NASCAR Sprint Cup Series post race press conference at Richmond International Raceway
An interview with Kyle Busch, J.D.Gibbs and Dave Rogers
KERRY THARP: We'll roll into our winners' press conference here at Richmond. Kyle Busch, this is his 21st victory in 231 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, second win in 2011, third victory here at Richmond, and the third in this race.
It's a fun night to be able to come out here and put on a good show in front of the fans.
Kyle, another great night for you here at Richmond. Talk about it.
KYLE BUSCH: It was a really good evening for us. We love coming to Richmond for some reason. It seems to run well for us. We like coming to this place. The fans are great. We always tend to have good racecars here. That's just a testament to all of Joe Gibbs Racing, Dave Rogers, the guys that give us great equipment, Toyota, TRD. M&M people being here. Couldn't do it without Interstate Batteries either. It's a fun night to be able to come out here and put on a good show in front of the fans.
I know we had a pretty good racecar. Dropped the green flag, seemed to be moving our way steadily forward towards the front. After that first round of green-flag pit stops, we picked up the lead. I was wondering if we could get to the lead before that first round of green-flag pit stops as good as we were coming up through there. Had to wait till just after.
Good car, great job by the crew chief and the team tonight. The guys on pit road did a nice job. Again, I don't know why this guy is sitting here. The one over there should be.
KERRY THARP: J.D. congratulations on the victory tonight.
J.D. GIBBS: For the record, I asked him, Did you save fuel?
He goes, I did what I had to win.
I said, Did you save fuel? For us, it was a great victory. The whole Mars, M&M team was here to do that. Denny ran great. Kyle came back after getting spun there. It was a fun night for JGR.
KERRY THARP: Questions for Kyle or J.D.
Q. Kyle, Denny said here that he wished he never opened his mouth regarding the secrets he told you about this place but turned around and said if he hadn't, he wouldn't have been a good teammate with the way you've been able to help him. Despite some of the things that get blown out of proportion, you two really have developed as teammates.
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, we do work really well -- we're not really employees. What do you call us? Independent contractors?
J.D. GIBBS: I call you employees.
KYLE BUSCH: We work really well together. We've developed a good relationship where we know where each other stands.
That's what it takes in this sport, to know how well you can work with somebody, how well you can talk to somebody. Sometimes what you can say, sometimes what you can't say.
Denny did do a nice job at helping me here a little bit last fall, talking somewhat to me. We've done the same thing at mile-and-a-half places, two-mile places, that he picked up his game, surpassed us a little bit last year.
That's what it's all about. I've been talking a lot about Joey, and Denny has, too. We're trying to help Joey along a little bit. Joey has been a good help to me at a few places. It's been a good relationship between us three. We're all relatively young, we can be here for a long time. It's good to make sure we have a good relationship.
KERRY THARP: Also joined by crew chief Dave Rogers. Dave, expand on what Kyle talked about.
DAVE ROGERS: Definitely a great weekend for us. I'm particularly excited for all the guys back in the garage tearing the 18 car down. They worked hard yesterday. With the schedule the way it is, going back and forth, qualifying trim, race trim, a short day, they put in a lot of effort. Now they get the fruit of victory.
Really proud of all those guys, really excited they can enjoy this victory.
KERRY THARP: We'll take questions.
Q. J.D., Denny wouldn't tell us what he helped Kyle with. Can you speak to the teamwork they've exhibited, how it's helped JGR, and what kind of a momentum shift do you feel this is for Denny's team?
J.D. GIBBS: On the first one, what you see, Kyle is right, on the bigger tracks, he's really been able to help Denny out. Denny has been able to help Kyle out on the short tracks. When you watch both those guys invest in Joey, that's where you really see it. Joey is actually being able to help them out a little bit.
It's the whole teammate role, which I think our guys do a real good job at. It's not easy.
For Denny and Mike and the whole crew, they're fairly quiet guys, they know they're good. Until you see it consistently, the sport really is kind of 'what have you done for me lately' type sport. For those guys to have that run tonight, they're really good. They practiced well. They raced well. I think overall that was a big encouragement. I hope you see that on down the road pay off and be fruitful.
Q. Kyle, the information that Denny shared with you last year, did you use it during this race tonight? How did it feel for you, knowing if you did, that's the edge it gave you to win against your own teammate?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, I used the information. I kind of used it all throughout the race a little bit. But there at the end, it kind of came down to a fuel strategy, too, where you were mostly saving fuel. That's what it was all about essentially.
The thing was just being able to use that to our advantage a little bit at the end of the race was cool. The way that we could beat our teammate and be able -- I've been the dominant force in the spring, he's been the dominant force whether it's spring or fall. When you're able to beat guys that are always good at a particular racetrack, it seems to bode well for you. It would be no different than me being able to beat Denny Hamlin at Martinsville. The guy is just so good there.
When you're able to beat guys that are always good at a particular racetrack, it seems to bode well for you.
It would be no different than anybody trying to beat me at Bristol. There's some particular racetracks drivers run really well at. When you can overexcel those guys, it makes you feel good.
Q. Dave, with this new system with two wins, is that enough or is there a point where two or more wins will be enough that you can start thinking about the Chase?
DAVE ROGERS: I think that's too hard to tell. Circumstances, you know. We've had some good runs and weren't able to finish the race because of wrecks or blown motors. It's way too early to worry about points. We're going to go to every racetrack and go as fast as we can and try to lead as many laps and win as many races as we can. If we do well, we'll be in the Chase. That's our approach.
Q. A long time running joke in the press box is that inevitable Victory Lane question on the day before, What did you learn tonight that will help you tomorrow? This is sort of unique because not only did you not win the Nationwide or Truck race, but you did not compete in it. I wondered, did you think about that at all? It had no effect? Did your day feel just a little different going into a race? What was the impact of not running the Nationwide race?
KYLE BUSCH: I was bored really, really bad. I think I drove Dave into kicking me out of the hauler yesterday because I was around too long (laughter).
It was killer, man. It was painful. I'm telling you. I didn't have anything to do. I was kind of lost. I kept looking around. Man, what's next on my schedule? Where am I supposed to be right now? I swore I was forgetting something.
It was an easy day yesterday. Today, these night races, you have all day to do nothing. For not racing a Nationwide race, then having all day to do nothing, you're about ready to blow open the motorhome door and do something whether it's a go-kart or whatever. Fortunately there wasn't anything around in the coach lot that I could jump on.
Q. Kyle, this weekend started with you having a fuel pickup problem, ended with you running out of gas during your burnout. How much fuel did you have to save and how were you able to do it working traffic?
KYLE BUSCH: It was important to save fuel there under the cautions. Fortunately we had that long caution flag. That probably saved us. If we didn't have that, most likely we would have went to the end but probably come up a little bit short.
Just thankfully it played out the way that it played out and I saved just enough. I thought I was going to be better than that. I thought we were going to have -- we did make it to the end, so you can say you made it to the end. That's good enough, right? I didn't expect to run out on my way back to the winner's circle, whatever.
DAVE ROGERS: I did.
KYLE BUSCH: I'm glad it was that close, I could save that much. I felt like I was doing a decent job at it, but I'm no Carl Edwards, that's for sure.
If you could get to the bottom, the bottom was the way to be.
Q. Kyle, can you describe that move on the final restart when you went on the outside going into turn one. You took it way high up, passed a ton of cars.
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, I kind of forgot. I think the 88 spun his tires, started making his way to the bottom of the track a little bit. It seemed like the bottom. If you could get to the bottom, the bottom was the way to be. He was trying to make his way to the bottom. I think somebody stuck his nose in there and made it three-wide. I'm going to have to leave some room I don't get hit. Put it up the top, tried to get a good run off of turn two so I the could get ahead of those guys so it would double file out, racing whoever was on my inside there, I think it was the 16. Chased down the 31 and passed the 31 on the outside, too.
Once you commit yourself to where you're going, you pretty much got to stick with your gut, do what you got to do to get through there. I think it's been the past couple times here I've been able to do that. I think last year I passed Jeff on the outside to win the race on a restart.
It's a product of this racetrack. Sometimes you just hope it sticks.
Q. You fall back to eighth, the cautions are coming out. You don't know what's ahead of you at that point.
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, it was really weird there for a little while, the way the strategies were working out with everybody. There was a point where we had 12 laps on our tires, we stayed out. Another caution, we had 18 laps on our tires, we decided to pit. Some guys pitted before us, they're ahead. It got a little awkward the way it was shifting back and forth.
We were leading at one deal, then we were back in sixth at another 'cause we got shuffled back on the outside because a couple guys were on older tires. Then we finally pitted. That kind of forced back a little ways, about 10th or so. We just had to work our way through.
You had to be patiently aggressive, that's for sure. You definitely had to make sure that you stuck your nose in areas where people or spotters would say that you were there, and in other areas you had to back out a little bit knowing those guys were going to either drift out to the wall or they were loose, they needed all the racetrack they could get. You had to bide your time as much as you could yet put your nose in there when you needed to.
Q. J.D., last week you had rumors and questions about possible crew chief swaps. Here you are, taking first and second, Joey 11th. What does this say about the organization as a whole?
J.D. GIBBS: Yeah, you know, it was frustrating in a way. At times kind of comical. I think the website was Captain Thunder. I didn't know that website. C'mon, listen to that for your information, we're in trouble (laughter).
KYLE BUSCH: That's probably Gluck's site. Can you imagine Jeff running around here with a little cape?
It's one of those things that when you're running not as well as you're used to, people are used to seeing you up front, they start asking questions...
J.D. GIBBS: That wasn't that big a deal. I think anytime, we haven't been running like we're used to running, so that's a concern. It was nice to put it to bed. Our guys did get a kick out of it. It's one of those things that when you're running not as well as you're used to, people are used to seeing you up front, they start asking questions, leap to crazy conclusions.
For us, it was nice tonight to have a good race all the way around for all our teams.
KYLE BUSCH: The best part of that crew chief swap is Joe called me and said, I guess you heard the news, but I haven't been able to tell you myself, about the crew chief swap.
I'm like, are you joking? Did it happen?
Then he started laughing and said, I'm just kidding with you. I was wondering whose crew chiefs got swapped. I didn't know (laughter).
Q. Kyle, not only did you race Friday, I assume you still had to deal with the lingering bad taste of what happened Thursday night. Did that still sting at all? Where do you feel are the mile-and-a-half tracks where you helped Denny the most?
KYLE BUSCH: Thursday still stings 'cause everybody was making such a big deal about Denny going for the triple here, and I already did it. Sorry (laughter). I won the triple with Denny Hamlin's charity race, the Cup race. I love racing Denny's race, it's fun. It's for a great cause. I wish I could have run that race. Especially with the partners we had on there with D & H Marketing, they were putting up $5,000 to the Kyle Busch Foundation, if I was able to win. I was disappointed we missed out on that opportunity.
But, you know, put that aside and you move forward. It was a bummer deal. I think it cost J.D. a little bit of money because now he has to build me a car for next year so I can run my own out of Joe Gibbs Racing.
I don't know how I've helped Denny really. I think it was the Charlotte test that it really kind of came to that really able to talk about some different things, how you try to run the mile-and-a-half stuff versus a typical short track or even Pocono. I need to talk to Denny about Pocono, that reminds me. I'm still not very good there.
The best thing about the mile-and-a-half stuff is he was able to get his cars better and kind of run our setups a little bit, then he asked me about how to drive it, and then, boom, he took off. He really found some speed there, was able to make it work.
It's communication, it's talking. It's not necessarily something in particular I told him to do like, Brake here, that's going to help you. Doesn't work like that. You just got to talk through ideas.
Q. After qualifying 20th, did you think you had a good shot at the win?
KYLE BUSCH: I was a little disappointed with qualifying 20th. I thought we had a little bit more speed than that in the car. To me, I guess I just have to forget about qualifying here. I've won here from 32nd or 36th or whatever. I've also won here from the pole.
That pole, by the way, that was a fluke lap. I don't know how I did that. Somehow I pulled one out and got a pole here.
The thing is, just being able to lay down a solid lap. I told Dave. We were doing qualifying lap. He was like, What else do you need? Dude, does it really matter? Just get the racecar right and we'll go race 'em. Don't worry about the car too much.
Q. After Kevin Harvick won his second race at Martinsville, he thought the new wild card system, two wins pretty much assures you of being in the Chase. Do you feel that way getting your second victory tonight that you locked yourself into a Chase position right now?
KYLE BUSCH: Two's probably going to be borderline. I think if you get three, you can probably guarantee yourself a spot. If you get four, yeah, you locked yourself in. I feel like he's probably pretty certain there.
I think two is kind of borderline. Right now if Harvick and I fall out of the top 10, we're going to use the two up. There's 10 or 12 until the cut off.
KERRY THARP: 18.
KYLE BUSCH: Thank you. Long ways to go. Plenty of time. Plenty more wins out there for somebody to get.
Q. Seems with this new format, a guy that wins a lot of races can lock himself in?
KYLE BUSCH: That's true. No doubt about that. I guess that was kind of the point. 2009, I think I had four wins and missed the Chase by eight points or something like that. That would have locked us in. I think same thing with McMurray last year, he had three or four, missed just barely. He would have locked himself in, too.
That's kind of the idea I guess NASCAR was looking for.
Q. Kyle, obviously Denny is still probably considered a guy who could get in the Chase, be a championship contender. Is it important to beat him at a track where he's so good?
KYLE BUSCH: Yes and no. I mean, yeah, it's cool to beat anybody. Like I said before, to beat anybody that excels so good at a particular racetrack. For instance, whoever was able to beat me at Bristol or beating Denny Hamlin at Richmond or Pocono or something like that, Jimmie Johnson everywhere. It's good to pat yourself on the back in that way.
In the other respect, you know you're racing the best of the best every single week anyway. All you can do is try to make sure you're the best of that night and go into the next week trying to be the best that night again, try to set yourself up for another win if possible, keep it going.
It's a long season. You like to get as many as you can get. There's a few you let slip away that we've done this year, but I feel good with where we're at.
Q. J.D., aside from not having the courage to make Captain Thunder's dream come true, have you been concerned about the 11 at all or have you had faith they'll right that?
J.D. GIBBS: They have all the tools there, the guys there, had a great year last year. I think Mike and Denny, they're quiet, compared to Kyle. Not that he's loud... It's just a different personality.
I think they have faith in each other. I think over time, even when you know you're pretty good, you don't see it week after week, I think that wears on you. We've been through it with all of our drivers over the years. So I think to have a good run at a place where you should run well, I think that was encouraging. I think overall that gives them a little momentum. When people start asking questions, What's wrong, what's wrong? At some point, they stop and say, I don't know, is something wrong? Put that to bed, focus on the rest of the year, get in that Chase spot.
Q. You said to run well at a place they should run well. At Martinsville where they didn't run great, do you ever have any panic or concern?
J.D. GIBBS: There were a few odd circumstances at Martinsville. They were really good. Not one of the top two cars. Not like you went there and fell apart. A few things popped up there. That plays in the whole package of getting that confidence built back up.
These guys, really our business, you're judged week to week. You can't go off what you did last year, the year before. It's kind of a 'what have you done for me lately' business. That was encouraging for our guys.
Q. J.D., this is the fifth straight win here. Haven't seen this type of dominance here since Hendrick won 8 out of 10 in Martinsville. At the time Rick Hendrick said it's something that you enjoy. Do you enjoy it or do you come back here working to get back to Victory Lane wanting to be better here at the track?
... you think after being in this sport 20 years you have a better feel for it, but you really don't.
J.D. GIBBS: This is our 20th year in the sport. You figure after you've been in the sport this long, the races would get less stressful, you enjoy it more. It's almost the reverse. It's like tonight we had good cars, but the whole fuel thing. I don't know. I think we're good. But you really don't know.
It's probably a better question for Dave Rogers. I really feel like from our standpoint, it feeds the momentum for our team and our group there. It's just kind of one of those things. Again, you think after being in this sport 20 years you have a better feel for it, but you really don't. I think we do celebrate and enjoy the wins. Part of the downside to winning a lot is you're supposed to win a lot.
You going to add to that?
KYLE BUSCH: Not really.
J.D. GIBBS: I think that's one of those things. We talked about it actually a couple years ago. Make sure you really enjoy those victories and celebrate 'em. So lunch is on Kyle this week for the guys, sirloin.
Q. Kyle, Denny said he was ecstatic that he was able to finish second tonight. How much truth do you think was in that statement? How much do you think he wanted to get a sweep?
KYLE BUSCH: There's no doubt he wanted a sweep, for sure. Looking back at how their season's kind of gone so far, I bet you he's telling the truth.
For some reason, they've struggled and they haven't figured out exactly why. They come to a place where they feel comfortable, like Martinsville. They ran fine at Martinsville. They kind of got off on strategy a little bit, didn't finish very well. Then here, he typically always runs really well, has a good chance of being able to win or finish right up there in the top five.
Looking back on how they've done so far this year, things just haven't quite gone their way, they finally had a weekend and race night, smooth sailing. I'm sure he wanted to win, but I would believe he was happy to get out of here and get back some momentum on their side.
Q. J.D., you talked earlier about teamwork. How hard is it to get three young guys to realize that working together is going to be best for all of them? Was there some sort of 'Eureka' moment when they realized this actually would work?
J.D. GIBBS: I have to be honest, I think for us we went through it originally I think with Bobby Labonte and Tony Stewart. Tony is the new guy, Bobby had been there for a while. What we learned through the process, the guys, as much as they want to win, you're your own team. They all realize that if I help Denny, Denny in turn is going to help me, then we can help Joey. It's kind of one of those things when you give and buy into the concept that, Hey, we are a team, we do help each other out, I think ideally you want to race each other for every win, the three of our guys up front at the end of the race. We can live with that outcome, racing each other for the victory. What you don't want to do is have other guys beating you, you in-house not getting along or communicating.
I think our guys do a good job. Selfishly they know if they help their teammate out in the long run it's going to help them out. I think our guys do a good job of that communication, which isn't easy. Between Kyle and Denny and Joey, I think it's fun to watch them grow. Even though they're different individuals and personalities, really watch them invest in each other.
Yeah, I think Kyle and I are definitely a lot closer than we were last year.
Q. Dave, you wished Kyle a happy birthday. Talk about how your relationship has grown since the two of you joined forces together.
DAVE ROGERS: Yeah, I think Kyle and I are definitely a lot closer than we were last year. I texted him this week. I think he thinks I was joking. We didn't race last weekend. I found myself actually missing him. My buddy hasn't called me in a while here. He was Nationwide racing at Nashville.
I just enjoy hanging out with Kyle, enjoy spending time with him. Monday is his birthday. I'm excited to have an early happy birthday present. That's all he gets, though.
KYLE BUSCH: That's all I need. I don't need any more. Trust me.
Q. Jeff Gordon hit the wall pretty hard where there was no SAFER barrier. Shouldn't you be sharper on some of these places and stand up and say, Why isn't there a SAFER barrier there? Is that something you drivers should be more proactive on?
KYLE BUSCH: You know what's funny? I guess it's not funny. Jeff has been the guy to find it at every single racetrack we have. I hate it for the guy, I really do. I'm sure he'll raise his hand and ask the question as to why we don't have SAFER barriers here.
It's all a money thing, man. If we could sell these places out every single time we go there, obviously the racetracks would have a little bit more revenue to make better improvements to some of the tracks. That's what it boils to sometimes.
You look at Daytona or Talladega, they are SAFER barriers, but not everywhere. We wreck more on the straightaways than we do in the turns. You wonder to yourself, We don't need any more racing room, why don't you have a SAFER barrier here? It's all about dollars.
KERRY THARP: J.D., Kyle, Dave, congratulations. We'll see you at Darlington.