Loudon: GM top three post-race interview


July 17, 2005

KYLE BUSCH, NO. 5 KELLOGG'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO - Finished 4th: (ON A TAP WITH GREG BIFFLE) "It was just good hard racing. I got up in the corner and gave him some room. He got in the corner there and slid up into my door and we ended up hitting. He knocked me up the race track a little bit. Coming down the front straightaway, I'm not normally a dirty racer, but I decided to be that time. I didn't think Biffle raced me as clean as I wanted to be raced. I hit him in his door back going down the front straight. I wanted to make sure it was over and done with there before we got on any more weeks. He's going for a championship here and I don't want to screw him up. I'm trying to get in the top 15 and don't want to screw myself up either. Everything is all good and clear now."

BOBBY LABONTE, NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO - Finished 3rd: (ON A TOP THREE RUN) "We loaded off the truck Friday and felt like we were pretty good with the race car. The practice sessions were good. We qualified 10th and felt like we had a problem on the restarts there. We were too loose. The No. 20, the No. 5 and the No. 97 were pretty good at that point in time. It was hard to get caught back up. I apologized to Kurt (Busch) a while ago. Probably the highlight in the films tonight was when I spun him out. I didn't mean to. I made him work hard all day to get back to second, I guess."

"It was a great run for us. We've had a lot of stuff going on all year that we couldn't control. When we lost the alternator, I figured with 100 laps to go, I figured I wouldn't finish because I figured something would happen. Luckily we didn't have a problem. Third was good for points and we've gained a lot of momentum."

KYLE BUSCH: (ON RACING AGAINST HIS BROTHER, KURT BUSCH) "It was all good when I was in front of him. And then he blew by me on the outside and went by Tony Stewart too. Kurt had a real strong car on the restarts. We were just talking about that. I knew we had a good car on the restarts. Everybody, I think, was just a little bit loose. But ours would seem to come to and hold in. There on the last run, I just couldn't hang with anybody. I just got way too loose. We over adjusted the car a little bit and fell back."

BOBBY LABONTE: (HOW MUCH PRIDE WAS INVOLVED THIS RUN?) "The big thing is for the guys who work on the car week in and week out and keeping their head up when we have bad finishes or bad runs. Having a positive attitude is a big thing. We've had good cars - not cars to win, of course, but cars that were competitive if we would have had track position. With the wrecks, blown motors and my mistakes, that's the first half of the year. And then we threw in a couple of races where we actually finished pretty decent."

"A lot of guys have a lot on us as far as the season and getting better. We got a late start because of all that. But I'm proud of all the guys. It's a lot of hard work. It's not easy to win one of these. Tony Stewart has won three of the last four, but trust me, it's not easy. I finished third today but our whole team finished third today. In our case, we haven't been up here (media center) this season. The fact that our guys can hold their heads up high and get ready for next week and hopefully try to build and have some momentum is good."

(ON THE FIRST HALF OF THE SEASON AND THE FRIDAY RUMORS..DOES A THIRD PLACE FINISH HELP TODAY?) "Like I said before on Friday, it's amazing how great the media is for you 90 percent of the time and that 10 percent that I had on Friday disrupts the race team pretty bad. I've been here before - I think in 1998 in the paper at home - it read that I was leaving the race team. I can understand nowadays people say that, but that wasn't even close to the truth then. I was at the shop on Monday morning at 7am talking to the guys that work there. Of course there were only 65 of us at the time - telling them that wasn't the truth. It disrupted the race team then because I could tell a big difference in the race team then. It felt a little bit weird. But (crew chief) Steve (Addington) and I all know. We're trying to make a better race team out of it. We're in a performance-based industry. If you don't perform, you look like you need to be out of there or it looks like you need to be out of there. You try to make it better. I've got strong ties at Joe Gibbs Racing so I'm not worried about that. I just want to run good. There is no truth to the rumor. Running good today is good for our race team. I didn't get up on the radio any time that I know of and say, 'Guess what, I'm going to leave.' But somebody had to think that and instead of putting it in the paper that it's my opinion only that that's what they're going to write. And they write something that says hey, this is what I think is the truth because I don't know anything, but I'm going to write it."

(WITH THE BUSCH FINISHES AND THE PERFORMANCES TODAY, IS THAT SOMETHING THAT THE GIBBS HAS FIGURED OUT ABOUT THIS TRACK?) "I know that Tony tested up here and was happy with the car. We went to Chicago and ran better with some stuff that we learned. We went to Indy and tested. We ran better. The first part of the season with the Busch teams being new, sometimes it takes a little longer than two weeks to get going. I think those guys have been getting better every week. They've been showing that. It's a little bit of a combination of yeah, the race track was good for Joe Gibbs Racing this weekend. I'm sure we shared a lot of information. But I'm sure those teams are getting better just like we're getting better too."

TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: (YOU MUST BE FEELING REALLY GOOD ABOUT THREE WINS IN THE PAST FOUR WEEKS) "I'm wet. Wet and tired (laughs). Let's get the first question over with. Yes, it wore me out climbing up the fence again today. And yes I'm still too old and still too fat to be doing it. I'm going to have to hire a trainer because I do plan on winning some more races this year. So I'm not going to not do that. So I'm going to have to get a trainer so I feel better after I get up there."

(WHAT WAS SO GOOD ABOUT YOUR CAR AND PASSING?) "It was weird. At the beginning of the race, we could pass cars at the front of a run. In the middle and latter stages of the race, the guys got their cars better and it got to where our car really wasn't that strong and for six or seven laps it would take that long for it to get a lot of grip and lock down. But early in the race, we could get by guys until they got their cars better. As the day went on, obviously we had a lot of good track position and that helped us. Kyle Busch was able to stay with us longer on every restart. Then at the end of the day both of the Busch (brothers) - the shrub and the bigger busch - were both good enough. Kyle was almost good enough to get by and Kurt got by. So it was in that six or seven lap window where we just didn't have as much grip as we needed. Once the tires came in we ran Kurt back down and got by."

(ON KNOWING HOW TO TEST AND GETTING SOMETHING SPECIAL OUT OF A TEST) "I don't really want to know what we're changing. When you have test drivers test something for you, most of the really good about testing will not tell the drivers what they are changing unless there is really something drastic. The reason you don't do that is that because if the driver knows what the change is supposed to do it kind of taints their information and can lean them to give their comments about what the car should have done in that direction. So when we test I don't ask what we're doing. I give him the feedback and that's what works best for us. It seemed like whatever it was we were stumbling on in the test, we've worked off of that in Michigan. We came here and had a great two-day test. We had a lot of fun and really felt like we had a productive test. These last two tests have been the best we've had in two years."

(WERE YOU WORRIED ABOUT A LATE CAUTION) "I really wanted it to go green even when we got to those two packs of cars that were going to be lapped traffic. I felt confident that our car was driving good enough that I felt like I could actually pull away. But then as you got into the second pack you were running with faster cars and you're on old tires at that point and couldn't move all over the race track so I was a little worried about Kurt coming up to us again. But once we got clear, I was running my pace again and we were able to match him lap for lap or pulling away again."

(WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU FELT SUCH COHESIVENESS ABOUT YOUR CAREER?) "It was probably in '99 with this race team. Like I said early in the year, we're going back to basics with everything. There is so much pressure to perform. It's takes it's toll on all of us at some point along the line since '99. It's probably affected me more than anybody. It's affected me a bunch too and trickled down through the team. We all started doing this because we had fun doing it. This is what we signed up for - whether we like it or not or agree with everything that happens, that's been the single biggest change of the year. It wasn't personnel or equipment. It was just the attitude of our whole race team that's made the difference. We haven't reinvented the wheel, but we did reinvent our attitudes."

(ON TESTING AT LOUDON THAT HELPED ALL OF GIBBS RACING) "We just learned some stuff that gave the car really good balance and some stuff that Zippy has wanted to try for a while but hasn't had the opportunity until we had a two-day test. It wasn't the same package we ran here last year. I'm really proud of Zippy. He's not an engineer. He doesn't have an engineering degree. But he's very smart and can work with the engineers. He knows how to put practical use to their ideas in figuring out what's going to work."

(DID YOU GIVE CLIMBING THE FENCE AGAIN A SECOND THOUGHT WHEN YOU PULLED UP TO IT?) "Did you hear them when I got out? As soon as my feet hit the ground they went crazy because they knew what was coming. The cool thing was that it didn't matter whether they had Jeff Gordon hats on or Rusty Wallace hats or Dale Jr. hats - they were all cheering. I think they know I'm doing it for them. I'm not climbing up there to photographers or the race team. There were a couple of scared flagmen up there the first time I climbed up there. They didn't know why I was climbing up there. They thought I was going to throw them off I guess. They were a little calmer this time when I got up there. It didn't matter whether they liked me or hated me, they were still cheering. That was my time to spend with those fans. If every time I get out of the car they get that excited, I don't care how tall that fence is. I'm probably going to fall and bust my butt before it's all over with but I'll keep trying. I'll keep trying to get over the top of them. I'm definitely going to get a trainer though. That liked to kill me. I thought I was going to die if I tried to climb. They said I could go down the steps and through the hole in the fence. I said thank you very much."

(ON BEING STRONG AGAIN AT TRACKS HE WAS STRONG BEFORE) "I think you look at our finishes at some of these places I think you're right. It's places I've obviously always liked. It's just finding the current package is to go fast at them. The way we ran at Chicago and Michigan and here today.we're running at the Brickyard in a couple of weeks - a place that's close to my heart. The way we're running these last couple of weeks, we've got as good a shot as we've ever had at winning that for the first time. We've got a test coming up Tuesday and I'll be excited all day there. Hopefully we'll learn enough stuff there and hopefully we can come back and get a win."

(HOW DID IT FEEL TO SEE BOBBY LABONTE FINISH THIRD AND TO CARRY THE FLAG FOR ALL OF JOE GIBBS RACING?) "It was awesome. Bobby switched his radio to my channel and congratulated me. I asked him where he finished because I couldn't see and he said he finished third, which was the best news all day. It's finally showing that it's not just one of us that can do it. It shows the package we brought was solid. Bobby and I have two totally different driving styles and so that felt good for both of us to make this package work. On Monday, the morale for the race shop will be at an all-time high for the year."

(ON REINVENTING THE TEAM ATTITUDE) "We had a team meeting and it wasn't with Zippy. It was me and the guys who go on the road. Basically everybody said what was on their minds - things that I was doing that they didn't like. It's hard a lot of times when you're in a position that I'm in. You don't realize how it affects other guys. It really opened my eyes and how it affected everybody on the race team. That meeting was in the fall of last year."

(DO YOU FEEL A LOT OF CONFIDENCE RIGHT NOW?) "Yeah, I have a lot of confidence right now. I feel like we legitimately deserve to be the Roush and Hendrick category now. In the past, a year or two ago, I probably would have flipped out when Busch got by me. But I was the one who called Zippy and said not to get worked up about this and that it would come to us in a couple of laps. And it did. I don't know if you want to call it confidence."

(ON HIS DESIRE TO WIN THE BRICKYARD) "It hasn't changed. If I could give away my championship and just get one win at Indy, I would do it in a heartbeat. Last year we led a lot of laps and just fell off the pace at the end there. I don't care if I lead one lap at Indy - just as long as it's the right one. I have a lot to do on Monday and I'll be running around. But Zippy said to be ready to test hard all day on Tuesday and I'll be ready. That's how much it means to me."

"It couldn't be better. To have three wins, a second, and a fifth is great. We've secured ourselves a good spot in the top ten. We want to go to Pocono and not make mistakes. We want to keep our momentum going. It's important to maintain it now."

(WHAT HAS MADE THE DIFFERENCE IN YOUR TEAM OF LATE?) "You can go back and look at the beginning of the year and you might say it was half full or half empty. We went back and looked at Daytona and Vegas and Pocono and Dover and we really ran well at most of those tracks. We didn't do a good job of closing the deal. If you go back and look, I think we've led more laps and won more races and have more top fives and top 10's. Jimmie Johnson and Greg Biffle took off at such a strong start. We weren't doing what we were capable of. I just hope we can continue."

(ON THE GIBBS TEAMS TESTS AND HOW THEY BENEFITTED) "We elected to come up here and test. We do have to come back here in a couple of months for the first race in the Chase. We had a really two-day test. Anytime you can come here and run as good as we tested, you give that to your teammates for a good starting point. I was hoping for a one-two finish. We used to be close in the past. Those were the fun days and I hope we can Joe Gibbs Racing back to those days."

(WHY HAS TONY STEWART RUN WELL AT NHIS) "It's a race track you've really got to like. It's a little bit of a challenge to set it up and to have a driver who can maintain composure all day and just be smooth. It's a place that if you try harder, sometimes you go slower. You've just got to let the car do what it needs to do lap after lap. That's one thing Tony is really good at."

(ON GOING TO POCONO NEXT WEEK) "We had a okay car at Pocono. We had three flats, but only one was similar to what everybody else was fighting but it happened with 18 to go and got us a lap down. If we didn't get that flat tire, I think we would have had a top 10."

(WHEN KURT BUSCH PASSED TONY STEWART, WHY WAS HE SO CONFIDENT?) "It just took a couple of laps for that car to come around and air pressures to come up. He had run hard enough and knew what he had with the race car. There was no reason to think it wouldn't come back to what it was."

(ON THEIR TESTING PROCEDURE) "We went back to what we used to do well at. We could go to a test and run okay. But as long as we got through our test plan, I could go home and look at it an analyze it and put things together. We struggled with that at the end of last year and the beginning of this year because our cars just didn't do what Tony needed them to do. So you were always racing the stopwatch. Now we just go and collect the data and learn. There are certain things you need to do to go back and look at it. We kind of got off that track. We were always just looking for that speed and that magic. Now we just took a step back and found a little success with it."

(ON CATCHING UP WITH ROUSH AND HENDRICK) "Let's just keep it going the way it's going. They're not stopping. Their cars ran well today; we just ran a little better. I'd say that we've made improvements on our cars and our pit stops and in every area. That's what's important."

-gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart , Greg Biffle , Kyle Busch
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing