KYLE BUSCH: Driver of the No. 18 car in 2008 J.D. GIBBS: President of Joe Gibbs Racing NORM MILLER: Chairman of Interstate Batteries MIKE ARNING: Moderator, Vice President of True Speed Communication MIKE ARNING: "On behalf of...
KYLE BUSCH: Driver of the No. 18 car in 2008
J.D. GIBBS: President of Joe Gibbs Racing
NORM MILLER: Chairman of Interstate Batteries
MIKE ARNING: Moderator, Vice President of True Speed Communication
MIKE ARNING: "On behalf of everyone with Joe Gibbs Racing, I want to welcome you and thank you for your attendance in today's press conference. I'd like to introduce J.D. Gibbs, Norm Miller, chairman of Interstate Batteries, and our No. 1 draft pick for the No. 18 car beginning in 2008.
"J.D., now you have your chance to sign a No. 1 draft pick. Present Kyle with his jersey now that he's joining Joe Gibbs Racing. Joe (Gibbs, owner of Joe Gibbs Racing), of course, couldn't be here. He's well-entrenched in football. Kyle, he sent you a message. Here it is on the video screen."
MIKE ARNING: "J.D. It's obviously, a big day for Joe Gibbs Racing, but a big day for you."
J.D. GIBBS: "Yeah, I think it is. For everyone at JGR, it's a special moment for us. We had a chance to introduce Kyle to the team guys earlier. Obviously, they're extremely excited.
"I think what encourages our guys, really Kyle had a lot of great opportunities. He could have gone to almost any team he wanted to that made offers, trying to get him on board. So what I told our guys is that's a huge compliment to them, to the guys that have been here, some of them 16 years, to Norm, Interstate. That means a lot to our guys to know Kyle had all these options, yet chose our guys to really put him in cars that can win races and win championships.
"The other thing I want to say is I leaned a lot from Denny (Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet) and Tony (Stewart, driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet) during this process. I didn't know Kyle real well. I got a chance to spend some time with him. Both Denny and Tony said, 'Look, I'm telling you, off the track and on the track, there's no one that has the talent this guy has.' And we think bringing him on board really gives us three guys that can win week in, week out, and really I think they were really encouraged. To hear that meant a lot to me because they really kind of dictate our future.
"I will say getting to know Kyle really here for us is kind of special. He's got a great sense of humor. He's sharp. I think he's really passionate about what he does. He does really remind me a lot of Tony, which is kind of frightening, but I think at the same time we have a great relationship with Tony and we think we'll have the same thing for Kyle.
"We want this to be Kyle's home for the rest of his career. He's only 22 years old. So we think we've got a real special gift here in Kyle. I think it will mean a lot to our guys in the future of JGR."
MIKE ARNING: "Kyle, emulating what J.D. just said, obviously it's great to have your future set with a competitive race team. Tell us why Joe Gibbs Racing is the place you wanted to call home."
KYLE BUSCH: "Well, I think it has a lot to do with people and charisma and chemistry and everything like that. Even though I haven't had the opportunity to work with the team guys, or many of the employees here at JGR, I feel as though I've got a strong field that can stand behind me and that we can work with and look forward to being able to have plenty of success with on the race track.
"J.D., Joe, their hospitality they've given me, everything they've done for me, has just been awesome. Norm, I met him a few years ago. Being part of the 18 with Interstate Batteries on board, I'm looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to getting out there in 2008, trying to win some races, contend for some championships.
"Ultimately, like J.D. said, hopefully I'll be here for the rest of my career. It's definitely something that's been worthwhile, been waiting for, been trying to decide on. But it was an easy decision when looking at all the prospects and looking at all the decision-making properties that basically had to all sit down and put in front of you.
"I'm really looking forward to 2008, hopefully being able to build a strong bond with Joe Gibbs Racing, and being able to contend for championships."
MIKE ARNING: "Norm Miller, chairman of Interstate Batteries, you've been a part of Joe Gibbs Racing - so has Interstate Batteries - since they opened up their doors 16 years ago. Talk about the latest chapter with the No. 18 car."
NORM MILLER: "Well, we are really excited about the whole thing. When we started talking with J.D. about the possibility of getting Kyle, and going over his record, just looking back and watching the progress that you've made through these years, we've been terribly excited, I'm telling you. We were hoping so very much, that you would make that decision to choose JGR. Then, of course that Interstate, we'd get to ride in on that.
"Going back for me, there's a lot of memories. We got in this thing in 1992 with Joe. We were the first logo on the door out there. So it's been just a phenomenal ride. We won a lot of races. I was on the airplane coming over here thinking about how we've won at Charlotte (N.C.), Talladega (Ala.), Daytona (Fla.), Indianapolis, Michigan, Pocono (Pa.). I can name 20 some odd races. And it's been a little dry lately. Our people - we have 300 distributors that have been tremendously excited about the racing history and all that we've had. So, they're beside themselves to have a chance to get back up front again, and run up front.
"With our company, we need to run up front for this to be a viable economic situation, if you will. So we're thrilled to see that. I looked at Kyle's record. Forty-five percent of his races, he's been in the top-10 since he's been racing in the NEXTEL Cup Series, so we're excited. We're hoping to take as big a bite as we can get out of this thing and go out here and see that checkered flag shake again on the green car at some of these tracks.
KYLE BUSCH: "That's right."
MIKE ARNING: "Now we'll open it up to questions from our media."
Q: Kyle, obviously the question that we all want to know is the process. How difficult, how many people did you talk to, and what was sort of the process did you go through? What was the tipping point that led you to this decision?
KYLE BUSCH: "Well, you know, it was a great decision-making process that I was able to go through, a great learning experience as well, being able to sit down with the various owners, spend time with them, get to know them, build a friendly relationship with them all.
'I think we went about it in the right way where everybody was pleased with the way it went down. I'm sure they were a little disappointed when I led into my phone calls a couple Mondays ago and my decision in who it was going to be.
"But, you know, I felt like for myself, for the time in my career, I made the right decision. You know, it was just all about laying all the cards out there, seeing what all the possibilities were, seeing who the teammates were going to be, who the team members were going to be, the crew chiefs, stuff like that.
"I feel like at JGR, with everything that they've got going on here, they've got a great track record and also one that's second to none with the PR staff and everybody else that works here. It just felt right. It was a tough decision, but in the end I feel like I made the right one and I feel like it was an easy one."
Q: Can you outline how much different Hendrick is to Joe Gibbs, the drivers, the teams? Were you ever really serious about going to Dale Earnhardt, Inc. (DEI)?
KYLE BUSCH: "I think to the first part of it about the differences between the drivers, I think as J.D. led into a little bit, Tony and I have a lot of similarities. That is a scary thing. But when you look at it, for who we are off the race track, I think it makes a lot of sense in why we're here, why we're together. Denny and I are great friends on the race track as well as more so off the racetrack. So I felt like that was going to be a great fit.
"Jeff (Gordon) and Jimmie (Johnson), I've got a lot of respect for those guys. Obviously they're both champions in their own right - Jeff a four- time, Jimmie just last year. There's great equipment over there. There's great equipment over here.
"You know, I don't feel like I took a step back one bit. I feel like I'm actually right where I left. I feel like I will be able to go out there, contend week in and week out, get Norm here back to seeing that checkered flag again hopefully and being able to just put it on them next year.
"DEI, there was the opportunity to go there. I felt very strongly about DEI as well as here at Joe Gibbs Racing. What set me apart, honestly, they were so similar, it was really a hard decision. That's what it came down to in the end was DEI and here.
"With the support from Joe and J.D., I just felt maybe a little bit more at home. But, you know, DEI's got a great reputation over there, too. They've been coming on real strong here in the middle part of the season. Competition was definitely a tough side to look at. But I feel like in the end, it's the right decision."
Q: J.D., you joked twice now that Kyle and Tony are frighteningly similar. What do you do with Tony to keep him in line and can you do the same things with Kyle in that sense?
J.D. GIBBS: "I missed something. Do we actually keep Tony in line? (Laughter.)
"No, I think in all seriousness, here is what I know. As a race team, first and foremost, you've got to win races. You've got to go fast. You have to have a chance to win those championships. If you don't do that, you don't put yourself in that position, you won't have sponsors, you'll lose team guys, you won't be here very long. So for us, first and foremost, NFL and other sports, you have to perform on the track. Clearly Kyle does that, as well as Tony, as well as Denny.
"I think the second thing that I would say is Tony, for as intense and passionate as he is around the race track, I think a lot of people more and more so, don't see him off the track, all the stuff he does, his heart, the way he really cares about other people, the kids, the people he works with. I think I see a lot of that same thing in Kyle. Very passionate on the track, but really off the track, a good sense of humor, quick wit and I think will bond well with our guys and also is able to give back a lot to the community.
"I think that's kind of where I see him and Tony. Really I think both those guys, as well as Denny, really know at the end of the day how much their team guys sacrifice. I think those guys are tight. I think we'll have the same thing with Kyle."
Q: J.D., you've talked about this, a lot of teams would shy away from putting these three big personalities, strong-willed individuals on the same lineup. What makes you, Joe, this organization, able to massage it and keep it all together?
J.D. GIBBS: "I would disagree with you somewhat. I think if you offered Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch to most guys out there, they'd do that at all costs to make that work. You're talking about three guys that can obviously perform on the track. Forget about the fact Kyle is 22 years old. Denny is young. Tony, he's our mentor but he has matured a lot. I think he's able to share some of the stuff he's learned along the way, what not to do, what to do.
"I think really for us, I think these guys put us in a great position as a team going forward. Everyone's asking about a fourth team. What does the fourth team look like? The way we are right now, I think if you want to do a fourth team in '09, that's great. If it's 2010, great. We're in no hurry. Right now if you do well with the teams you have. You have a lot of options.
"That's kind of our goal in bringing Kyle on board. You're going to have a lot of options to do other things from a sponsor standpoint and from a team- growth standpoint."
Continued in part 2