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NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Kobalt Tools 500

Stock Car Racing Topics:  Kobalt Tools 500

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Kobalt Tools 500

Steve Addington
Kyle Busch
J.D. Gibbs
March 9, 2008


THE MODERATOR: Thanks, guys.
We are joined by Kyle Busch. Congratulations, Kyle. A great performance out there today. Talk about it.
KYLE BUSCH: Well, it was a battle out there, that's for sure. You know, those cars were pretty tough to drive. But overall we had a pretty good car in practice yesterday where we felt okay about it today. And then the track seemed to warm up just a little bit, and that gave us a little less grip for today.
But overall we just kept working on it, kept trying to make it better. We battled a little bit tight, a little bit loose, then a little bit loose, a little bit tight. Kind of all over the board there somewhat. Scraped the wall getting into one one time. Ended up bending the rear-end or twisting the rear-end just a little bit.
You know, that definitely didn't help the handling of the racecar any, and actually hurt us a little bit. Just made me so loose getting in and so loose up off the corner, we had to tighten it up. When we did that it tightened up the center of the corner, too. Couldn't ever get the center of the corner to cooperate with us.
Just babying it around the bottom of the racetrack was what I had to do all day. If I missed it, it just slowed us down so much that those guys behind us would close up. I just had to make sure I hit my marks, was smooth and slow and ran around the bottom.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for our winning driver Kyle Busch.

Q. You won the first Car of Tomorrow race last year. You won the first Toyota race. We have the Car of Tomorrow. You've been called the driver of tomorrow before. You're the driver of now. Can you talk about the impact of being the first to accomplish these two milestones?
KYLE BUSCH: Well, I mean, it means a lot to be able to go out and win any race anytime, but especially here at Atlanta. This place has been such a struggle for me. I haven't had a top 10 finish here. I remember the years of watching Bobby Labonte race around this place, kicking everybody's butt. Sort of reminded me a little bit about it today to be able to race like that, run like that, bring that 18 car back up front, run here the way it used to and the way it should.
As far as all that goes, just being able to work with all these guys, that's what helps me run up front like the way I have. It's not necessarily the car or the Car of Tomorrow or whatever it is, you know, it's just about being be comfortable, you know, for me being able to drive anything at the pace that I need to be able to drive it at. And having Steve, the engineer, all these guys being able to give me what I need in order to drive it faster is all I care about.

Q. Kyle, I don't think it's going too far to say that the way you started off the season and the attention to the way you've been driving is changing the game for other drivers. There's a lot of talk about how you're up on the wheel and maybe some other guys are going to have to match that effort. Do you feel that or are you just doing your deal?
KYLE BUSCH: Well, I'm just doing my deal. I mean, everybody's always said that I've been the aggressive driver, you know, used to cause wrecks, used to be out of control, this and that. I don't feel I'm driving any different than what I used to. I've sort of tamed my style, per se. Now it looks like I'm a professional at it or something.
But, you know, it seems to be working to my advantage right now, so that's all that matters, and being able to go out there and win races. But, you know, for other drivers to have to ante up or step up, I'm not so sure that it's them. I think it's a lot with the car. You know, Carl Edwards had the best car here today by far again. And whatever those guys have got over there that's figured out is really scaring us 'cause, you know, the 16 doesn't show it, the 17 doesn't show it, the 26 doesn't show it, but for some reason that 99 does. Whether it's him driving that thing or whether is the car, it's definitely something that we've got to work on.
THE MODERATOR: Let's also now hear from winning crew chief Steve Addington. I believe this is your first career victory as a Sprint Cup Series crew chief.
THE MODERATOR: How does it feel?
STEVE ADDINGTON: It feels great. I'm excited for my guys. I mean, they've went through a lot the past three years. Getting Kyle on board, give those guys their first win, that was an awesome feeling today.
THE MODERATOR: We're also going to call up team president J.D. Gibbs and Joe Gibbs. Congratulations.
KYLE BUSCH: Come on, owner, let's go.
THE MODERATOR: Let's here from Coach Gibbs, then we'll hear from J.D. Your thoughts about the win out there, Toyota's first in the Sprint Cup Series? You got to feel great about that?
JOE GIBBS: There were a lot of firsts there. For us, you know, we started out the year, there were so many changes, so many things, so many firsts. First of all, just really appreciate Kyle.
I wanted to say, Kyle, the decision, we all talked it over, we always do things together. We go to Tony and Tony said, I'd go get Kyle. We went to Denny, Denny said, I'd go get Kyle. As we talked it over, Jimmy and everybody else, we decided we better go get Kyle. We appreciate that. We appreciate him. That was the first course with us. Really appreciate everything he's done there for Mars and M&M's and Snickers. I think that's going to be a great relationship. So that was a first.
First for Kyle, first for Mars, and then of course first for Toyota. So for all of us, I think we were all apprehensive. We started the year, there was a huge amount of change, everything we had to go through. So we really appreciate the way everybody worked and hunkered up.
The other thing I want to say, Steve Addington, that 18 car, they've been through some, you know, real tough hard couple of years. I really appreciate those guys hanging tough, too.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach. J.D. your thoughts?
J.D. GIBBS: What's special about this for us, the 18 car, that's our first car we've ever had, that's our baby, 17 years racing the 18 car. We had so much success a few years ago. To come back now after a few down years, to come back and be this strong consistently week in, week out, I think Steve was joking, he didn't know whether to hug me or punch me, it took me so long to get Kyle on board. I said, it came out of your bonus to pay for Kyle's, so don't get too excited about it (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions.
JOE GIBBS: Can I say one thing about Norm. Norm Miller is not here, our buddy. He's the founding sponsor for our race team. We wouldn't be in racing if it wasn't for him. He's the 18 guy. We really appreciate him. We miss him here today.
But we appreciate him getting us started in racing. I always said, Norm got dumb enough. We had no car, no driver, no nothing, and Norm said, I want to do this.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for this championship team.

Q. Kyle, given how you started this season and other series and everything, is what happened today pretty much when you thought it would happen, even with your record here at the track, the way the car was running, things like that? Did you pretty much figure you could win today?
KYLE BUSCH: No, you never know for sure if you can win a race.
You know, yesterday we were pretty decent. Here today, I've run well here in the past and have been able to run up front and lead laps and be competitive. Then you come down pit road and you have a pit road issue or you make an adjustment on the car and the car completely goes the opposite way and stuff like that.
You're never sure if you're going to be able to win the thing until the last lap falls and you cross the start/finish line with the checkered.

Q. Just talk about your feel in this car. Tony was saying you like the car kind of loose. How have you adapted to it?
KYLE BUSCH: Well, it was plowing today. We kept trying to make changes, kept trying to make it better. But, you know, I scraped the fence in turn one, like I said. That sort of towed the rear-end out, did something to it weird, where it made it really loose in, really loose off. Steve had to make some adjustments to it in order to fix those, which made it tight again in the center. It is just a car you're getting to go around the racetrack the fastest. Whoever can make it go through the corner the best is going to be the guy that's going to be able to win the race.
We didn't have the car that was able to go through the corner the best, but we had the longevity in the car that was able to make it 500 miles.

Q. Kyle, we all kind of gasped second or third to last lap when you were under Dale Jarrett there making that dicey move on a lapped car. What went into planning to make the move on the bottom?
KYLE BUSCH: He was holding the bottom pretty well, was slowing me down a tremendous amount because I needed some clean air on the nose of my car to help it turn. I was getting a little bit tight. He was holding the bottom so good, I just couldn't get a good run through the corner to ever get underneath him on the straightaway or anything.
So finally I just drove up there into the corner underneath him and tried to make him get loose and get out of the way. I mean, I don't know how many laps down at that point, but I know he wasn't on a lead lap. We're fighting for the win. I didn't know how close those guys were behind me. I hadn't looked in my rearview mirror. I was focused up front trying to get as many positions as I could. I couldn't go around the topside of him. I tried going to the top and got so loose I about spun out one corner. So I said, I'm not going to do that again and risk it.
I just had to stay glued to the bottom of the racetrack. I was either going to move him out of the way or he was going to get out of the way.

Q. Your teammate was very outspoken about how bad the tires were out there today. He said you kind of used that to your advantage because you can handle a very loose car. Can you talk about the tires, whether you liked them, didn't like it, how it made the car handle?
KYLE BUSCH: I'm going to say that I didn't like them. But, you know, I just went out there and we all had the same tire. They're going to pay somebody to win the race. And so that's what I focused on, was just trying to go out there and be the one that they were going to pay to win the race. I just drove the thing to the best my ability.
And Steve, he worked on it with me trying to make it better all day long, make the thing where it would get some grip out of it. In the beginning of the runs, I mean, we had some great grip in the thing. You can go the first four or five laps and really haul the mail - maybe the first two anyway. But then from there, I mean, you were just skating, sliding all over the place. You just had to be patient with it and slow it down, get it on the bottom and just pretty much keep that left front right on that line and keep the thing turning in order to make it through the corner the quickest.

Q. Steve, you're one of the calmest crew chiefs in the garage. What have you found in Kyle Busch? We talked when he got hired, you had the news conference. And, Kyle, is it not some redemption that Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. are in here after what you went through raving about your driving talents in a serious manner?
STEVE ADDINGTON: I mean, I learned from him that he gives -- seems to me that he gives 125% in practice. He wants you to fix the car, fix it now, this is my problem. Just makes us work on the car, which makes us a better race team. And then he backs off of it a little bit in the race and does what it takes to run good. When he is in a crowd of cars and stuff, he can judge what he needs to do to beat 'em and does an awesome job at doing that.
In practice, I mean, I feel like he gives 125% and I think that helps us out as a race team.
KYLE BUSCH: The Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Stewart comments. Uhm, I answer this question every week. I don't know. I mean, I'm flattered and fortunate enough to have the abilities that I do, and everybody talk about it the way that they do. All I can do is just go out there and drive my best and do what I'm paid to do, and that's to win races and to contend for championships week in and week out and just be able to, you know, drive the way that I drive. And that's all I can pretty much speak for.
So for those guys to talk about it as highly as they do, I mean, it's nice and everything. But, I mean, they're the best in the world, too. They're here at this level, so they're just as good as I am and that's why they're here. But for me to be able to beat 'em, I've only done it once this year so far, so I've got plenty more times I need to.

Q. Kyle, after what you went through last year, the way you were dismissed from your former team, the emotional toughness of what that was to go through being dismissed so they could find a spot for Mr. Popularity, how badly did you really want to see this day today?
KYLE BUSCH: Pretty badly really. I mean, he's run strong so far this year, too. He finished second last week. I think he was third today or fourth or something like that.
But, you know, for me, it's just to go out there and to work with Steve and to work with these guys here at Joe Gibbs Racing and try to make our cars better. And I knew that I wasn't going to a team that didn't have enough equipment or didn't have good enough equipment to participate or to contend with Hendrick because I've seen it. I've seen Tony be able to contend for races. I've seen Denny be able to contend for championships even his first year out.
I knew the waves of it were going to be there. It's just all about trying to make yourself better on a weekly basis or on a daily basis. And, you know, to do as well as I've done so far for where I'm at, I'm pretty happy, you could say.

Q. Steve, if you just glance at the point standings right now, it looks like either you gobbled up a bunch of smart pills or you have a real good chemistry with your driver. I wondered if you and Kyle could talk about the working relationship you've had. You haven't worked together in the past I'm pretty sure.
STEVE ADDINGTON: Just eat a lot of M&M's. Brain food.
Working with him's great. I mean, like I said, he just pushes you to make the car better. I think that helps. That just helps us in the overall program to make our cars better for him. You know, a lot of people don't know him, to get to know him one-on-one, the personality, have a good time, cut up and joke and stuff like, that it's been awesome. He's fit right in here. The guys love him to death. I believe they'd walk through fire for him right now. You know, and it's real cool.
You know, I warned them. You know, I warned them. I said, He's going to go off on us at some point here. I said, But just let it roll off your back. He's just competitive, wants to win races. It's a cool deal.

Q. Kyle, I know at the beginning of the year you and Tony and Denny kind of wanted to be the first driver to get Toyota its first victory. How important is it for you to be the guy that got Toyota their first victory here?
KYLE BUSCH: Well, it's pretty special. But it wasn't all that important to me. To me, I'm fortunate to have Toyota on our side or we all are fortunate to have Toyota on our side, giving us the help that we need.
You know, for me to go out there and win, it doesn't matter what car I'm driving. I told you I'd drive a milk crate, which is pretty much what this thing drives like. We have fun doing it, doing it to the best of our ability, making it fast. Whatever it takes to go out there and win is what we need.
For me to win the first race for Toyota was fun. You know, it was great. Congratulations to those guys. They deserve it. You know, they've won in the Truck Series. They've won in the Nationwide Series. Now finally in the Cup Series for them.
It took them their fourth race I guess their second year, I'm sure they wanted it sooner, but glad I was able to do it for them.

Q. Steve, you've been through a lot of races and burned a lot of cigarettes to get to this point. It was obvious pretty early that lap times weren't going to be as strong in this race because of the tires. How did that change what you were going to try to do in the first part of the race and did you kind of play a role early on in talking with Kyle about what he was going to have to do with a different situation?
STEVE ADDINGTON: We just talked about there was going to be a lot of slipping and sliding out there today. I mean, we knew from practice there wasn't a whole lot of grip in the tire. You know, we knew it was a long race. So, you know, we were just going to try to adjust on it, try to make it right. You got to believe in what your driver's telling you and try to adjust to fix it.
We went too far at one point, you know, and we had to back off of it. Right there at the end we got it, you know, where we needed it to win the race. I mean, the 99 car was really good. Something happened to him. But, I mean, it's just working with your driver at certain points of the race and trying to get the balance of the car where you need it to be. I'm sitting there watching lap times compared to where we've taken off on restarts before and stuff like this. And, I mean, we slowed down at one point on a restart and then we started getting it back and we ran the fastest laps right there at the end on restarts.
It's just working with your driver and believing what he's telling you.
THE MODERATOR: Steve, congratulations. Enjoy this victory. Good luck next week.
THE MODERATOR: We'll continue with further questions.

Q. Kyle, just with the conditions, the tire, everything associated with it, how were you challenged today as a driver? What were the things you had to do to overcome that? Was this anything different than what you had to do in the past, how you've been challenged in any other form of racing this?
KYLE BUSCH: This race was a challenge. I'm telling you, it was tough. We're out there on such edge. I mean, it feels like literally you're driving on ice. I have no idea what it feels like. It was the worst I've ever felt in a racecar and I won the thing, so I can't imagine how those poor guys that were running for 30th, fighting for 30th, as hard as they were fighting felt.
My hands are sore. Literally, I can barely even make a fist right now just from gripping the wheel and everything. I think my pinky is probably about broke off from holding the steering wheel the way that I hold it. I tend to use it to push down on the left a little bit.
It was so hard to get the thing, you know, you're such on edge, you're holding the wheel and driving it for all it's worth and trying to get it to roll the bottom of the racetrack, to get it to slow down, to get it to stick to the bottom. When it doesn't stick, you're driving the heck out of it just to get it to calm back down, get the grip back in the tire. As soon as you slip, you lose 3/10ths at least a lap. When I was up behind Carl a couple times, I could get close to him, then I'd fall back off him four or five car lengths because I just lost the grip in the car that one corner. Then I'd go down to the next corner, he'd lose it, I'd have it.
It was just a mess. It was literally one of the toughest and hardest races I've ever had to drove.

Q. Joe or J.D., with Tony's talk about tires this weekend, were you guys concerned about tires? Were you concerned at all he was kind of mentally -- about his focus mentally?
J.D. GIBBS: I would say, hey, if you're mentally shot and finish second, I'll take that pretty often. I'm not too worried about that.
I do think, hey, you did have a concern there on the tires. I would just say from Joe Gibbs Racing standpoint, we've been here 17 years. More often than not we trust Goodyear to make good decisions and they do. Are we going to agree with everything? No, we're not. But I think for us, I think we kind of defer to those guys. And really is our job to kind of take what we're given and make the most out of it.
I think that's what both our guys did today. Even though it was frustrating I'm sure for Tony, you know, I think to come out of there 1-2, and Denny was really good, too, just had the issue there in his car. For us, I think, again, hey, we want to get in partnership with those guys. We respect what they do in the garage, and we appreciate that as well.

Q. Kyle, perhaps this is an impossible question for you to answer. How good are you? In the sense of what everybody is talking about, the FOX guys are like the presidents of your fan club now.
KYLE BUSCH: I'll pay 'em (laughter).

Q. You have the Kyle Busch admiration society. Not that it's not deserved, but do you feel you've reached a level, you've gotten to a point that you have a mastery of this going on right now?
KYLE BUSCH: Not really. There's three of them up there, right?

Q. Yeah.
KYLE BUSCH: I think you're right, J.D., I think that's 50 members.
I don't know. Honestly, it's great that you're asking me that question. But it's hard to answer, you're right. How good I am, I have no idea. I'm only as good as I perform. And the way that I'm performing is great. Whether that's me, the equipment, I think it's a mastery of both.
For me to go out there and to just run the best that I possibly can and try to get Addington to give me the best possible car that I can drive is all that we can do week in and week out. And, you know, if I would have unloaded that Cup car and went out there the first lap on the racetrack this weekend and just drove it like I did here in the test, I would have wadded it up. So that's why I drive in the Truck Series. That's why I drive (loss of audio). At least I'm a mini Jeff Gordon then (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations. Good luck next week.

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