Continued from part 2 Q: Norm, a couple years ago you were selling some of the hood space off the 18 car. With this deal, are you going to be able to be the sponsor for the entire season? Do you have to do the same thing to help ...
Continued from part 2
Q: Norm, a couple years ago you were selling some of the hood space off the 18 car. With this deal, are you going to be able to be the sponsor for the entire season? Do you have to do the same thing to help raise the level of this team financially?
NORM MILLER: "We're on the contract for '08, but we are also open to develop some type of partnership. We're talking with several people. We're hoping to get the best we can out of it all, and come up with a good partner. But if push comes to shove, we'd be delighted to ride with Kyle here through the whole season. We're hoping that we can work all that out. Cards are kind of up in the air right now. They're going to settle down here hopefully like within a month that we'll know exactly where we stand."
Q: Maybe a 10-race deal?
NORM MILLER: "Gosh, we're talking right now anywhere from six to 15. Something like that."
KYLE BUSCH: "I just drive the thing, so I don't care who sponsors it. I like Norm, so I'd be willing to work with him."
J.D. GIBBS: "Free batteries."
NORM MILLER: "We're happy to be hooked up with him. Seriously, whatever we can get on the car here, we'll be delighted. We'll be excited. Our people, we have a million people that are engaged in selling Interstate Batteries as far as the businesses we're related with on a regular basis. So they're excited about the opportunity for the No. 18 again to have a chance to run up in the top-five consistently. So we're excited about it and happy and looking forward to the future."
Q: Norm, the other two have addressed this. Are you, as a sponsor willing to let Kyle be Kyle? Are you okay with everything that comes with him?
NORM MILLER: "Oh, sure. I've got a 22-year-old grandson. I've got a son J.D.'s age. You know, we're all human. We know things are going to take place.
"I met Kyle a while back here, but I got involved with him just one night in Arena Racing. He was just a nice, polite young guy, excited about racing. So we're happy with that. We want everybody to be their own person. Along with the opportunities, as with everything, comes responsibility. With exposing yourself to different situations or being exposed to different situations, you learn.
"So we think Kyle's going to be great. I really do. I'm excited to present him as a sponsor to all of our constituency."
Q: Kyle, I get the sense you feel you're somewhat misunderstood by the public. Can you talk about what you feel like public perception is versus what reality is with you? J.D., you keep talking about his wonderful sense of humor. Could you give us an example of where he maybe surprised you with that?
KYLE BUSCH: "I think I've done a very good job at tricking everybody, that's for sure. You know, I show them the bad side. I don't show them the good side. Why show the good side? Then I'd be Carl Edwards or something. Just kidding. See, there's some sense of humor. They're laughing, good. No, I'm kidding.
"You know, I don't know, with all the money I guess J.D. says he's paying me, I guess I've got to go pay some more people to help me out and polish me up a little bit and give me some buffers here or there.
"I just like hanging out. I like to go wake boarding. I'll go skateboarding with my friends. I wear the messy hair just because I don't care what it looks like. I've got a lot of people that I've grown up with, a lot of people I've actually met from just out here. People ask why exactly they picked me up and took me on as a driver. What's the problem? He's just a guy that we work with. Really I guess I've got a few edges here or there, but hopefully none where I can't just grind them down a little bit and soften them up some.
"I know there's a lot of people that are anxious here at Joe Gibbs Racing to try to work with me. I'm sure hopefully I'll be able to show them the real side of myself. Of course, there's a lot of people that I've got still over at Hendrick Motorsports that may or may not still want to work with me. That's completely up to them. From what I've heard, they're optimistic about being able to stay with me and stay a company."
J.D. GIBBS: "Really for us, what you kind of get in Kyle, again, I didn't know him that well before we started this process. He's got that quick wit you kind of see in Tony. Denny has it too, in a more quiet way.
"I think when you do a job that's as stressful and as difficult as we do week in and week out, and as long of a season, you've got to have that sense of humor. You have to let that stuff roll off your back at times. Getting to know Kyle, I kind of get the feeling he wants to really have fun and enjoy what he's doing. The way he kind of cuts up with the guys around him, I really appreciate that. I think he'll fit in here well.
"I will say one thing, too, as far as our relationship with J.J. We love J.J. J.J. came in dominating the open-wheel stuff. We ran in ARCA. We ran in Busch and in Cup. I really think a lot of J.J. and really wish the best for him. He's been a great partner here.
"It's never one piece of the puzzle that is all of the issue. It's a combination of things. I think we just couldn't figure things out really for J.J. and his style. We probably couldn't give him what he needed to really go fast. I know he can. I've seen him do it. Again, like Kyle said, we wish him the best in the future. He's been a good partner for us and we wish him the best down the road."
NORM MILLER: "I want to say the same thing. J.J. has fulfilled all of the off-track, non-racing responsibilities of being associated with Interstate and the No. 18 car. He's just as disappointed as we are that we haven't been able to turn out the finishes that all of us want. With Kyle, the opportunity came along. It's also an opportunity where we just expressed that we're going to look for a partner to be involved with us. So all of the ramifications of that have brought this situation to where it is today.
"We appreciate very much his efforts. We, too, think that he has a winning talent. In all reality, our prayer is that he'll do great. We want him to be very successful in racing. We wish him the very best. We really hope so for the next 14 races. He's still driving the green No. 18."
Q: The rumors of a possibility of Joe Gibbs Racing going to Toyota next year. Kyle, how much did that factor into your decision? Did you take that into consideration? J.D., can you address that?
KYLE BUSCH: "I did. I took it into consideration. But as I looked at it and I thought about it, I thought, 'Well, Joe Gibbs Racing, they've done pretty well at what they've done so far.' I feel like they'll make the right decision in choosing the company that steers their company in the right direction. Do I feel like Toyota has struggled a little bit this year? Sure, I have. Do I feel like Joe Gibbs and everybody here can try to turn that around? Certainly. If they're looking in that direction, more power to them. I'm going to let the man over here answer all those tough questions."
J.D. GIBBS: "Really for us, there's not much change in the past several weeks. We had some great conversations with GM (General Motors) here. We've obviously had a great partnership with them over the past 16 years. We've been great partners as well.
"I think going forward, we're just going to sit down. We're going through a process with all of our technical guys, figuring out where we need to be. GM, I think, just got a verbal agreement with Hendrick - the first team to kind of re-sign for next year. We're kind of in the same phase as I think a lot of the teams are. In the next several weeks, we're going to have to really figure out where our future is and our direction."
Q: Along those lines, Kyle, would your expectations for next season be different if JGR does go to Toyota?
KYLE BUSCH: "I don't think so. I think Joe Gibbs Racing will come out of the box strong. They wouldn't make the decision if it wasn't right for them, if it wasn't economically right for their sponsors and the success rate.
"You know, I've got a lot of great friends over at Chevrolet and have developed a strong relationship with those folks. Hopefully I can still have that whether or not we do decide to switch over here at Joe Gibbs Racing.
"To me I feel like Joe and J.D., here are going to make the decision that they feel is in their best interest and how they feel the competitiveness will stay and where it won't mess any of that up."
Q: J.D., can you tell us how much you're paying him and how long the contract is?
J.D. GIBBS: "My dad said five years. It's two. Actually for us, you know, I think the reality of it is, if you can drive these cars, drive them well, it's not a bad gig. I tried it. I was fired. So that's why I'm behind the desk now.
"But for us, the value comes in - everyone will tell you this - if you can get a guy that can really drive these cars, be a great representative off the track, there's a huge value in that. The only way we stay in business as a team is if we go out there and run well week in, week out. A huge part of running well week in, week out is those drivers. We know that. It's a pretty good chunk of change, but like my dad did said, we want our guys in debt as much as possible because they go a lot faster when they have to make those payments. Go buy some stuff, Kyle.
"It's a two-year deal and then hopefully we'll grow from there."
Q: Steve Addington (crew chief for the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet), have you had a chance to speak with him yet? How do you think that will all go?
KYLE BUSCH: "I had a chance to meet Steve here this morning. Actually I've met him a couple times. I talked to him years ago in the Busch Series just here or there a little bit in 2004. Maybe before that in 2003 when I was in the Ditech car when he was running with Jason Keller there.
"I think he's a great asset to Joe Gibbs Racing. I feel like he's got the talents to be a crew chief. Obviously, if he didn't, he wouldn't be here. Look with him and Zippy (Greg Zipadelli, crew chief for the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet), Mike Ford (crew chief for the No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet), I feel like that's a threesome that's pretty stout. They're obviously able to go out there and win races with the 20 and the 11. I think Steve and I, being an addition to the 18 car, will hopefully prove that it can get out there and win races as well.
Q: J.D., you talked in the past about the contract extension for Tony. Where are you in regards to that? Now with Kyle, all three of your drivers are represented by the same company. What challenges or benefits are there with that?
J.D. GIBBS: "I will say this, as far as Tony, we're in the process. We've still got several years left on his agreement, so we're in the process of doing that. We want to do that as quickly as we can too, and really keep him here. For as long as he wants to drive, we want him here. So we're going to work on that.
"In our first dealings with Tony, he was with Cary Agajanian who started MMI. He was a one-man show back then. Now he's got a small army. He's the Mafia Don in the garage for all our drivers. (Laughter.)
"But here's what I know about that group there. The bottom line for those guys, for Eddie (Jarvis, business manager) who works with Tony and Denny, what I appreciate about them is they really care about the guys. We've been with them for a long time, almost nine years. They really care about the guys. They want what's best for them. We have a great relationship there. If that's the case, I don't have a problem with it, but I've seen over the years that they really care about the guys, what's in their best interest, and I appreciate that."
MIKE ARNING: "Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much. J.D., Kyle, Norm, congratulations."