Phoenix: Kyle Busch, Alan Gustafson Friday media chat

BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH KYLE BUSCH AND ALAN GUSTAFSON, NO. 5 CARQUEST/KELLOGG'S IMPALA SS Kyle Busch and Alan Gustafson, No. 5 CARQUEST/Kellogg's Impala SS driver and crew chief, currently seventh in NASCAR Nextel Cup Series points, met with...

BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH KYLE BUSCH AND ALAN GUSTAFSON, NO. 5 CARQUEST/KELLOGG'S IMPALA SS

Kyle Busch and Alan Gustafson, No. 5 CARQUEST/Kellogg's Impala SS driver and crew chief, currently seventh in NASCAR Nextel Cup Series points, met with members of the media at PIR:

ON RUNNING IMPALA SS ON A ONE-MILE TRACK, THE BIGGEST TRACK SO FAR FOR THE NEW-GENERATION NASCAR RACE CAR:

KYLE BUSCH (KB): "It is going to be something new for all of us except Jeff Burton who did the Goodyear tire test out here. For us, it something where none of us haven't been on this big of a track with it yet. I haven't, our team hasn't but Hendrick Motorsports has when they went to the Milwaukee Mile when they were developing it. I am looking forward to it, it is a new task at hand, hopefully we have a pretty good piece where we can go out there and try to win."

ALAN GUSTAFSON (AG): "This is going to be the first race where aerodynamics is going to come in to play and something obviously we are all interested to see is the interaction between the cars in traffic as well as by themselves in clean air. Where Bristol and Martinsville were more mechanical grip race tracks, now the aero is going to play a bigger part of it and that will be neat to see. Phoenix has always facilitated good racing in the past, we just hope that trend continues."

ON WHAT HAPPENED AT TEXAS THAT RESULTED IN DALE EARNHARDT, JR. CLIMBING IN THE NO. 5 FOR THE LAST FEW LAPS:

KB: "As It has been stated, there was a bit of a miscommunication there. As I came in, I presumed that the car was finished, that (the damage) was too extensive to repair it. I could barely turn it; I couldn't even turn it to my own garage stall at all to the right. I took that as an indication we were done for the day. I went in to the hauler, changed my clothes and walked out. Never had a team member or anybody say further that we were going to try to go back out or anything. So we didn't talk with each other after the incident."

ON WHEN FOUND OUT THAT DALE EARNHARDT, JR. WAS IN THE CAR AND WILL THERE BE A CHANGE OF PROCEDURE IN THE FUTURE:

KB: "I heard on the radio broadcast that the No. 5 car was ready and they were looking for a driver and that Dale, Jr. was in the thing, so that is how I heard. I was on my way to the airport to get on the team plane in order to go back to Charlotte, NC, that is how I found out. We have something in place now to try and help us out that will make it easier with crash procedures. Alan has his crash procedures for him and the team guys built but there has never been one built where the driver is a part of that. We have some changes in place now."

ON FEELING IF HE LET TEAMMATES DOWN AND ON WHAT HE LEARNED:

KB: "No, I don't feel like I let my teammates down and they tell me that I didn't let them down. You know, there were two really hard hits I took last weekend. I was pretty beat up and pretty sore. That was another reason that facilitated me to pack it up early and say let's go home. But, we have talked about it as a team and we see it as a non-issue. We are looking forward to this weekend Phoenix and keep the streak alive with the COT for Hendrick Motorsports.

"The biggest thing I learned was there has to be more communication not only from the team to me but from myself. I didn't go to the team and ask if we were going to get back out. That is partially my problem, but we want to make sure we have it straightened out for the future."

ON HEARING ANYTHING ABOUT THE CAR GETTING BACK OUT ON THE RACE TRACK AND ON IT HE HAS SPOKEN WITH DALE, JR.:

KB: "Negative. I never heard anything about the car getting back on the race track. When I got out of the car, I was disconnected from radio communications with the team. They were all so busy working on the race car that nobody came in to the hauler to inform me so I just assumed. But my assumptions were wrong.

"I tried calling Dale, Jr. this week, but I had the wrong cell phone number. I got somebody else on the phone who didn't speak very good English. I must have an old cell phone number. I came in here this morning to play the roll of team owner with my West Series program team, but I didn't think that 9:00 a.m. was Dale, Jr.'s up time yet so I didn't want to knock on his door. We will let him get his beauty rest."

ON FEELINGS ABOUT IMPALA SS NOW AFTER TWO RACES: "Kenny Wallace said all he ever heard about were people complaining about the old car and how it is tight and how there doesn't seem to be much difference between the cars, they both won't turn. But at least we can get the car we have been running to turn, we can make it to where it will be free through the corner and it will be handling pretty well. With the COT, we keep struggling with a tight condition and it just won't turn. Everybody is pretty much fighting the same thing. It is just who can get it the best. I haven't heard anybody say they have been able to get it to turn in the center and have good drive off like we can with the current car.

"For me, it is still a hindrance to get it to drive the way I want it to drive. But that is why Alan and the engineers get paid to do what they do to try and make it better and I get paid to do what I do."

ON ACCIDENT THAT TOOK HIM OUT OF TEXAS:

KB: "There was a visibility problem and I couldn't get slowed down quick enough. If you go back, no one has rewound the tape back far enough, Dale Jr., went in to turn three and loose in the center of turns three and four so he had to check up, so he was probably about 10 miles-an-hour slower than I was going through the center of the corner. When he got loose, just right after that is when we saw Tony (Stewart) spinning and he was already 10 mph slower than me so he had a head start on it and was already on the brakes. I was off the gas and just kind of rolling through there.

"I have spun out at Texas twice like that on the front straight away like that and both times I have gone up and hit the outside wall so I was aiming for the infield. But when I couldn't see anymore because the whole track was filled with smoke from Stewart going from the top to the inside, I didn't know where he was, or where he was going to go so I was on the binders once I saw him going across the race track, I was pushing on the brake pedal as hard as I could, trying to slow down as hard as I could, Earnhardt disappeared in to the smoke and I went in after him and just plowed him. It was a pretty heavy hit, I felt it through my knees and my hands so it definitely was a hard one."

ON CONFIDENCE LEVEL GOING IN TO TALLADEGA:

KB: "I am looking forward to it. Everybody ran that coil-bind setup last year and I think we are going to try it again this time. The track definitely has a lot of grip; it was really easy to drive there last fall. I would say it is probably going to be the same way because the track hasn't had time to age much. I think it is going to be good for us. I think with Hendrick Motorsports success on restrictor plate tracks of late, we probably are the favorites. I think with the way we have run in the past few plate races with Alan building some pretty great race cars, with all the restrictor plate programs we have at HMS, it has come a long way. I am pretty confident we can run up front and try to win the race."

ON MAKING A DIFFERENT DECISION NOW IF COULD DO OVER LAST WEEK AND WHAT WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY:

KB: "I probably would have at least gotten with a PR representative from the team or a team member or somebody to discuss my well-being and the car's well-being and trying to get back out on the race track."

ON WHAT HMS HAS DONE TO BE SO FAR AHEAD OF OTHER TEAMS WITH IMPALA SS PROGRAM:

AG - "There are a lot of things. We have done a lot of research on this thing for a long time. I believe I am correct in saying we were the first ones to build a roll cage on this car in the development stages of the car. We have a whole engineering group that is working on this car. As I have mentioned before, David Green does a lot of testing for us with the car, so we know where we are on the car. A lot of issue in improving the car is knowing where you are with the car and identifying the problem. Se we were able to go out early in the development stages of the car and identify the issues we were going to fight to get a jump-start on what we were going to have to do to fix them.

"Another thing is not emphasized enough is that part of the car is designed to do a good job emphasize the driver's talents as well as the team's talents with pit stops, pit crews and race strategy, etc. I think you are looking at HMS, you are looking at the best drivers in the series and the best pit crews in the series, and you are looking at some of the better strategies in the series and that has lended itself to our team. If you put Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Casey Mears in anything they are going to be good and if you lean anything a little bit more toward the driver, that is going to give us an advantage."

ON HAVING A BACK INJURY AND ICING IT AND HOW HE FELT MONDAY MORNING WHEN HE WOKE UP:

KB: "I had a few back issues during the race. For some reason that seat we have never been able to come to a conclusion of what it takes to fix it. There is a pressure point that it pushes on my lower back and it was very sore. I told Alan the problem so he could write it down so we would have a reminder of trying to fix it when we got back to the shop, and then I would get some ice afterwards so I could ice it down because it was so sore. I been sore all week pretty much from my neck down, but just because of two hard impacts in one weekend but getting over those and getting better.

"As far as somebody else getting in and driving my car, that was awfully nice of Junior to be there and be available, I guess I knocked him out. It was a tough break for both of us. But for the friendship we have and the friendship he and Pigeon have so he could come over and help us out and get us three more points, that was pretty cool."

ON WHAT WERE INITIAL FEELINGS WHEN HE FIRST HEARD SOMEONE ELSE WAS GETTING IN HIS CAR WHILE HE WAS AT THE AIRPORT AND WHAT WILL HE SAY TO DALE, JR.:

KB: "The first thing that came to mind was I didn't know they were fixing the car to go back out, I never got that news. The second thing was well, at least somebody was available so we could try and get more points. I am going to talk to Junior about is just basically thanks for taking the chance with everything and getting in the thing, not knowing what kind of car it was or what kind of shape it was in. I know these guys did a great job; I have been in crash repairs before and never had any kind of problem. I have always had all the confidence in the world to go back out there. I knew they were going to be fine and there was absolutely no worry about the car or the way it was going to drive. So just thank him for being there and giving us the opportunity to get more points."

ON BIGGEST CHALLENGE OF RACING IMPALA SS AT PIR:

AG: "The biggest challenge is going to be and I think it is a little bit of why Kyle has had issues with these cars, is they just don't make the downforce and don't have the grip our other cars have. You typically struggle with the differences in the corners here. It is hard to get the car consistent and have the car turn good consistently through the corner. So that is what we are going to focus on. The nighttime is always a variable here that you struggle with. Qualifying kind of shades from sun to early evening and you struggle with that during qualifying. Practicing during the day and racing at night is tough. You have to have a lot of adjustability with spring rubbers. We have to have a good game plan on where you are going to go based on where the balance of your car goes. You struggle with the normal things you struggle with here. You are going to struggle with getting your car to turn good in the center and then you struggle with getting the drive off the corner and these cars at the race tracks we have run previously have been worse for situations. We are geared up. We have done a lot of research, the guys have worked really hard on having a lot of options and different packages to try and that is what we are going to go after."

ON TRYING TO GET IN TOUCH WITH KYLE TO GET BACK OUT AND ON CONSIDERING PUTTING JIMMIE IN THE CAR:

AG: "Yes, what happened there in thinking we had a backup, you have to look at the whole situation. Our team as a whole, we had to pull out our backup car on Saturday afternoon, had to thrash to get it ready and start in 43rd spot. Came from 43rd to third at a race track we historically don't run very good at, had a very good race car. So when we got in to the incident, which in my opinion was through no fault of our own, that is a huge swing in emotions. Personally I was very frustrated at that point in time and was focused on fixing that race car and ripping as much sheet metal off to get my anger and frustration out as possible in that situation. Kyle, unfortunately had been in two bad incidents and probably wasn't necessarily in the greatest shape in the world. So we continued to fix that car, there is a couple things we do by the way when we fix a car, we put a crash nose on and we want to learn about it for the Chase and for the experience. There were a lot of different things going on and I guess basically what I am trying to say is when all that happened, there was a huge change in circumstances and emotions and we as a team didn't do the best job handling that. We should have went and communicated with Kyle, took five minutes to talk to Kyle and see where he was with all of it. That was our flaw.

"As far as Jimmie goes, how Dale, Jr., came up, I was speaking with our general manager Brian Watson who was tracking everyone's position on the race track and the points positions and said to Brian hey Jimmie just fell out, do you think we could get Jimmie in this car. Brian said, well I think he will do it but we are going to ask Jimmie to take three points away from Jimmie, which we didn't think was a very fair thing to do.

At that point in time, one of our team members overheard us and Junior was in close proximity and agreed to do it in quick fashion, so that is how all of that came transpired. Jimmie was the first choice obviously and will be in the future, but we didn't want, I actually think if we would have went and ask Jimmie, he would have done it, but, it wouldn't have been fair to put Jimmie in that position so we chose not to do that."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Kenny Wallace , Casey Mears , Jimmie Johnson , David Green , Kyle Busch
Teams Hendrick Motorsports