NASCAR Nationwide Series: Ford 300
Topics: Ford 300
November 21, 2009
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and get started with our race winner for the Ford 300 and our 2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion, that's Kyle Busch. He drives the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. He's joined by his crew chief Jason Ratcliff up at the podium.
Kyle, congratulations. You had a double victory out there today. You won the race. You clinched the title. But I know winning is very, very important to you. Congratulations on the victory. Your thoughts?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, this was such a great year. You know, really, it's a true testament to this team, to Jason, Joe and J.D., all the guys that work so hard at Joe Gibbs Racing in order to make this possible. For us to come out here and win the final race of the season and really put the icing on the cake for our year and our championship really means a lot.
It hasn't been done in a long time, so you know how hard, I guess, it is to do, that somebody comes out here and wins the final race of the year. But that's what we set out to do. We knew we were decent yesterday. We worked awful hard on the car and Jason made some good pit calls. I told him we need to take some swings at this thing in order to get it better. He took some good swings at it, and we made the car capable enough of winning. I thought it was going to take some different spring technology or some different rear springs in order to get the win here tonight, which it wasn't going to happen. But it did. I can't thank Jason enough, and again, all these guys.
What an awesome race. Carl and Jeff Burton put on a whale of a show up there, Jeff on the bottom, Carl up top, and at the end of the race with Carl coming through on tires, it was such a fun deal. Fun to watch and fun to be a part of at the end. Glad we were able to hold them off and come out here and win this thing. This is another racetrack that I can mark off my list of venues I haven't won at, and so really excited to be able to do that. I felt like I wasn't the best driver here tonight, but the guys gave me a car capable enough of winning.
THE MODERATOR: Nine wins in the series this year. This was your 30th victory in the Nationwide Series, as well. Jason, talk about being a championship crew chief and ending the season with another victory.
JASON RATCLIFF: Well, the biggest thing with being a championship crew chief is you know you're surrounded by a great group of guys, and these guys are -- I mean, they just stepped up, and they make me look good every week, and of course Kyle's talent and ability makes us all look good.
Back in February if you would have asked me what's the one thing you could dream for all year, it would be go to Homestead, win the race and win the championship. I can't think of anything all season that meant as much as what happened tonight.
You know, there at the middle part of the race, the car wasn't where it needed to be. We were going to struggle to maybe finish third. There were some guys that were coming on late. We took a swing at it. If we would have had to run this race for the championship and finish in a certain spot, we probably wouldn't have been able to get that aggressive and take that big a swing at the car, because we would have had too much to lose.
But we made some tremendous adjustments on the last stop because we didn't have anything to lose, and it worked out, obviously, and got Kyle to the front and he was able to do what he does best.
Great season for us. It's kind of sunk in, but I'm sure in the next couple days it'll really hit us. It's one that we'll remember forever.
THE MODERATOR: Coach Joe Gibbs, this is your second straight owner's championship title, your first for a driver's championship. You've helped mold champions your entire life. Talk about this No. 18 championship team.
JOE GIBBS: I think these are things that -- the great things in life are the memories that you have and that you don't forget, and I remember standing out one time after a Super Bowl, and I turned to Charles Manning, and he said to me, the thrill was getting here, everything that you had to do to get here, all the times you've fought, and you have a wreck, you have this, you have that, things that happen.
The thing I told Kyle before we started, to me what impresses me is this car ran great all year. I mean, super all year, and we went all the way to the last race before we could win the championship. So it shows you how hard this is.
THE MODERATOR: J.D., certainly another great season for this organization. Your thoughts?
J.D. GIBBS: Again, just a big deal. They are so difficult to win in any sport, especially over here. We've been doing this -- we were on Nationwide for a long time. This is I think our 12th year, and it really took us 10 years to really figure out what we were doing, that or just hire Kyle. I'm not sure which one came first.
To watch Kyle and Jason and those guys work, again, it's very difficult, and we'll just --
Man, this race, it's kind of like you're running, hey, we locked the championship, now it's like we have to win. We have to win or I'm not going to be happy. Thankfully, I'm happy. I felt like Kyle.
Q. Kyle, this makes 20 NASCAR victories for you this season, and that's a pretty staggering number spread out over three series. I know we talked to you about three weeks ago about the prospect of winning 20 NASCAR races. Now you have. Talk about that what accomplishment is like.
KYLE BUSCH: It's big. Well, the big accomplishment is some day to reach 200. If you can win 20 races in a season, that'll get you there a lot faster.
Just real proud of the way that everybody that's worked for me this year has done, and whether it's been on the Sprint Cup side and having Steve Addington and those guys and winning the four races with him and of course having Dave now trying to get ready for 2010, having Jason over here and Ritchie Waters and Doug George -- one, two, three, four, I've won with four different crew chiefs this year. If I can win tomorrow, I can make it five with Dave Rogers. So that would be pretty cool.
But it takes a lot of good hard work in the shop and all these guys that have done it for me at Joe Gibbs Racing on both Nationwide and Cup, and of course Billy Blue Motorsports on the truck side. It's not easy to win in any division in this sport, and when you're racing against some of the best and the top guys in each respective division, it's a big deal. So I'm real proud of the way I was able to come out of this year with 20 plus wins, if we can get another one tomorrow, and it says a lot about the people that I'm around, the people that have surrounded themselves around me and have given me the opportunity to lead their teams and drive their cars to victories.
Q. For Joe and J.D., can you take us back to when you made the decision to run Kyle full time? Was it hard to talk him into it or was he for it all along, and just kind of talk about that.
J.D. GIBBS: Yeah, obviously the hard thing is when you run both series full-time, that's difficult. It wears on you. The thing about Kyle, though, is if he's not running something, he's difficult. The more you can keep him in stuff and keep him going, especially while he's young -- there's probably a few times this year where doing both of them was difficult and he might have suffered one side or the other a little bit. That's true. I look forward to the fact that we won this year, do what you have to do, next year now you're not running for the championship on the driver's side, just have fun with it. So I think that hopefully will be a benefit to the Cup side and the Nationwide side. But it is difficult running both, but for Kyle he's got the strength and the energy to do it.
KYLE BUSCH: I talked him into it. It was probably October of last year or something like that, Charlotte time, where I just told Joe and J.D., I said, we made a mistake on not going after it this year and completing the deal and running all the races. Mathematically I could have won by 19 points last year, but that's last year, it doesn't matter. I told all these guys we need to go for it, our cars are capable of doing it and we got the sponsorship and funding thankfully from NOS and Z-Line and Norm and Interstate Batteries that we were able to complete the full season and go and contend for the championship. That's just what it brought us.
Q. Jason along those lines, when you found out that you were going to have Kyle for the full season, was there a feeling of excitement or was there a feeling of too much pressure here?
JASON RATCLIFF: Dread. Yeah, I've got to put up with this guy again (laughing). No, back in -- for me, back in 2003, came 14 points short of winning a championship with David Green and a team out of Kentucky, Brewco Motorsports, and when we first came to Joe Gibbs Racing, J.D. and I talked, and I told him one of the biggest goals that I had was winning a championship in the Nationwide Series. And it looked like we were going to get to pursue that, and then it kind of fell to the wayside because of different things, we were bringing up different drivers which was great opportunities.
So when Kyle came along and he wanted to run for a championship, and our car was at the time the car to do it, thankfully, and I thought, all right, here we go, here's another shot at it.
So this group, these guys on this team, man, I just can't say enough about the effort they put in, and I can't think of any team that deserves it more than these guys do.
It's fun. I wish we could go out and do it again next year. I know for these -- right, Kyle?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, man, let's go.
JASON RATCLIFF: It's been phenomenal. I'm glad I could be a part of it, and like I said, it'll be something I'll remember forever.
Q. Kyle, J.D., can you talk about what Jason has meant to this team and how well he's been able to run things this year?
KYLE BUSCH: Jason has meant a lot to the program. He mentioned in 2003 running with Brewco and David Green. I was running with Brian Pattie and NEMCO, another small organization. But I remember talking with David an awful lot. He was almost like a mentor to me looking up to me and talking to him. In those conversations Jason would be there.
And then when I ran full time in 2004 in the 5 car, and again, we got to work a little bit closer together -- we weren't working together but we got to talk a little bit closer and stuff, and then to be able to come to Joe Gibbs Racing together, I feel like Jason has been an awesome leader, he's really built this team, him and Dave both have really built this team into something special and they deserve a lot of the credit over the past few years of getting it to where it is.
For Jason to be on top of my box all year this year and really work with him and to be able to develop the chemistry that we have and the relationship that we have, it's not only a friendship, but a working relationship that really meshes very well.
And so I couldn't be happier with the way that Jason has led this team. I didn't feel like there was maybe but one or two races this year where we really had a struggling car and Jason has admitted to that, and we know we have some work to do for next year, which fortunately one of those tracks isn't on the schedule anymore for us, so we don't have to worry about that. But still, it's nice to have the hard work and the leadership that Jason has to his guys and to have the hard work and dedication to the team that the guys do like Leo, like Brad and everybody that's a part of this team that makes it go round.
Q. Kyle, could you talk about being the first driver since '83 to win the final race of the season and the championship? Sam Ard was the last.
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, that's a big name right there. You just said it all. It's not easy to do. A lot of drivers come down here with the championship locked up, take the pressure off themselves, ride around, whatever, collect a check. But that's not what I'm hear to do. I'm here to collect trophies. Jason and myself, we set out to try to win this race and to be greedy, to be selfish, to be the only ones celebrating tonight on the front stretch, and we achieved that goal. It's special. It brings a smile to my face just knowing that we were the best of the best this year, and we showed it again tonight being able to put the icing on the cake and just finish the deal and be able to beat our arch-rival and our biggest competition, Carl Edwards, there late with him getting tires and everything and us just keeping our track position and staying up there.
Q. Kyle, I know that you wanted to set the record for most points, and you ended with 5,682. Talk about that accomplishment.
KYLE BUSCH: Did I do it? I don't know. Cool. I mean, it's like what Joe said earlier. It wasn't a cake walk this year. It was a tough year. You know, Carl and Brad both kept it very close. You know, we didn't have the deal sewed up until we came down here and started the race.
It shows the competition and the stress of the series that it puts on you and on the teams and everybody involved. It was a battle down to the end for the fifth place spot as well, too, in order to have those guys get to the banquet. There was battles all every arch.
Really it's a great accomplishment to be able to set out and get the series most points in a season. I mean, that just shows you the consistency we had, the amount of wins we had, the bonus points that we had being able to lead the most races, the most laps in some of those races. I mean, it's just -- Jason can even allude to it, too. When all things fall into place and work together, it just seems like sometimes nothing can go wrong, and yet, you know, those disappointing finishes of second place and third place, you know, those are the days where you have to cherish and look at and say, this is what's going to win us this championship, instead of trying too hard and wrecking out or taking a second place finish to a 17th.
But I still missed Dover and Darlington where we should have, could have won those races, too, but having flat tires on the last restarts hurt us.
Q. J.D., you said earlier today that you had talked to Denny Hamlin about Brad Keselowski. Did he listen? Did he not listen? What was your opinion on that?
J.D. GIBBS: I think it was an aero issue when he got -- (Laughter.) I just work here. (Laughter.)
Q. Are you good with it?
J.D. GIBBS: I've got to be honest, I didn't talk to him after the race, so I didn't hear what they had to say. I'll figure it out, but obviously that's something that hopefully -- part of you kind of loves to watch the stuff in this sport, and part of you loves the fact that when it's someone else's team doing it in this sport.
Q. Kyle, when you saw Denny kind of do that, did you think to yourself, atta boy?
KYLE BUSCH: No, to be honest with you, I didn't, because Brad was already having a bad day, so it wasn't like Denny made himself any favors there. What would be even better is if there were five drivers that teamed up at the beginning of next year and wrecked him in each of the first five races and he'd be out of the top 35 coming into the sixth race so he'd have to qualify on time.
I'm going to be the leader. I'm going to ante up everybody else. Maybe you shouldn't have let the cat out of the bag.
Q. Not to change the subject, but Jason, as far as -- was there a point in time that you felt your team coming together, that you saw it in advance, or did it just kind of like happen?
JASON RATCLIFF: Um, this team, like I said, most of us have been working together for at least four years, the majority of us. So I mean, this team has come together over the last four years, we've worked with some young drivers, rookie drivers, and been what I felt like is very successful. We just needed an opportunity to bring a driver in like Kyle and show case what our cars could do.
But yeah, I thought last year with the phenomenal season we had last year running a limited schedule, going into this season, all the guys were gung-ho and ready to do whatever it took to win this championship.
Q. What do you think NASCAR drivers in general could do for the 2010 season to increase getting some butts in the seats at every track around the country with this economy right now? What do you think you guys could do as drivers to kind of stimulate that, maybe a fan experience or something like that?
KYLE BUSCH: We had that questioning this past off-season, and a lot of drivers were asked that, what could we do. It's about giving back to the fans a little bit more, thanking them and showing our appreciation to them, being able to do some autograph sessions.
We do the Preseason Thunder down in Daytona. It's been a success. Maybe not as many people show up down there because it's hard to get as many of your fans that are -- to a favorite driver or something like that. Maybe have like Carl Edwards, maybe have him do his own fan fest in Missouri or myself, do my own fan fest in Las Vegas or Phoenix or California, that seems to be my good fan bases. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., could go anywhere.
It's trying to give back to the fans and giving back in that respect. You know, we have sponsor appearances and this and that and stuff where it gives back to the sponsors, and the sponsors maybe could activate a little bit more within the fans and have more fan interaction than just customer interaction, but the customers are still important, too. It would be nice to have a split there.
We've done a lot. I feel like there's still a lot to be done. But it's not going to get fixed just overnight with me being able to give suggestions. Smarter people than me.
THE MODERATOR: Again, we want to congratulate the No. 18 team for Joe Gibbs Racing, driver Kyle Busch, crew chief Jason Ratcliff and owners Joe Gibbs and J.D. Gibbs, congratulations.
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