ands to you like that? Would you rather have it later on?
KYLE BUSCH: I thought it was fine. I thought Larson did the right thing. He came over and wanted to say something about it. He just said‑‑ I actually said first, I thought you were going to slide me. I was all ready for that.
He was like, No, I didn't have enough room. By the time you got back to my outside, I had no other choice, stall you out, I hit you.
You knew it was fair game after that?
Yeah, I knew.
That's how it went down.
All right, as long as we're good, you understood that was how it was going to be.
He was like, No, it's totally on me for initiating it, for starting it. It was all good.
I do appreciate him coming over and saying something about it and being receptive to what all went down. If I was in his shoes, I don't know what I would have done differently. I guess I would have just tried to pull the slider and made that guy think of me, made me think of what do I do, stay to his outside or do I go cut to the bottom, then into the next corner what happens.
It can go so many different ways. That was probably the first slide job I was ready for that he didn't pull. Just kind of the way it ended up.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for your time, Kyle.
KYLE BUSCH: Thanks.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports