Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch was made available to the media in Charlotte:
Did you bring in your shoes with a prospect of racing?
"No. If we've got to work on our stuff, I'm sure we will. But with all the approval processes and everything else that's got to go on these days, you know, it's pretty self‑explanatory to where NASCAR wants everybody to be within all the same boxes and parameters, so I don't feel as though they're going to have that big of an advantage or anything that we've got to come from behind on."
What makes you guys think you'll be as good as last year or better?
"I don't think we would be any worse. I would like to think we'd be better. We kind of started out the season a little bit on the slower side, if you will, last year with our new car. We were kind of behind the 8‑ball a little bit maybe, and as the season kind of progressed, we learned what things our car liked and what we needed to do in order to make ourselves better and more competitive, and we were able to do those things and got it to where we were pretty fast there obviously and peaked later in the season. Hopefully we can start out our year this year a little stronger than we did last year."
What do you think about being the only driver to sweep a single weekend, which you’ve done twice now at Bristol?
"I mean, it's obviously pretty cool when you have the opportunity to run triple events. Obviously you want to win every single race you're in, and those opportunities don't come along very often. So being able to get that again this year was pretty special. I love going to Bristol, love that track. It's obviously a lot of fun for me. It reminds me of a track that I didn't grow up racing but I ran a few times when I was younger in my late model days and stuff at Winchester, Indiana. It's just a really cool place and a lot of fun for me, being able to run the triple there, and to start it off winning the Truck Series race on Wednesday night was real big, and then being able to bring it home the rest of the weekend was obviously special, too."
Have you had discussions with your crew chief about the new pit road procedures?
"Obviously there's been some talk, and I've asked Adam (Stevens) about some of the guys, and we've kind of gone through a whole new restructure, if you will, of our pit crew, and the group, the whole selection process that we all had, it kind of was divvied out a little bit this year, a little bit differently than what we've done in years past from my understanding. I haven't seen any choreograph or anything like that. I haven't seen any of that stuff yet, or choreography. Is that how you say it? Whatever. I haven't seen any of that stuff yet. I'm supposed to go there this week, but I just don't have any time. I don't have any day available to go see."
By the end of last season, do you feel Joe Gibbs Racing matched Furniture Row Racing in performance on-track?
"I definitely feel as though we matched them at Homestead. You know, I'd say that we were actually a little bit better than they were at Homestead, and that's what makes Homestead so painful is you can be a guy who wins 35 races out of the year, and then that 36th race you can finish second and lose the championship. We thought we had the opportunity to put the 78 bunch in that situation, but just wasn't quite able to pull it all off there at the end of the Homestead race. You know, that was kind of painful for us. Feels like a letdown, and having the opportunity to be able to win that race, we were right there, we were real close, but wasn't able to get it done. Other racetracks, you know, they kind of ‑‑ I feel like they've even gotten better at some of their weaker tracks, like Martinsville, for instance, they had a shot to win at Martinsville. They weren't quite as good as us, but they were right there all day. Loudon now they're really good at. Phoenix they're pretty good at. They outran us at Phoenix. Anywhere you look, they're obviously really good."
If you had to do it again, like if you ran Homestead again, just in terms of the chance to come out ‑‑
"Yeah, I think if we would have been out front, if we would have been in front of the 78, if we would have reversed situations where we would have been where the 78 was, I feel like we would have drove away, and we won would have by four or five seconds. They wouldn't even have gotten as close as I got to them."
Talk about the changes at JGR.
"Yeah, it's going to be good. I'm looking forward to having Erik (Jones). I'm looking forward to having him as a part of our team. It's just unfortunate that we had to get rid of a guy and we're not able to have Matt Kenseth anymore. Obviously I feel as though he was a guy that I really looked up to, especially the last few years, looking and watching and understanding what he was able to do and accomplish throughout his career and always being right there and always being a championship contender. He helped me kind of model myself a little bit, if you will, to being able to make the final three, three years in a row. It's going to be a little bit of a learning curve for Erik. It's going to be a little bit of kind of a setback, if you will, for us, especially with last year losing Carl (Edwards) and bringing on Daniel (Suàrez), and now this year losing Matt and bringing on Erik. You know, it's not quite the veteran status that we had two years ago."
How have you adjusted to the transition now that you're that veteran status?
"Yeah, obviously it's a unique opportunity for me being one of the elder statesmen, if you will, of the sport, let alone Joe Gibbs Racing, and being able to kind of lead our younger guys, if you will, Erik and Daniel. Those guys have come through Kyle Busch Motorsports, so it's been fun to watch them progress through the years with the Truck Series, the XFINITY Series, and now being into the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. I'm looking forward to working with them and continuing to see their progress, but also hopefully being able to continue to be one of the leadership guys at our team and being able to race on for championships for years to come."
Apparently NASCAR might be giving more data to teams this year from other teams as far as stuff that they've done ‑‑ throttle traces or steering inputs, whatever. Do you know anything about this?
"No, that's news to me."
Does it sound like a good idea?
"No. No. That's entirely not fair. I'd rather just disconnect all my stuff to begin with so nobody gets to see it."
You and your teammates?
"Absolutely. I mean, I'd much rather just not have anybody be able to see anything. Even if I'm behind, I feel like I'm better at being able to catch up than just being able to hand my data to somebody else and say, here, here it is, this is how you do it. That's not good. That's the first I've heard of that."
Are you concerned that some team might show up at Daytona with some wacky design?
"I've heard about jacks being thrown over the car, but I haven't heard about people jumping over the car. I don't think that you'll see a human be able to do that because these cars are so flimsy and fragile that I don't think they'll be doing that."
Is there kind of a limited box on what you can do really? There's not going to be some teams ‑‑
"Yeah, no, especially with the new rules and the pit guns and all that sort of stuff, too. They keep trying to make everything closer and closer together, and sometimes I feel like they do that, and other teams I feel like they make it worse. I feel like the limiting of the people, you're only going to have so many guys that are going to be good at what they're able to do. You know, the jack man is going to have to be a jack man and a tire carrier most likely, so a guy that's going to be doing that, jumping off of a wall, there's only so many tight ends in the NFL that are good at what they're able to do, right? There's five of them maybe. And there's 32 teams. Well, now you've got 40 teams, there's probably going to be five or six good guys that can do those roles at our level, and the rest of them it's going to get pretty bad pretty quick of guys not being able to do it, or there's going to be a lot of injuries, too. We'll just see how all that goes."
Do you expect the pit stops to be slower?
"Yes, no question. I would think the pit stops would be slower, yes."
Do you feel that Toyota will continue to enjoy the success you had the second half of the season last year?
"I mean, I don't know. That's tough to say. I think there's enough rule changes and things like that that are coming where I think that everybody is kind of on an unknown right now. I would think with us finishing out the season as strong as we did that we have a little bit of an advantage over the rest of them, just because we have that known, but some of the unknowns with the rule changes and things with the splitter and the fans and the this and the that that's happening with the cars is going to be a little bit of an equalizer for some of the teams. I would like to think that we'd be a little bit farther ahead, but I would think that we'd all be pretty even."
Do you feel like there's an emphasis on this younger generation of drivers?
"Absolutely there is. Do you feel like that, too?"
Does that bother you?
"It is bothersome. We've paid our dues, and our sponsors have and everything else, and all you're doing is advertising all these younger guys for fans to figure out and pick up on and choose as their favorite driver. I think it's stupid. But I don't know, I'm not the marketing genius that's behind this deal. You know, I just do what I can do, and my part of it is what my part is. I guess one thing that can be said is probably the younger guys are bullied into doing more things than the older guys are because we say no a lot more because we've been there, done that and have families, things like that, and want to spend as much time as we can at home. You know, maybe that's some of it. But you know, it's ‑‑ some of these marketing campaigns and things like that, pushing these younger drivers, is I wouldn't say all that fair."
Now that you have a more leadership role, what are some of the lessons you've learned from earlier in your career?
"Good question. I would say the time that I had with Jimmie Johnson was really, really good. Jimmie and I, we really enjoyed working with one another and really respected one another. Still do to today. I'd probably say Tony Stewart. I only got to spend a year with him but learned a little bit from him with that season that I had in 2008. And then since then I'd say Matt was probably one of the top guys that I've learned about being able to communicate and share and be a teammate in that respect."
In terms of the length of the off‑season, do you feel like it's dragging on or would you want another week or two?
"I think it's not necessarily the off‑season needing longer. I think just some more breaks during the season would be better. I don't think we need to spread our season any longer from when it starts to when it ends, I just think if we could figure out how to maybe have a weekday race or maybe pack a couple races into a few more days, and then you have an extra off weekend, that those are really, really beneficial to all of us, especially with families and things like that, when you're able to go off and do something during the summer months or whatever it may be, to be able to just have that time away from having to go to the racetrack and to just kind of catch back up, if you will, on some much‑needed rest and relaxation."
Like two weekends off or something like that?
"No, you don't even need that. Let's say you run a Wednesday race and then a Sunday race, then that opens up another off weekend. Just having another off weekend would be pretty good. We have three, I think, going into this year, so four would be nice, five would be even better."
Do you think a weekday race is something that fans would want to see?
"I don't know. You know, there's obviously some races that it could work. There's some venues that it could work. There's some venues that it's absolutely not going to work. You've got to be mindful when choosing those things and being able to make some of that happen. Looking at the NFL, they've kind of done it. They've got that Thursday night football every single week. I'm a guy that tunes into that. I like seeing that. I look forward to Thursdays. I know there's a game on Thursdays. Maybe if the NASCAR fans knew that there was a race on a Wednesday, they'd tune in."
How significant do you think the new ride height might be at Daytona?
"I think it's going to be better for the safety aspect. I think obviously with all of us trying to get our cars as down and as low as possible that that's going to be really good for us for lift‑off speeds and things like that. When the car gets turned around, it's not going to want to lift as fast. We kind of saw that a couple years ago, I think Matt actually went upside down at Talladega ‑‑ well, a few guys went upside down, but Matt most notably when the car turned sideways, it automatically lifted and then it just kind of went over. Now when the car gets sideways and turned, it's not going to lift because it doesn't want to rebound. It doesn't want to be pushed back up because of the soft springs and the ride height rule. It's going to want to stay lower, flatter, so it's not going to allow the air to get underneath it. As far as the drivability aspect of it, I think that's going to be pretty similar. I don't think there's going to be much of that. Maybe hopefully it'll make the cars drive worse so then there is some handling that comes into play. I would enjoy that. I would like that because I think any time you have an opportunity to out‑setup someone or out‑handle someone at a racetrack, that's what creates racing. That's what makes passing."
As a car owner and a truck owner and whatnot, driving with the new talents, guys that will make the transition to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at some point, does that make you want to stay aggressive?
"I mean, you're always on the brink of something new, whether it's a new driver, a new car, a new chassis, a new tire, whatever it might be, so you've always got to be ready for anything that's coming. You've got to be adaptive in this sport. I think the biggest thing for me is I remember when I started in 2005, the way the cars drove then to the way the cars drive now and the setups and the things that you're doing to get yourself to be competitive, to be fast, is entirely different than anything you ever would have thought of. So things change so fast in our sport that you've got to be ready for all of that. I think that kind of lends itself a little bit maybe towards a veteran driver, but I think also it lends itself to the younger driver, too, because they don't know what to do. They don't know what to expect. They just drive the hell out of it. They don't know really how they want their car to feel. They just figure it out as they go. It all comes around, and the guys that are good and forever will be good are always good."
As a team owner, how do you see some of the rules changes that are coming in the Truck Series this year?
"I mean, the biggest rule change that we've got in the Truck Series side is the engine thing that's going on, and obviously we want to be a team that sticks to our guns and sticks with the OEM engine as much as possible and as long as possible because that's what the series is named off of, and the nameplate of these manufacturers is the engine and the body. There's only one IP that's essentially in these things, and that's the engine, and where that all kind of started and how it was made. We'd like to see that as long as possible. But as far as some of the other stuff that's kind of going on, it's par for the course. Obviously we try to adapt as best as we can adapt each and every year that there's rule changes or things that happen, and we're ready for most of that. We think we are any ways. We try to think of any scenario. You're not going to think of every scenario, but to have the opportunity to try to be ready for things that are thrown at you, to be the best of that moment as quickly as you can, that's what makes us, I think, stand out from some of the other teams."
With all the support you've had from Toyota, is it disappointing in a way to see (indiscernible)?
"It is, it's definitely disappointing. It's something that we've kind of been fighting and not wanting to see happen for a while, but we're also not going to dog it and say that we're never going to run it. We know that there's going to be an evolution of change, and we've got to be ready for that, and if we've got to change over, then we're going to have to change over. But we're going to try to make sure that we give every opportunity to the OEM engine for as long as possible."
Can you explain your success at Indy and what that does for your team with it being so close to the Playoffs?
"Yeah, so the last few years we've been pretty good at Indy. I'm not sure how that kind of came about, but I'm really happy for it, obviously, and we were going for three in a row this last year. That didn't quite work out for us. But the speed that we've shown the last few years has been really, really awesome at Indy. I enjoy running around that place. It's a really good track for us now. We feel like we've got a good handle on it and feel good about it. Would like to get back to the way we've run there the last few years this time around going back."
What do you think about Indy being the final cut off race before the Playoffs?
"It doesn't punch me through to the second round. It's the last regular season race. Hopefully I can win that one and win a regular season championship; how about that? But other than that, it's a good place for us now these last few years, and I'd like to think that we can continue that."
Does your mind ever take a mental break from racing, like in the off‑season do you think about racing less? Do you get recharged in any way?
"Yeah, I think you've kind of got to ‑‑ I think you've kind of got to step away from it for a little bit just to kind of get recharged for it to get that drive back, that passion back, if you will, to want to get back into the race car. You know, there's times where you run these seasons out for as long as they are, and it's like, man, can it just get over, can we just go home, and finally you get home and you finally have a couple weeks or a month or whatever it might be away from the car, then you're kind of like, oh, I'm ready to go back now, you're itching to get back in the race car. A bunch of these younger guys are probably not that way. They'd like to see the season go all year‑round. But as they get older with more years and things like that, they're going to feel some of the same ways that we do and want to see a little bit more of a break or whatever. But we know the season is February to November, and that's what we sign up for, and that's what the challenge of our business is making sure that you can continue that longevity and making sure that you're ready for 38 weekends."