NASCAR Sprint Cup Series post race press conference Michigan International Speedway
An interview with: Kyle Busch, Dave Rogers and J.D. Gibbs
THE MODERATOR: We welcome now our race winner, Kyle Busch. Also joining him are crew chief Dave Rogers and owner J.D. Gibbs.
Kyle talk a little bit about the race today. This is your first win at Michigan International Speedway, your fourth victory of 2011, your 23rd victory in 245 races. With this victory you've clinched at least one of the two wild card spots for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
KYLE BUSCH: Awesome. It feels really good to win here at Michigan. We've been trying so hard the last few times here. Our teammate's been able to do it but unfortunately we haven't. Good to put it in Victory Lane, especially for Norm Miller and everybody at Interstate Batteries. Everybody from Toyota, this close to Detroit, they want a win here, especially the Mars folks as well.
Been a great weekend for us. We unloaded, felt pretty good about things. Qualifying wasn't quite our strong suit. We just ran the top, knowing we could get a good, solid lap. It was only 17th fastest. We tried to work on running a little bit lower yesterday in practice and get things done to the car I could do that with. Kept getting too loose. We just went back to basics and put what we knew ran well in it for today, where we could run the top. Felt really good with our chances.
About midway through the race, early we struggled being too tight with the rain and everything last night, wasn't any rubber on the track, but once we got to the end of the race, got going, we felt really good with our car.
THE MODERATOR: Dave, talk about how the race went from your standpoint.
DAVE ROGERS: Yeah, it was a good race. I think one of the keys there was Kyle's patience. We did miss it a little bit. We tightened the car up a little bit given the track positions. Kyle did a great job of staying patient, letting us know what the car was doing, gave us time to work on it, got a few adjustments there. It was fun watching him drive up to the front.
THE MODERATOR: J.D., Kyle also qualifies for the Sprint Summer Showdown. Watching him accomplish all he's done, talk about what this season has meant to you.
J.D. GIBBS: For us it's special in a lot of ways. You kind of watch Dave and Kyle work together, grow and communicate, encourage one another, hold each other accountable. It's kind of fun to watch that.
Really for Norm Miller, Interstate Batteries, that whole team there was our first sponsor 20 years ago. 20 years later you're in Victory Lane with them is special. Obviously the whole Mars partnership. A big deal for JGR. Kyle to close the deal off that last caution gave me a heart attack, but they really did a great job and pulled it out. So it was a real encouraging day.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.
Q. Kyle, Jimmie said beforehand you seem to have come along a lot in the last 12 months as a driver, perhaps even as a person. Now you seem to be that guy that can end his run. Do you believe this could happen this year?
KYLE BUSCH: You know, we're 13 weeks from me being able to answer your question. Certainly I'd like to give ourselves a lot of credit that we can do that, that we have the ability to do that.
I feel like it's anybody's game right now still. Although the 99 had problems today, they can still come back. They're still in the Chase. 99 is going to be tough. 48 is going to be tough. 29 is going to be good. Hopefully we can get our teammate in there with the 11 and he'll be good, too.
Certainly it's going to be a run down to the end, a run to Homestead. The points are tight. With any bad day it seems to hurt you so much, you really have to concentrate on battling back, getting yourself back up in the points.
For us it's going to come to being about minimizing those bad days and keeping our heads on straight.
Q. J.D., can you go over Denny's day. Do you have a game plan to get him back on track?
J.D. GIBBS: Yeah, really it's like I have four boys at home, kind of like the same thing at the racetrack. You have three teams that you really care about, you're close to the drivers and teams. Denny, Toyota did a great job of getting the motor in the car, get prepared, come to the track. We were pretty good all practice, qualifying. Just during the race, got off a little bit. When he hit the wall, it was kind of over.
So it's discouraging obviously from that standpoint. I feel like Denny and those guys, if anyone has the confidence and the ability to come back and finish strong, it's those guys, the tracks coming up we're going to. That's our hope, that those guys will rebound, finish strong these last few races at tracks that he's done well at in the past.
Q. Kyle, Jimmie was in here and said he didn't think there's a favorite yet for the Chase. You out-dueled the five-time champion today, have four victories. Do you feel you're the team to watch coming into the Chase?
KYLE BUSCH: No. There's way too much that can happen, way too many laps to run, way too many miles to run.
Certainly we've built ourself into championship contenders this year and that's where our strong suit has been up to this point, it's just being able to be consistent or at least try to be consistent, after our bad days, try to come back and get a top 10, try to minimize the damage from the week before the following week.
Hopefully with the next few weeks that come up, we feel like they're really good racetracks for us. Bristol obviously being one of the best for me, then going to Atlanta not so great for me. I have won there. See if we can't get a good run and win the Sprint Summer Showdown, win money for a fan and my foundation. Going to Richmond, one of my favorites as well, too.
There's a great opportunity for us to win three more races before the Chase starts. We'd love nothing more than to see that, of course carry on our strong runs through the final 10 weeks.
It's just a matter of being consistent.
Q. Kyle, with the green-white-checkered restart, were you real concerned about that restart, which lane to pick?
KYLE BUSCH: No. I pretty much knew I wanted the top. I saw the 2 was going to restart on the inside. I didn't know whether he was going to push the 48 or try to make it three-wide. I figured I'd just give myself the best opportunity to win, and that was just to run the topside, keep my momentum rolling up through turns one and two.
When we got down in there, we were side-by-side a little bit. Jimmie had to pinch his car a little bit too much being the inside guy. Whether you get tight or loose, it's going to be hard to hold yourself off that outside guy.
I figured I'd just give myself all the room that I needed to my outside in case I needed to run high I could. There wasn't much debate from my side.
Q. J.D., can you give some little details how is your engine program already progressing or starting for next year with the injection system?
J.D. GIBBS: Yeah, really for us it will be a little bit different from JGR's standpoint. We're going to combine the best we do at Charlotte and the best of what TRD does at Costa Mesa and combine those two packages. Will take a little while to get it all figured out. We're encouraged that the end product is going to be really strong and durable and really push us forward on the track.
Q. Kyle, Jimmie had a lot of praise for you. He's known you your whole career. He says you handle things differently now. There were a couple of instances this year where you kept your cool. Last week you seemed to take it well. He also had a bit of a message saying that once the Chase starts, it's a new ballgame, the voices start talking in your head, not just you, but everyone, it's a lot different situation. You've been through it a lot of times and it hasn't turned out well for you in the Chase. Do you think those voices, as he calls them, you've gotten to the point where you can overcome that and do what you've been doing all year?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, I mean, it's definitely going to be a lot edgier through the Chase. Certainly there are going to be times where you're pushing a little too hard in the race and you're like, Oh, man, I was one inch from the wall, or you hit the wall and you're like, Man, I just needed that extra inch. Certainly there's going to be times throughout the Chase where you've got to play it right and you have to play it smart, be smooth and cool about it.
For us the biggest thing is to try to concentrate on what we've been doing all year. Certainly there are going to be times where guys are better than us and we can't concentrate on that too hard. It's a cycle of 10 weeks. If you're consistent through there and you can do all the right things that you know how to do, then you'll be fine.
By the way, it's all J.D.'s fault why I'm handling things better.
J.D. GIBBS: He just got married this winter. That was it. I said, You should have got married two years ago (laughter).
Q. Kyle, what type of statement did you make with this win today?
KYLE BUSCH: You know, I don't know. We weren't trying to make a statement with it. Certainly we just wanted to come out here and run strong. We've been trying so hard to win at Michigan, we felt this was a really good place that we were coming to.
Yesterday through practice we struggled a little bit. I kind of got down on things. Dave was right there to help me out and pick it up. So we stopped practice not very good. But we went over things last night, talked a lot about what we could do to the car to make it better, thought smartly about the changes. Came out strong here today. We ran well here in the spring, had a notebook, something to go back to.
For Dave and I, we don't have as thick of a notebook as Chad and Jimmie do. Ours is only one year thick so we're certainly still trying to get through some statistical information and some history when we go to some of these places.
But, you know, we feel pretty good with where our program is heading. What Dave has been doing has been awesome. All the guys have pulled through and done a really nice job.
Whether this is a statement win or not, that's not our intention. Our intention is to win every single one of them.
Q. Dave, we know what to expect from Kyle, the company, the engines and all that. You're sort of the wild card in the championship. You're going up against Chad Knaus. How are you going to beat Chad Knaus?
DAVE ROGERS: That's a good question. We're just going to stay focused on the 18 car. We're going to control what we can control. I can't control what Chad does, I can't control what Jimmie does. I think J.D. and Kyle both touched on it. We have a lot of checks and balances, a lot of respect between Kyle and I. If I get off base, I know Kyle is going to put me back on track. If Kyle gets off base, I'll put him back on track. That's what we've been doing all year. We've got to continue doing that throughout the Chase.
We're up there in points now, winning races. We should go into the Chase with confidence and just focus on our program.
Q. You were bouncing back and forth out there, running around with Jeff and Jimmie. When did you know you could drive away there at the end?
KYLE BUSCH: I didn't think I could. That restart there, I think I restarted fourth, and Jimmie was gone, like in three laps. I was like, Holy cow. I didn't think there was any way I was going to run him back down. Our car was good on the long run. I felt comfortable running my pace, trying to get closer to him.
I saw the area in which he was struggling a little bit. I tried to attack my car a little bit more there. When I did that, I started doing some of the things he was doing. I backed up, concentrated on my car, worried about getting to him. When I got about three lengths back, I stalled out. I'm like, C'mon, man. Go high, go low. I was all over the place trying to build speed.
Finally was able to do that and power by Jimmie and get by him. Once I got by him, I just picked the top. That's where I wanted to be anyways. I could run some consistent times up there that were faster than him and drive away a little bit.
Q. Amongst the drivers, is there a general awareness of just how popular NASCAR is internationally? Certainly in Australia it has a high profile.
KYLE BUSCH: I wouldn't know for sure, but I know I've had discussions with Juan Montoya. He's told me a little bit about how big we are across the world. When he traveled with the F1 circuit, he would see some of our races about everywhere they were.
Certainly there's attention brought to it, which is awesome. I've seen a lot of fans that have come to races from across the pond. They've been great enthusiasts of mine, of other drivers. It's awesome.
To see Marcos run here, that brings a lot of attention down to Australia. He's done a great job for us, along with Juan Pablo Montoya from Colombia, the guys in the Truck Series, the Brazilians there. Certainly there's a lot more international exposure going on. I feel that's certainly beneficial to the sport.
Q. Kyle, you said that you're committed to running Joe Gibbs Racing engines through the rest of the year. No. 11 is running TRD engines. At any time do you have the option to start running TRD motors or was this a team-by-team decision regarding who wants to run what motors?
KYLE BUSCH: Who wants to answer that?
J.D. GIBBS: Really, from our standpoint, the 20 Zippy, Joey, 18, Kyle and Dave, never really brought it up. Over the past three years, the motors have become more and more similar anyway. So I think next year we're going to try to put it all in one package.
This year coming up, the hard part was you have to change a lot of just parts and pieces to make it fit. So these guys didn't really want to go through with it, they're confident with what they have. For us it was getting a head start going down the path. You're a little nervous at first. The TRD, our guys worked well this weekend. You really don't want to be in that big a deal.
Q. Kyle, I think someone asked you about the popularity of NASCAR overseas. How about here in the United States? It seems like NASCAR has really tried hard over the last few years to try to get the fans back, the attendance up, the TV ratings. Do you like what you've seen from what NASCAR has been able to do? Comment on the direction of the sport.
KYLE BUSCH: I'm not very smart in all of that. I'll leave most of it to Jeff Burton. He's pretty good at leading us down the right path, or Jeff Gordon. They've got a lot of experience.
For me, from what I've seen, NASCAR has done a great job obviously. They've done a lot of studies and things to try to understand more about who there fan is, where their fans come from to particular races. I think they've done a good job at being able to market the races a little bit better.
When it comes to on-track excitement, I've said it for years, I think we've got one of the most exciting forms of motorsports out there. We run closer together than anybody else out there at the speeds that we run around the racetrack. Of course, people say, We love the good old days. Good old days, first place won the race by eight laps over second place. So what do you really want to see?
I think this year, along with some of the years past, has been some of the most competitive racing, especially this year with the form of winners that we've seen. There's been 14 or 15 different winners this year.
You look at five new winners that have come on the scene this year, too. Certainly there's a lot of excitement around it. I love being a part of it. To me it's been fun this year. We've had a lot of great races and battles between a bunch of people. Harvick being one, Jimmie being one, Biffle being another, Jeff Gordon brings other one up from Phoenix. There's been some exciting times from my seat.
Q. J.D., we watched Dave rise over the last several years. We all talked this year about how Kyle is more mature. Dave last year was energetic. This year he looks like Dick Butkus, totally in control of every situation. Can you talk about how he's improved, grown into his role as a possible championship crew chief.
J.D. GIBBS: No, I've never seen him like real excitable or the happy guy. When was that, last year? Especially when it comes to my dad, when he was coaching all those years, when it came to media, he was careful in what he says, make sure you don't say anything that gets you in trouble.
Dave, what year did you start with us?
DAVE ROGERS: '98.
J.D. GIBBS: So he was with Zip all those years. Cup, the 11 car starting there. Nationwide, all he did there. One thing he does, he just works really hard, then he just has a gift at putting good teams together. I think that really pays off well for all of us here.
I think Kyle leans on him. Kyle, he'll try you. He'll want to make sure, Hey, can I trust this guy that he knows what he's talking about? Dave kind of showed him, Yeah, I know what I'm talking about. He doesn't quite question it as much as he used to. He still questions but not quite as much as he used to.
KYLE BUSCH: I still take credit for our first win together, Mexico.
THE MODERATOR: Kyle, this was your 23rd NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory, which matches your brother Kurt on the all-time win list. Don't know if you want to comment on that or not.
KYLE BUSCH: Sure. Certainly it's pretty cool to tie your brother, being a Sprint Cup Series champion and having won 23 times in the sport. He's always still got that carrot over me till Homestead, then we have the same if I don't win again.
Certainly being the younger brother, I've had a little bit shorter time being here, but still it's great to see both of us be as competitive as we've been and successful as we've been. I give awful the credit there to our dad and to mom as well, too, for giving us what we had when we were young, being able to get us here.
People may not recognize it sometimes, that it's hard enough to get one kid to this level without a name. But to get two of them here is pretty special. Mom and dad are pretty proud.
Q. Kyle, what lesson did you learn from the 2008 Chase that you'll be bringing with you this year?
KYLE BUSCH: The first three races off the bat, don't leave a sway bar loose, don't blow up, don't have a fuel pickup problem. After that, it's probably not that hard.
But we just didn't start out the Chase very well. Whether that's preparation or driver, all of the above, certainly we've all got to be on top of our game. I've said that before, which is just being able to keep running the way we've been running, doing the things we've been doing, making sure the guys on the team are prepared, they go through their checklist right, they cross all their Ts, dot all their lower case Js, just make sure we are prepared for each and every Sunday, and if the case might be, Saturday night. Those are the things we've got to put our heads towards, not worrying about what everybody else.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, congratulations. Thanks for your time today.