Joe Gibbs and Kyle Busch Phoenix II Friday media visit

Toyota Motorsports press release

Joe Gibbs
Joe Gibbs

Photo by: Michael C. Johnson

JOE GIBBS, owner, Joe Gibbs Racing Opening Statement:

“First of all, I just want to say that hopefully we’re able to convey our feelings this morning in the right way. It’s real important to us. I want to say first of all, how proud I am of our sponsors. We think about Mars, Interstate (Batteries), Toyota -- we have great partners. In particular, we want to mention that Mars, one of the premier companies in America, they’ve been 19 years in racing and great supporters of racing. They’ve been great partners for us and the four years we’ve been together, we’ve developed strong relationships and I think a great partnership. The actions last week don’t reflect Mars’ values. As a consequence, they’ve asked Kyle (Busch) not to drive the M&M’s car in 2011 -- for the two races this year (Phoenix and Miami) -- Kyle wouldn’t drive the M&M’s car. We’ll come back in 2012 and going forward next year, we’re all set and plan to have a long future in racing. The No. 18 will not have the Mars paint scheme for these next two races. We support this decision with the race team. We’re also proud of Interstate Batteries, as you all know they’ve been our founding sponsor -- been with us for 20 years. They will take over the paint scheme on the car for the next two races here. I really appreciate also the way Mars and Interstate have worked together on a partnership for these last four years. It’s been a great partnership. I appreciate how they work together. Kyle’s penalties are going to be substantial. If you think about it, NASCAR taking him out of the car last week, there was also a fine associated with that, but the biggest thing for everybody on the 18 car was we went from seventh in points in the Chase to 11th. That’s a huge deal. I know Kyle and all of us were excited about getting back in the top-five and this will probably take that away from us and we understand that. I am just emphasizing that was a big deal for us. We understood that, but it was a big deal. We also have other actions that are going to be in place. There will be other financial penalties and stuff that we’re working through and we’ll continue to do that as we go forward through this process. I think for me personally, I just want to make a point that when you’re put in a situation like this, you really can make one of two decisions. I think the one would have been devastating and I think really discouraging for everybody associated with Kyle -- everybody around him and for the sport. What I’ve chosen to do, I want to support Kyle and I feel like this could have a positive impact on Kyle and I’m committed to him as a person. I like him -- we've gone through a lot together. As far as us at Joe Gibbs Racing, we’re looking forward to a long relationship. That’s pretty much what I’d like to say.”

Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Opening Statement:

“First of all, obviously this has been quite a trying week for myself and my wife (Samantha Busch) and everybody at M&M’s, Joe Gibbs Racing, Kyle Busch Motorsports, Interstate Batteries -- all the above. For me, I’m upmost apologetic to everybody that has been going through this situation and there’s no one to blame but myself. I’m here today to basically say that I apologize to everyone involved in this ordeal. Joe (Gibbs, team owner) has been a huge supporter of mine through all of this and I can’t say enough about him, all the folks at JGR, all the guys on my M&M’s team and we’re here to say we want to learn from this. We want to move on. Certainly there’s some remorse from my side and to be apologetic to the M&M’s brand and all of those folks that put their heart and soul into this NASCAR program for years, and we want to continue that relationship down the road. There’s an opportunity for me to become a better person, to grow and learn from this and I’m looking forward to those days. Knowing that, I’m sure I’ve lost respect with my team, with my sponsors, with my peers, and I understand those consequences. I understand my actions last weekend were uncalled for, were disrespectful and that I’m here to make sure that I can continue on in a positive manner and make it to where everybody believes in me from this week forward. That’s about it.”


Kyle Busch and Joe Gibbs Q&A from the press conference


KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing

How have you been able to recover from the penalty last weekend? “Like I mentioned before, it’s certainly been a trying week. This has been a situation where I never could have dreamed it could have happened and I don’t wish it upon anybody. For me, certainly I’ve had a lot of time to sit and reflect and think and decide and look at what the future entails. For me, my future, I want to be with Joe Gibbs Racing, I want to be in NASCAR, I want to be driving the M&M’s Toyota. For all of that to work out and to work together, certainly it’s going to be through a lot of my efforts and my efforts behaviorally. I have a strong path ahead that I’m excited about and looking forward to, and learning and growing and understanding that the ground that I’ve made this year has been awesome. Obviously, there was a moment that took away from all of that, but I’m certainly not opposed to continuing that growth pattern.”

Are you confident you can adjust your mental approach and still be successful? “I don’t think there was any doubt that anybody was wanting me, or saying that I needed to, change on the race track. There’s a fact that there’s things that go on on the race track that make you competitive, that give you that spirit, that will to win and some days when a bad decision is made it deters from that. So, obviously there’s more behavioral issues than there is competitive issues, and that’s what I think we’ll build on.”

Have you had any contact with Ron Hornaday Jr.? “I have had conversations with Ron Hornaday. I called him. I don’t remember what day it was, but it was within a day or two of the inc ident, so yeah. We had a discussion -- a conversation that ended well. We hung up and I’m still invited over to the house to stay on the couch if I need it, so that’s good.”

Have you seen what your fellow drivers have had to say on Twitter? “You know what the great thing about Twitter is? You can also turn it off. So, I haven’t been on. I haven’t paid any attention.”

Did you know some drivers came to your defense? “Well, that’s great and I do appreciate that. It’s a tough situation for me to be involved in, but there’s no one to blame but myself. For some people and some competitors out there that have stuck their head out there and have maybe been supportive of this whole deal -- that’s awesome. I can’t say enough. I do know that I do have friends out there on the race track. I do know that there’s people on the race track that I can trust, that I can race around that still do respect me. And, there’s a few others that maybe not and you know those people when you’re racing around them on the race track, so you’re conscious of all of that. But, any support that I have been getting this week is tremendous, because it -- like Joe (Gibbs, team owner) said -- it’s given me a future and a bright future.”

Do you think the consequences are justified and fans have a right to be upset? “Your question in regards to the backlash, and the consequences and everything, understandably so. Yeah, there’s been a lot of upset people and that’s to be understood for the actions that I made and I made a decision. But, like I said, it’s certainly a way to learn from, to understand, to grow and to move on.”

Did you feel like you were going to lose your Sprint Cup Series ride? “Obviously, emotions run high and I think emotions ran high on everyone this week, including myself, which obviously started the whole ordeal. For me, when you sit back and reflect and think about everything and you’re sitting there on the sidelines on Saturday -- you're sitting there watching your car race on Sunday -- that’s a huge deal. That’s a huge disappointment not only to myself, but more importantly to my team. All of these guys at Joe Gibbs Racing that had nothing to do with Friday night -- I feel a tremendous amount of remorse for. And, so I’ve got to gain their respect back.

Was there a point in which I thought, ‘Do I have a ride?’ Of course there was. Yeah, I thought that. Was there a point in which Joe (Gibbs, team owner) ever told me that, ‘Hey, we’re looking at terminating this?’ No. Joe has been there and has stuck by my side and has held my arm through this whole deal and I can’t say enough about the man sitting next to me.”

Were you surprised at NASCAR’s reaction and the penalty? “I wasn’t surprised at NASCAR’s reaction. I felt like it was a decision that they needed to make and I respect that decision and I took the consequences and the repercussions of that and we’re still dealing with them today and we’ll still deal with them for a while. There’s no question.”

Do you think NASCAR needs to have a clearer definition for what is acceptable and what isn’t on the race track? “In regards to whether or not there is a clear or definite line -- no there’s not. Will there ever be? No. I think this sport has been driven for so many years off that rule book and how to find the gray area. And the gray area with the crew chiefs, with car chiefs, with our body hangers back at the shop trying to figure out exactly how far we can go -- you go that far and you push the envelope and sometimes you get slapped or maybe a little bit worse than that. And I think we saw that this past weekend. Whether all of the drivers want a clear or definite line I don’t know that we’ll ever see that. You’ve got to be smarter. I certainly was not smart in my actions on Friday night and I get that. So, for me, the decision needs to be different come next time around in the heat of the moment. It’s like when you’re that close to fire are you just going to stay warm or are you going to get burned by it and obviously this week I definitely got burned by my own fire.”

What do you have to do to reconnect with your fans? “That’s something else that may be in the process down the line on how to reconnect with the fans and have them have a better understanding of who I am. Certainly, I do appreciate any of the fan support that has been out there. I hope people, whether it be Twitter or wherever, do recognize that it’s not in my best mindset to be on there reading all of the -- whether it be positive or negative -- comments. So, for me, I appreciate my fan base and I know that they’re out there. I know that there’s a -- whether it’s small or whether it’s large -- there's fans that do support Kyle Busch and do support M&M’s, Interstate Batteries, Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing -- all of the folks in regards to all of that. For me, it’s something that I’ve come into this sport when I was 18-years-old -- 16 got booted and came back when I was 18 -- and it’s been a struggle for me since that day and certainly I’ve gained a bit of a fan base and may I have upset some people in the last week? Sure, but I’m here to do the best I can of my ability with the leadership of Joe (Gibbs) and J.D. (Gibbs) that we’ve already shown through this year and we’ll continue to show in the future that we want to be around here for a long time.”

JOE GIBBS, owner, Joe Gibbs Racing

When was the sponsorship plan for the final two races of the season resolved between JGR and Mars? “I think it was strictly a partnership, and you’re right, this was a big process and a lot of things to go through. I think it was a matter of just walking through them. I thought both of us -- Mars and the race team -- like I mentioned, a great partnership. There were a lot of things to consider and I think it took a while to walk through all that. I think we did it in a real partnership and great way and I think we reached the right conclusion. Again, it took us a while to do that.”

How have you seen Kyle Busch recover from last week’s events? “I would like to add to that, I watched Kyle (Busch) in the partnership here and I’d say over the last year, I know that from being there, the effort that he’s made. I think Kyle has done everything, his marriage to Sam and everything else, that we’ve had a chance to go through and watch him. I really think that he’s made great strides in a lot of ways. This is a shame that this took a step back here.”

Has Joe Gibbs Racing made any monetary concessions to Mars? “I think all of that is internal thing that we’re not going to discuss, but I think we’ve taken appropriate actions there. We’ve all talked it over and we know what we’re going to do. That’s not something I think we need to discuss.”

Are you confident Kyle Busch can adjust his mental approach and still be successful? “I think for me personally, we expect Kyle (Busch) -- Kyle we think is a great driver. I think he’s gifted and this situation is totally different than that. We’re talking about an action or something here that when it comes to driving a race car, we want him to drive the race car and I know Mars does too. We want him to drive it the way he’s capable of driving it. We think he’s one of the gifted people when it comes to just being an athlete and doing the things you do and we expect him to drive the car that way and be himself.”

Was there ever any discussion to move the M&M’s sponsorship to another team? “No. There’s been no discussion about -- like we said in 2012, I think Mars, Kyle (Busch), all of us at our race team want to be together and moving forward there’s been no discussion about that. I think as far as Interstate (Batteries), it was just one of those things where in the discussions they felt like it was something they would like to do. There was nothing other than that. It was just as we discussed it as partners with all three of us.”

Did Z-Line Designs want Kyle Busch out of the No. 18 for the Homestead Nationwide Series race? “I think first of all on the Z-Line (Designs) discussion, we kind of felt like as a race team I’d take the responsibility for a lot of that, because we were kind of wanting to go for the next two races let Kyle (Busch) focus on Cup. And, so a lot of that came from the race team with Z-Line, so in a lot of ways a lot of those questions and everything should have been directed at us. We appreciate those guys. They’ve been awesome, so that was probably more of a race team decision in talking with Kyle too. We talked it over and said, ‘Hey, look. We’d like to spend the next two weeks, because we knew there was going to be a lot of attention and let him focus on Cup’.”

Are we going to see a different Kyle Busch that has to change or can he still have an edge on the race track? “Basically for us, J.D. (Gibbs), myself and our whole management team, we were there and we kind of walked through this with Kyle (Busch). We saw him and Samantha (Kyle Busch’s wife) and all of the things that we went through at Texas and everything else and I think we see that as an emotional thing. We know where his heart is and I think we were there realizing that we’ve got a lot of people that count on us and we wanted to walk through this with Kyle and we feel like our stand was we think Kyle can be a special person and a special athlete. And, we’re committed. And, like I said, we spent our last year kind of going through some things and I think they’ve been where Kyle has really stepped up and matured in a lot of ways.”

Does anything that transpired affect Kyle driving in the Nationwide Series or Truck Series next season? “I think as far as Kyle’s (Busch) schedule it’s something that we’ve talked about and we’re going to continue to work our way through that. Kyle has 40 something people working over there, we have a large number of our race team devoted to Nationwide, and so I think that’s something that we’ll just continue to work through. That’s one of the issues we talked about that we’ll continue to look at and discuss and work through with Kyle.”

Does this give another reason on how big image is to this sport and all sports? “We pride ourselves on that. We want to have the right image and we’re going to do everything we can to make sure that we keep that or reinstate that or whatever we’ve got to do.”

How close were you to pulling Kyle Busch out of the Sprint Cup car this weekend? “As far as Aric (Almirola) goes, there were so many things going on in the first part of the week and on the weekend about how far the suspension from NASCAR was going to go, to the trucks have to leave early because they are going all of the way to Phoenix and all of the preparations you had to make. There were a lot of moving parts and so as a part of that we were trying to anticipate any and everything. So, we just simply said to Aric to check with him to see if he would be available, but that never became a real possibility and we’re happy to be where we are here today.”

Will anger management be something to consider for Kyle like you did with Tony Stewart in the past? “I think that will be something we continue to work through. One of the topics that Kyle (Busch) and ourselves and the race team and everybody will continue to work on. We’re going to set out to do whatever we think is best going forward.”

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags busch, gibbs, nascar-ns, nascar-truck, toyota