Continued from part 1 Q: The 18 car has not been very strong over the past few seasons. Were you concerned about coming to a car that hasn't had top performance? Were you given any assurances they would try to make the performance ...
Continued from part 1
Q: The 18 car has not been very strong over the past few seasons. Were you concerned about coming to a car that hasn't had top performance? Were you given any assurances they would try to make the performance better at all?
KYLE BUSCH: "Well, I think you look at the 20 and the 11, and you say, 'Well, what's going on with the 18? Is it team? Is it crew chief? Is it driver?'
"I've got a lot of respect out there for J.J. Yeley (current driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet), his talents, what he's done in open- wheel ranks, stuff like that. When he came to the NASCAR ranks, he's been competitive. He's been a legitimate top-20 driver week in and week out. I wish him all the best in his future endeavors, whatever he does.
"As far as the 18 ride, what I foresee going on with it is being able to run up front. The 20 and the 11 do it. You know, I hopefully think that everything will work out fine where we'll be able to jump in there and hopefully get the chemistry right, right off the bat and be able to get up there and run competitive in the first few races or maybe even take a couple of them and throw them away and hopefully be able to run competitively through the middle part of the season to try to get towards the Chase (for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup) next year.
"Like I said, the biggest thing for me is just try to come out of here, be competitive to try to win races and win championships. But, you know, there might be a little bit of a growing period, but hopefully it's not too long where we can't catch back up. Maybe we can start off strong, be in contention to contend for the championship."
Q: Kyle, obviously this issue has come up a few times. Do you feel like you have to mature based on all the events that happened in the last few years as you come to this new team? J.D., talk about the drive to improve, to become deeper and stronger. What's going on in NASCAR that is inspiring teams to merge and grow?
KYLE BUSCH: "You know, I feel like being 22, I've got a lot of time - not a lot, but I've got some time and a lot of room to grow and become more responsible, more mature, things like that.
"You know, being thrown in this light has just definitely shown a different aspect of life towards me. For the past couple years, I haven't shown probably my full potential. But there's plenty of it out there. I feel like I cannot necessarily change but probably bring out more of who I am.
"I've got a great marketing staff now, great agency with MMI Incorporated, Jeff Dickerson, where we're working on that - trying to bring out the real Kyle Busch, show everybody what it's all about, I guess who I'm all about. These guys here at Joe Gibbs Racing, obviously they saw a little bit of that as well as some of the other owners we were able to spend time with.
"You know, I guess I'm different when the camera shines its light on me than I am when I'm behind closed doors."
J.D. GIBBS: "For us, what you kind of see in the sport is interesting. I think, you know, ideally years ago when NASCAR put the cap at four teams, that kind of changed a little bit. I thought it was a good decision. I personally would like to see them cap it at three, but four is what it is.
"I think going forward, a lot of teams are trying to put themselves in the best position to be here for a long time. For us, part of the reason we made this decision is this helps us stay healthy as an organization for a long time to come. It's not really a sport where our business - where you have a lot of equity. Your equity really is you have a building, you might have some planes. The parts, the pieces downstairs, you know, there's not a whole lot of value in that from a bank standpoint. I think the value is running well week in, week out. Both the value to Interstate, the sponsors, and the value to teams that want to have investors come in, that's great for them. I think it's probably good for the sport. It makes them healthy, makes them stronger, gives them opportunity to maybe take some of those assets and use them in other areas.
"For us, we wanted to be a family-owned business for a long time to come. There's only a handful of teams that haven't made some type of merger. For us, we just want to stay kind of the way we are and grow and continue to win races and championships for a long time.
"I do think in the sport, the biggest barrier you run into is it's very expensive. As time goes on, it gets harder and harder to have the resources to do what you need to do."
Q: Kyle, as you're going through this process, a lot of people were speculating that you might want to go somewhere where you could be the No. 1 driver. Twenty years ago there was a lot of that in the sport. As the sport has evolved, you have more and more multi-car teams where the whole spectrum has to work for all of your drivers for the whole thing to be a success. Kyle, did being the No. 1 driver even enter into your mind? Is that something you had to think about as far as where you fit into a pecking order?
KYLE BUSCH: "It entered my mind. When I read about it actually I kind of laughed in the beginning because I didn't know where it came from. It never came from me. Jeff and I, we sat down and we were kind of tossing it back and forth. Did you want to be the No. 1 guy? Did you want to be the No. 1 guy? I never said anything.
"I think going to DEI, that was definitely a possibility. I think being the leader of a team or even being right there with Martin Truex Jr. at 22 years of age isn't something that I'm ready for. It isn't something that I wanted to throw myself into.
"I feel like I'm better and more competitive with myself being not necessarily a No. 3 guy, but I feel like I can be right there with Tony and Denny and their standards, to be able to compete at their level.
"Whether I'm third in the pecking order or not, I think the 18 team at Joe Gibbs Racing has always been the No. 1 team because of course they were the first team here."
NORM MILLER: "Amen."
KYLE BUSCH: "That's how I feel about it. I'm looking forward to bringing the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet back up to the No. 1 pecking order hopefully and just being able to compete and win and beat the rest of these boys here."
J.D. GIBBS: "From our standpoint, here is what the drivers want to know. 'Do I have the best equipment you have to offer? Are you surrounding me with the best people you have to give?' I think that's the key for every team. That's our goal for each of these teams, to make sure we surround the guys. I know we're doing the best we can to communicate every piece, every part, every engine, every car, all the parts available to everybody.
"Obviously how much the crew chief and driver want to use those parts is kind of up to them. For us the key is making sure everything is available to all your teams. I think if you do that, that's half the battle."
Q: Kyle, last year in Vegas you were in the car and said Tony was trying to kill you. Earlier in the year he said you were going to hurt somebody. When did you make peace with each other? What was it like talking with him?
KYLE BUSCH: "I don't remember when we made peace. I don't know if we ever did. (Laughter.)
"Tony and I, we've had an odd relationship, I guess. I kind of came into this deal looking up towards him, have been one of his fans for a few years, like I had been with Jeff Gordon. Obviously Jeff has been my hero, per se. And Tony I've been able to look up to because he's been able to drive the wheels off of anything you put him in.
"You know, that was a racing deal. That was on the race track. A couple of weeks later, we sat down and talked about it, put it all aside, figured that we'd be better off as friends than as enemies.
"To me, I think Tony and I can get along very well being teammates. I think we can talk off the race track. We can talk on the race track. Having the opportunities I've had with him to go off and race in the dirt track stuff at Eldora (Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio) and some other places, we've really got a sense to know each other. I sat and talked with him in Daytona this year for a while, kind of joked around with him a little bit. Here recently, we've talked just a few words here or there in the garage area, but never really sat down and talked with him about the chances of me driving for Joe Gibbs.
"But Denny and I, we probably talked about more of that than what I did with Tony. Tony has always kind of been his own person, his own guy that goes off and does different things. I've been the same thing because I have some interests of my own that maybe some others don't like. I think that's what kind of puts us in the same frame of mind."
Q: You talked about the real Kyle Busch. I think fans want to see the real athlete. For Kyle Busch, that's passion, anger when he doesn't win. You were talking about controlling drivers at the beginning, even the coach. J.D., can you talk about how you let your athletes be themselves, show that passion. Kyle, can you talk about that as well?
J.D. GIBBS: "I think for us, what people love about our sport is that it is kind of every man's sport. None of these drivers have gotten to where they are without someone busting their hump to get them to this. I don't care if it's a family member, a local businessman. None of them got there by themselves. Whereas other sports, you can kind of say, 'I got there by myself.'
"I think what I love about our sport is that these guys get here and they realize that it's not three strikes and you're out. They've got to be careful about the way they act. How do you balance being careful of what you say and the way you act with really showing who you are? That's a hard thing to figure out. For Kyle, he came into the sport as young as he was, that takes a while. I'm still figuring it out and I'm 38. I think for those guys to really kind of get a feel for 'How much do I show of my own personality versus how much can I control and be careful what I say?' That's hard to do.
"I do love the fact that we let our guys be themselves. I would say this for Hendricks' guys, too. I think they're themselves. Jeff, Jimmie, that's their personalities. They've got neat personalities. Our guys have got neat personalities. Don't try to change the way you are. You might have to be careful what you say. Just because you're thinking it doesn't mean everyone needs to hear it. I learned that from my dad. I still need to work on that one. (Laughter.)
"I think for Kyle, again, getting to know him the way I have the past several weeks and months really, I think what's impressed me most is when you get to know him is he's got a great sense of humor. He makes me laugh. He's the kind of a guy that you want to hang out with. I know guys that have worked with him in the past feel the same way about it."
Q: Can you be the real Kyle here?
KYLE BUSCH: "I hope so. I mean, obviously like I need to learn from Coach Joe. But I say a lot of things probably I shouldn't say. I need to learn how to keep some of those to myself and not let everybody else know about it.
"The biggest thing is I'm a passionate person. You know, I really like to win races. I really like to bring home trophies and stuff like that. When I don't, I'm upset about it. I'm not going to be happy for finishing second. I'm not going to be happy for finishing third. I'm going to be very disappointed in myself for whatever happens when I wreck a race car or something like that.
"So, I'm not going to be the guy that goes, 'Oh, shucks, darn. I guess there's next week.' I'm going to be the guy that's rearing to go and is ready to get back in that race car.
"For me that's something that I've got to tame. I've got to learn to tame that. But, like this past weekend, Jeff Gordon is the same way. He was upset that he spun himself out. We all are. But there are ways to show it. There are certain things to say. I guess I just haven't learned the charisma to be able to do that. Hopefully I can work on that. But hopefully the real Kyle Busch will show his true colors here at Joe Gibbs Racing and we can go further."
Continued in part 3