Fontana: Kyle Busch, Gustafson "wake-up call"

NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Auto Club 500 Wake-Up Call California Speedway February 24, 2006 DRIVER KYLE BUSCH AND CREW CHIEF, ALAN GUSTAFSON, NO. 5 KELLOGG'S MONTE CARLO SS: ON WINNING HIS FIRST CAREER NASCAR CUP RACE AT CALIFORNIA SPEEDWAY ...

NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Auto Club 500 Wake-Up Call
California Speedway
February 24, 2006

DRIVER KYLE BUSCH AND CREW CHIEF, ALAN GUSTAFSON, NO. 5 KELLOGG'S MONTE CARLO SS:

ON WINNING HIS FIRST CAREER NASCAR CUP RACE AT CALIFORNIA SPEEDWAY JUST FIVE MONTHS AGO:

Kyle: "It was an awesome day for our whole team. It was great to get the 'youngest winner' record and being able to do it by only four days definitely meant a lot. It was the final opportunity to do so and we were able to get it one. Coming back out here to California for the one-year anniversary for my first pole and by being the last winner here makes it a lot easier to come back to this track where we've got come familiar successes. We're looking forward to doing the same thing this weekend."

Alan: "Yeah, it feels good. Anytime you can win one of these races it's a huge accomplishment to be the youngest winner ever in your rookie season and to win a race here was a great day."

ON HAVING HIS PICTURE ON THE KELLOGG'S CEREAL BOX:

Kyle: "It's definitely pretty cool. I remember Frosted Mini Wheats and Frosted Flakes boxes and they always had stuff with Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt and Terry Labonte on there. Our family always collected those. You'd be able to pour yourself a bowl of cereal and then read all about it on the back while eating. It's not that you'd just read it once, you'd read it over and over again. It's everything that anybody could ever dream of being on the cereal box."

YOU HAD A GOOD RUN AT DAYTONA LAST WEEK. WHAT DID THAT FEEL LIKE? DID YOU THINK YOU HAD A CHANCE TO WIN?

Kyle: "Yeah, we definitely did. We came out of the pits with a great pit stop. I think we were about fourth or fifth or something like that in the final pit stop of the day. On the restart, I was going through second gear and in the mirror I saw Jimmie Johnson falling back a little bit from me. I was watching that instead of watching my tach or my light, I chipped. I chipped way too hard and way too long and by the time I realized it and grabbed third (gear), Jimmie already had a run on me. I was trying to get back to him a little bit so he wouldn't pass me, but I kind of screwed up there by not being able to get a good restart in order to carry up through the field and get back to the front. But the guys gave me a great car all day. We were up front for the majority of the race. It think the worst place we ever fell back to was 12th or 15th during the running. Late in the going we had our run-in and fell back to 33rd and finished 25th.

"But all in all it was a real good day and it was exciting to see that we do have a good restrictor plate package and that the Kellogg's Chevrolet can run up front. Hopefully we can get to Talladega and do the same thing."

YOU AND SOME OTHER YOUNG DRIVERS WERE CRITICIZED FOR ROUGH DRIVING DURING THE DAYTONA SPEEDWEEKS. DO YOU THINK IT'S A GENERATIONAL THING AND THAT YOU GET PICKED ON UNFAIRLY?

Kyle: "I'm not sure if those guys had the criticism when they were my age or maybe they're giving it back to us because they got it. I'm not sure. It was definitely a great run for us. We had a great time. Late in the going, you might as well leave your emotions at home. There will be times when stuff happens on the race track. We were involved in a little bit of it. But we go on."

DO YOU EVER LOOK BACK AT A RACE AND THINK YOU WERE TOO AGGRESSIVE?

Kyle: "No, because I always think I've done the best that I possibly could do in order to get the No. 5 car to victory lane. A lot of guys out there might say they're better than someone else. Maybe it's more their race track than anybody else's. It's just as much my race track as it is their's and I go out there and take my car to the front to win races and they would do the same thing for their team. That's pretty much all I can say or do."

NORMALLY, DRIVERS WILL TELEPHONE EACH OTHER AFTER A RACE TO SMOOTH OUT ANY PROBLEMS THAT MIGHT HAVE OCCURRED. DID YOU GET ANY CALLS AFTER THE DAYTONA 500?

Kyle: "No, I've not had too many issues in my career so far. But there have been a couple. Whether I've had it happen to me or whether I've done it to somebody else, there have never been any phone conversations. I'm not sure what that's all about or maybe they just don't care. Maybe they'll wreck you this week. I don't know. Feelings are feelings. Feelings are forgiven. Feelings are lost. It doesn't matter to me. Stuff happens on the race track. If the No. 20 car gets into us this week, who's to say that that didn't have something to do with last week, or who's to say it did? We just go out there and do what we can."

YOU'VE RETURNED TO THE SCENE OF YOUR FIRST WIN. DO YOU THINK YOU CAN WIN AGAIN?

"It's awesome to get back here to California Speedway. For whatever reason, I seem to run well at this place. I was telling Alan here last year before we did win that I was lost around here. I don't know what I'm doing or how to make ourselves go faster. I didn't know how I was going to keep up with the No. 99 and No. 16 cars, and we ended up beating them both. But our emotions are high coming back here. We know we've got a great car. We brought the same two front springs and two rear springs as we ran here last year. So hopefully that says a little something about how are cars are pretty much the same as they were last year. We've pretty much tapped out on technology, quite honestly."

ON NASCAR'S NEW STATISTICAL LOOPING DATA COMBINING LAST YEAR'S TWO CALIFORNIA RACES WHICH SHOWS KYLE BUSCH HAVING A NEARLY PERFECT DRIVER RANKING:

Kyle: "To tell you the truth, I've not seen that and can't really comment about it. I did notice something in NASCAR Scene that our average running in the Daytona 500 was 10th or something like that, which was the fifth best average out of everybody. It just goes to show that we're not out there to be slouches this year. We're out there to run up front and do what we need to do to win races. It's all about trying to get to victory lane afterwards."

FOR THIS TRACK LAST YEAR, WHAT WAS IT THAT HELPED YOU TO BRING SUCH GOOD CARS HERE? WAS IT PRE-SEASON TESTING OR WHAT?

Alan: "I want to say that the 2-mile tracks suit us, but the intermediate tracks seem to suit us fairly well and our downforce package and what we have. At the end of the year, I think we got a lot better with the short tracks. I think we just got a little bit bigger jump on the intermediates. We tested at Vegas last year and came right to California and Kyle had time in the car and we had time to work together, which led to better performances at places like here and Michigan."

DO YOU PLAN ON TAKING A LOOK AT THE LOOP DATA THAT NASCAR IS PROVIDING?

Alan: "Yeah, we look at it. I looked at it from Daytona. The most important sheet is still the one that you get on Monday or Tuesday from NASCAR that says we finished (laughs). We finished 23rd at Daytona and had the 5th highest average at Daytona. We put something into it, but where you finish is still what you get points for and what people remember. So it's helpful for us to see where we struggled in certain places and if we fell off at some point during in the race. It's another tool."

DO YOU THINK YOU MIGHT HAVE TO PROVE YOURSELF AGAIN THIS YEAR?

Kyle: "Not really. Being able to be successful last year and win rookie of the year even though there were only two of us really going after it -- not like 7 or 8 like this year. We won a few races and had a pole and had some top fives and top 10's. All of those pretty much exceeded our expectations. But the DNF's are something we exceeded on too. We're just trying to become a little more consistent this year and if we can do that, we can probably see ourselves with more top fives and top 10's again. We want to try to win races, but it's really all about being able to build more chemistry with the team and just being able to build on consistency and be frontrunners."

DO YOU EVER FEEL THAT YOU HAVE TO PERFORM BECAUSE PEOPLE THING YOU HAVE POTENTIAL?

"I think if you look back to Dale Earnhardt and Tony Stewart -- I'm sure those drivers were criticized with the same stuff. You have the potential, can you do it? Hopefully I can go out there and do it. It's a hard question to answer. You've just got to go out there and do it on the race track."

IF SOMEBODY WRECKS YOU AND YOU HAVE A HISTORY WITH THAT PERSON, HOW DO YOU JUDGE THAT?

"Hopefully they'll be able to stand up to you and talk to you about it instead of talking through the media. That's how a lot of stuff gets started. People will run their mouths with the media instead of actually confronting the driver. I feel that's a problem with last week. Tony Stewart talked all about how bump-drafting is an issue and this and that and everything else. Come up and talk to the driver about it. Help me out. I'm a young guy and I'm trying to learn. If you want to teach me something, come up and discuss it with me and tell me what I need to do differently. I'm out there doing the same stuff that he's doing or Jeff Gordon or Jimmie Johnson or anybody else -- not thinking that's it's anything wrong. But I'm inside my car. I'm not inside anybody else's car watching my car go around the race track. I could use any kind of help out there."

IS IT IMPORTANT TO YOU TO EARN THE RESPECT OF THE OTHER DRIVERS BEFORE YOU GET MORE AGGRESSIVE?

Kyle: "Some of the other veterans I've talked to -- Mark Martin, Bobby Labonte, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon -- I've been able to discuss with them whether or not I've done a good enough job to be able to obtain respect. They've all told me I've done a great job on the race track and shown that I'm able to drive my cars whether they are loose or tight or whatever and get the most out of them.

"They've all told me that there have been some instances where I've put my car in situations where maybe I should have thought a little bit differently about, but that's any driver too. Carl Edwards, at Daytona for instance, there was maybe something he could have done a little bit different in the Bud Shootout. But at that instance, you don't know exactly what to do and you just go with the first thing that comes to your mind and try to avoid an incident. It's all about trying to gain their respect, so yeah, it's something that's important to me. I hope I've done a great enough job on that. I'm only in the start of my second year, so there's still a little bit more to so."

-gm racing

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Gordon , Terry Labonte , Tony Stewart , Jimmie Johnson , Carl Edwards , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin