NASCAR Preseason Thunder Testing
January 9, 2014
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
THE MODERATOR: We're joined right now by Kyle Busch, driver of the No.18 M&M's Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. Kyle, welcome here to Daytona, and if you could just start off by telling us a little bit about your off‑season, what you did for fun.
KYLE BUSCH: Well, it's good to be back. Certainly you know it's maybe a little too soon, but anyways, certainly wish we'd have some on‑track activity here this morning. That's unfortunate with the weather the way it's been cooperating, or hasn't been cooperating for us. That's a shame, but all in all, fun off‑season, just had a good time at home being able to relax, and of course Samantha and I's anniversary was a week ago and was just enjoying some time with some friends and being able to celebrate together, as well.
Q. With Rick Ren's departure, what's the management structure going to look like at KBM now?
KYLE BUSCH: Self‑management. Everybody is doing their own deal. Crew chiefs manage themselves, the business guys manage themselves. There's just not enough funding in order to have Ren on board and to be able to handle the general management roles as well as the competition director role.
It was a spot that we wanted to have in order to build the company and make the operation into what it is today, and without Ren it never would have been possible that way. But with his contract coming to a close, I just couldn't see it to continue to pay him and to be able to not be able to make ends meet at the end of the season. It just wasn't in our best interest as a whole at Kyle Busch Motorsports and being able to have the people that we still do have there.
It's unfortunate. I'd love to keep Ren. I think he was a great part of our company, and especially from where it started in 2010 to today.
Q. Kyle, it sounds like you kind of had a‑‑ were able to disconnect a little bit during the off‑season. Was it any more‑‑ was that any more the case than in years past, or‑‑
KYLE BUSCH: No, actually I'm fortunate. I think that we haven't been able to disconnect enough this season. There's been a lot going on. The banquet was just the first week of December and then we had a test I think it was the week after. We actually had a 50‑degree day in Nashville so we were there testing trucks, and then we did have a Thanksgiving‑‑ not a Thanksgiving, a Christmas week there that was away, it was with family and wasn't doing much racing stuff. But there's a lot of stuff at KBM that's been having to be addressed and we've been needing to discuss things and of course we're building things, and the Toyota parts and pieces from NASCAR haven't quite been able to come through as quickly as we would have liked them to. So we're way behind on building stuff, so we've got stuff all torn apart ready and waiting for pieces.
But all in all, I feel like this Daytona test from what I remember, I used to remember it being the end of January, and for some reason it's the beginning of January. It takes away time from people being able to get stuff repaired, and I just think we're here too soon in my opinion. But it is what it is. They put a date out there and say you've got to be here. We're here.
Q. Brian France has talked a couple times since the season about incentivizing winning and risk taking. Certainly that's reaction to what fans would say about what they've seen about the racing in the past. I'm curious, what's your response when people talk about that because that's almost inferring or a suggestion that you guys aren't doing enough, that you guys aren't busting your rear end enough to go for the win. Is that something that bothers you, being inferred in that sense, that you guys suddenly need more incentive to go win a race, or with the way the money pit plays this sport, it is needed?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, it kind of doesn't make sense. In a way you look at the points structure and you try to say, well, you need to reward winning more. Okay, go down the list of the last five, six, seven years, who's won the most races. It's Jimmie Johnson. So you're going to award a guy who wins all the races more points, and he already has the consistency? I think what you're looking at is you're trying to take away the bad days, so if you have a bad day, if you finished in the 30s or the 40s or something to that effect and you can go back the next week and you can win, essentially you're knocking back those bad finishes. You're just increasing your average finishing position, right.
So it's not for a guy that wins a lot that needs to be incentivized to win, it's for the bad days to essentially recompensate for the lack of points that you earned on those days.
Q. You had some bad days hurt you in the Chase. What would that do for you if something like that happened?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, it's a double‑edged sword. For me if I was able to have a couple bad days, which you don't want, but if you have a couple bad days in the Chase, for myself let's‑‑ I don't remember what they were. Kansas for one. What was the other one? Martinsville maybe was my second worst finish or something like that, 15th, 14th. You know, so to be able to go out there, you've still got to win in the final 10 races to be able to get back those points.
But it's not really going to help you a whole lot if you've got Jimmie Johnson who's going to win two or three Chase races and finish consistently. You're just not going to be able to overcome that. There's a lot of teams out here that look at ourselves in the mirror and wonder why we can't do what they do, but yet we've got to try, and this is a whole new season.
Q. As far as it's a long season, obviously; is there any part of the season that you like better than others? Is there any part that gives you like more energy coming in?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, I would admit that the beginning of the season is always just‑‑ you're sort of the freshest. It's a lot easier to come out of the gate and feel revived and refreshed and ready to go and tackle a whole new season. It's a fresh start. You're not behind in any points. Essentially you just look to try to build as big of a margin of cushion as you can to start instead of having to be at the end of the season and come from behind.
I like the beginning of the year. I think Daytona is Daytona. Daytona, if you can win it, great. It really doesn't mean a whole lot. I think the first five races don't really mean a whole lot. It's more about learning your team, getting a chemistry going, whether you have a new car or just the new chemistry within your team, and just being able to build, put your building blocks together in the first five weeks, and then it's on from weeks 6 to 26 essentially, so you've got 20 weeks to prove yourself and make it in the Chase.
Q. Just wanted to get your thoughts on being a teammate with Sam Hornish on the Nationwide side.
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, I think that's a great addition for us. It's going to really help our program out, I believe. I liked Owen Kelly; he was great last year driving for us. Drew Herring was great driving for us last year. But just a little bit of inexperience on their parts maybe cost us a few points here or there, but also no doubt I cost myself a few points, as well.
At the end of the deal, we missed the championship by one point. I feel like Sam Hornish is a contender each and every week. He's been a guy that can run up front. He's proven himself the last few years in the Nationwide competition, that he's a force to be reckoned with week in, week out for those victories.
I think that he could be a huge addition to our team, and it brings along some consistency, as well, too, with just myself and he behind the wheel and having Adam not have driver of the week per se in the car and trying to figure out different drivers and whatnot.
Q. Are you sticking around to test the truck next week, and how is your truck program in terms of driver lineup and sponsors for 2014?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, I'm going home, but I'll be back Monday, and I'll be here for the truck test.
Unfortunately my young wheel man, Eric Jones, is not old enough to test here, so I get stuck with the duties of that.
Looking forward to getting the truck here, though, and just kind of learning some things, seeing what the aero package is like, besides the time we spent with it in Nashville. Driver lineup is myself and Eric Jones behind the wheel of the No. 51 Toyota Care Tundra and Dollar General Tundra for four races, and then Darrell Wallace will be behind the wheel of his No. 54 Toyota Care Tundra as of right now, and we're still putting together the rest of the sponsor lineup on that one.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about Dave Wilson, since he's kind of taken the lead over from Lee White, and in the interim how he's grown in that role over the last year?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, David has done a really nice job. I think he's sort of brought a little bit more continuity to the organization with TRD. I think the chassis and engine guys, I think they have now‑‑ there's not a whole lot of comparison between the two where they would work together but I feel like they are working together as one more often. I feel like the TRD guys on the truck and Nationwide level do a great job for helping those teams that are there, and of course the Cup support, as well. Whether it's Michael Waltrip who's got 10 or 20 engineers or JGR who's got 20 or 25 engineers, there's still a need to spread out the workload, and TRD does a great job for us, and Wilson is obviously a huge part of that as well as the rest of the guys in Salisbury.
But we Wilson's role on the engine side I feel like has come along, and the beginning of the year last year started out really, really well. I felt like we kind of tapered off a little bit towards the middle and then the end sort of got better again, too. Sort of excited to see what the off‑season brought those guys and essentially what it brings us. But I feel like he's got a good leadership role, he's got a good direction, and we're looking forward to working with him continually.
Q. How soon can you tell where Joe Gibbs Racing is this season? Teams start strong, Roush‑Fenway struggled last year kind of ahead of the game, Stewart‑Haas Racing says they're ahead of the game from last year. How soon can you tell? Obviously cars haven't gotten on the track here, but as a competitor do you know until you kind of get into the season?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, if there was any indication in the Charlotte test, the 4 car was ultimately the best car there. The 42 was the second best car there. The RCR cars, they were okay. They were kind of like us. I don't think we were all that great. We were essentially a 10th place organization when we were there during that test. It was interesting for sure with the new rules and everything the way they are. We learned quite a bit of just what's going on with our stuff and our equipment and what we need to try to work on continually from that test until we get to say Phoenix or California or Vegas.
You know, so as far as how soon can you tell where organizations are, that's kind of like what I was mentioning earlier about the five races. You definitely work through the first five races, you kind of try different things, you experiment a bit, and you kind of pick a package that you want to attack with and you go down that path, and that's the path you need to stick with.
Whether it's an organization or whether it's a team, the 18 team might go down a path that they feel comfortable with, where the 11 might go down another path and the 20 may go down another, and we may end up merging say week 10 or 12 or something like that. But that's sort of how I feel like the years have gone with being at JGR, and I think it's been‑‑ I wouldn't say more controlled, but I would say it's just been more uniform the last two or three years with the crew chiefs that we now have on board and the way that their camaraderie is and the way that they work together.
THE MODERATOR: Kyle, really appreciate you coming in and joining us today. Good luck in the test and the upcoming season.
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