KYLE BUSCH Coaching Kyle HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Feb. 20, 2008) -- If you are looking for an example of what Kyle Busch has the potential to achieve in his time with Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), then look no further than the career of former NFL running...
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Feb. 20, 2008) -- If you are looking for an example of what Kyle Busch has the potential to achieve in his time with Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), then look no further than the career of former NFL running back John Riggins.
Much like Busch, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry, Riggins had high expectations as a first-round draft choice of the NFL's New York Jets in 1971.
Following a record-breaking collegiate career at the University of Kansas, Riggins performed well in five seasons with the Jets. But the guidance of head coach Joe Gibbs helped make him an all-time great.
In a now infamous story, Riggins sat out the 1980 season in protest when he balked at the Redskins demand to renegotiate his contract. In 1981, Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke hired Gibbs to his first NFL head coaching job. One of Gibbs' first orders of business was to settle the dispute with Riggins. After making an unexpected visit to his rural Kansas home in the summer of 1981, Gibbs convinced Riggins to rejoin the team for the 1981 season.
Just one season later, during the 1982-83 season, Riggins and the rest of the Redskins' brass were celebrating the first of three Super Bowl victories under the guidance of Gibbs. In addition to Super Bowl XVII Most Valuable Player honors, Riggins amassed over 11,000 rushing yards and 104 touchdowns in a career that led to his 1992 induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
Much like Riggins, Busch started off his career with plenty of potential with Hendrick Motorsports before signing with JGR last August. Making his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut for JGR in the 50th running of the Daytona 500, the 22-year old Las Vegas native led a race-high 86 laps en route to his fourth-place finish.
Throughout his storied coaching career, Gibbs always believed that you win with people. If Daytona was any indication, Gibbs knows that Busch is the right person to bring the No. 18 car back to its championship-winning ways.
While Gibbs retired in January from his second stint with the Redskins, his coaching expertise will again be used to motivate a young athlete full of potential.
Will Busch flourish under the tutelage of Gibbs? John Riggins sure did.
KYLE BUSCH: Driver, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet
At Daytona, you really seemed to click with everyone at JGR right from the start. Were you surprised at how quickly you and the No. 18 team got on the same page?
"I fell into place here at Joe Gibbs Racing like I've been here for years. Honestly, it's been easy. I hate to say it's been easy, but it has been. Steve (Addington, crew chief) has made it that way on the Cup side and Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) has made it that way on the Nationwide Series side. I think Joe Gibbs Racing has its stuff together. Hendrick Motorsports does, too, but it's just seemed to come more easily here, for some reason."
You've gone from one elite team to another, jumping from Hendrick Motorsports to Joe Gibbs Racing. Do you think this is the right combination to bring you from winning a few races to winning championships?
"I hope so. I went from Roush to Hendrick and ran better. Now I've gone from Hendrick to Gibbs to run even better. I don't think you can go up any further from there. I've been fortunate enough to work with all three organizations and all of them have good equipment. So far, I've felt like I've gone upward with each move and not the other way around."
What are your overall thoughts heading into California Speedway after testing there a few weeks ago?
"It's just a fun place to race. Its wide-open racing and you can run from top to bottom. With the new Car of Tomorrow (CoT), we had a great test out there and the car handled well. We feel like we can make some changes on it still, and make it even better. We want to get the car close to the best car out there, which was Denny (Hamlin)."
What do you remember about that night in 2005 when you captured your first Sprint Cup Series win at California?
"We ran in the top-five all day long, but we really didn't think we had a winning car. When we got the lead a few times throughout the race, we just pulled away and led by quite a bit. It was really cool to have a really dominant race car. I remember having to drive the car really loose. That was the loosest I think I've ever driven a race car that was still moving forward. It was crazy because I came over the radio and told the guys I couldn't believe how loose I have to drive the car. But it was fast."
There is so much that goes into running the Daytona 500, but are the upcoming races on the intermediate tracks going to be where you and the No. 18 team are going to be able to show what you're really capable of?
"I'm going to give it until May until we can truly judge how things are going with our team and with the switch to Toyota. I think if we wait until May, when we can get more testing done and Mark Cronquist (JGR head engine builder) and his guys get more time to develop the motor, I think we're going to be really good. Right now, I think we're good with what Toyota is giving us. But once we get building more stuff on our own, we're going to get even better."
How has California Speedway changed over the last few years, going from a new track to a place that has a lot more character and racing grooves?
"That place is tough. It's really a hard race track to get hold of, now, especially when it's hot and the sun is out. There are two completely different types of racing when you run the top versus the bottom groove. You can run from the top to the bottom, but when you run the bottom you really feel like you're puttering around the race track. You feel like you aren't making up any time on the bottom, but when you are running the top groove you feel like you're getting the job done. The guys who run the bottom have a little bit more patience and handle it better than the guys who are on the gas on top."
You are finally going to get to compete in the first race on a two-mile oval in the Car of Tomorrow (CoT) at California Speedway. What kind of race are you expecting?
"The CoT hauls the mail down the straightaway, that's for sure. With the old car, we had the front ends pinned down and the rear ends jacked up so there was a lot of drag down the straightaway. These cars sit more level and they go 210 mph down the straightaway, so we are going to be carrying a lot of speed going into the corners. Once you get into the corner, they feel somewhat like the old car where you can get them a little bit sideways and they'll turn from the back a little bit. They have a harder time turning on the short tracks, but they drive pretty well on bigger tracks like California."