An interview with:
KERRY THARP: We're going to roll right into our post duel press conference with our championship race team. That's Kyle Busch, team owner Joe Gibbs, team president J.D. Gibbs, and crew chief Steve Addington.
Kyle, congratulations. Had to feel good to get that victory out there today.
KYLE BUSCH: It was. It felt really good. This whole team has really worked hard. This whole off season everybody has. From where we ended last year, it felt like it was pretty cool to start off the season this way.
We ran good at Daytona here last year. Same thing in the Duel race, as well as in the 500. We gave one away in the Duel. Gave one away in the 500. Maybe we can steal them back this year.
We won in the July race. I felt like today the car was driving pretty decent. We've been working on trying to get the thing a little better over the bumps. I've been telling Steve and the guys it looks terrible on TV. It bounces all over the place. But it's fast that way. For some reason it just likes to have that feel.
Whatever it is we got, it's pretty special. You know, car's fast. So whatever's fast works.
KERRY THARP: Crew chief Steve Addington, how did it look up top the box for you?
STEVE ADDINGTON: Well, it looked good. Guys on pit road did an awesome job on pit stops. They got us out and held our track position. Kyle and Jeff, they did an awesome job at these speedway races. You got to thank everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing, from the fab shop, engine shop. Mark and all those guys worked hard this winter. Looked really good. I like that. Been a while since I've seen you guys.
KERRY THARP: Coach Gibbs, your thoughts about getting the season off to a good start, looking forward to Sunday.
JOE GIBBS: I think for our team we worked extremely hard. We don't have a long off season, as you know. We had a meeting right after we finished the season, very next day. What came out of that was some initiatives that we embarked on. I think our guys really did work hard.
I really feel good. Talked to Denny. Talked to Joey. Denny likes his car. Joey does, too. So I think we helped ourselves in the off season.
KERRY THARP: D.J., your thoughts?
J.D. GIBBS: No, I just appreciate y'all having me up here. I'm not sure why I'm here (laughter).
Well, it was a weird off season for us. Obviously no testing. So to be able to come back here, be able to get going, was really an encouragement for the guys. I think for Kyle and Steve, having last year to be together was really a learning curve.
Now hopefully that will pay off this year and we'll get to grow some more together, spend some more time in Victory Lane.
KERRY THARP: We'll take questions now for this 18 team.
Q. Kyle, with the way last year ended, was it important to kind of make a statement with yourself to kind of get back into it and win?
KYLE BUSCH: Not really. Not here in Daytona. You know, the statement's more so when we get to California, Vegas, Atlanta, that we'll be a force to be reckoned with. Daytona we knew we'd run strong. We felt confident about that. Our restrictor plate package is good. Toyota has done a wonderful job for us. Mark in the engine shop has done a flawless job.
Every week they keep trying to find something for us, and they keep finding it. As long as we keep getting that, we're happy.
Besides all that, I mean, the reason I won this race today was from great teammate. Denny, that was the best restrictor plate race we've probably ever worked together. Really felt good about that. I hope it carries into Sunday. I'll be able to return the favor to him come time when it needs to be or whatnot.
Besides all that, I mean, we just look forward to trying to make sure that our standard track stuff is good and that we can run up front at those.
Q. Joe and J.D., your assessment of the way Joey did in the first race.
J.D. GIBBS: I think the reality of Daytona, if you haven't been here before, it's difficult. It takes years to learn to figure this place out. Our goal for him, go out there and just finish this thing. If you finish, you got a shot to run up front.
Really for him at this track, you're learning we got him all the stuff we can, running ARCA, Nationwide stuff. Hopefully that experience will pay off.
KYLE BUSCH: We got a truck.
J.D. GIBBS: We got a truck we couldn't afford. Kyle wanted to give us a truck. We couldn't afford his bill. I said, Give us something. We're paying you a fortune to drive. (Laughter).
For us really it was encouraging to watch it. Today it was just ride, ride, ride. He started working his way up. I kept going, Ride; just ride. It was encouraging to see.
It's going to take a while for everybody to learn this track. It was an encouraging start.
Q. Kyle, this event is kind of unusual. There is more attention paid to the guys that race their way into the 500 than the guy that actually wins this race. I wanted to ask you, what does it mean to win this race? If you were in contention in this race with like five laps to go, are you going to charge as hard for the win here as you would in a points race?
KYLE BUSCH: Probably not. I mean, if it was the 500, people would Mike Skinner has done it. He'd wreck his grandma to win (laughter.)
So the biggest thing is you got to mind your Ps and Qs. You have to bring the car home. We have practice tomorrow. We have practice Saturday. We have to make sure our car runs good for Sunday.
I could have rode the last five laps and pushed Mark Martin to the win. I thought that would be a Cinderella story. You would have something to write about. For us to win today, it was all right. It was good. I'm proud of the effort by Addington and all his boys. For M&M's and Interstate, Toyota, all the guys.
I probably would go crazy to win the 500. Today, no.
Q. Kyle, you alluded to you and Denny working together really well. As you know last year, the 500 was won by two guys ganging up. If you're coming down four, five laps to go, you're with one of your teammates working well, how do you decide who goes first, who pulls and who pushes? Do you know one car is better than the other? Do you wing it?
KYLE BUSCH: You kind of wing it. It pretty much depends who is out front. Last year I was trying like heck to push Stewart to Victory Lane, but I couldn't get to him. I hope it comes down to that this time. If it's Joey out front, I'm pushing.
I think when it comes down to the last straightaway, to me, being a teammate like my brother. He's the same way. He pushed Newman to the win. For me, it would be the same way. If I had Joey or Denny in front of me, I'd push them until I felt like it was time for me to go crazy down this last straightaway, and I'd tried to get up alongside of him and try to get to the line first.
Besides that, I'm going to be sure one of our cars is going to win. If one of our cars is going to win, we don't have a shot to screw that up, then I'll try for a shot for myself to win.
Q. Jeff Gordon said after the first race, the first qualifying race, the Shootout were two of the best races he's seen at Daytona in a long time. He said part of that was because of the car. You've been a critic of the car. What do you think about the quality of the racing here?
KYLE BUSCH: I think we're all learning to adapt. It's just so hard to drive these things. They're bouncing all over the place. They're erratic. It makes for a good show. The fans in the stands, I guess they love it. The people on TV love it.
As long as all those people are happy, NASCAR's happy. NASCAR doesn't care what the drivers say. If it's not a safety issue or a concern, then they're fine with it.
To me these cars aren't necessarily built for this track. Yeah, they're fine at Talladega. The track is smooth. Here, where you ride on stops and springs and whatever, there's no real suspension. When you're going over bumps, I mean, they're just terrible.
It is what it is. You can work around it. You can make cars drive like Cadillacs like some other guys, but you know they won't be up front and won't be fast sometimes. That's what we found out, Addington and myself, trying to make ours drive better. It wasn't as fast.
It wanted to be real loose, skatey and edgy. When we did some things back to where we had been running last year and earlier this week, the car seemed to feel better and was faster.
Q. Talking with J.D. earlier today, he said it was really neat to watch you and Denny mentor Joey along. Has that brought your team together as teammates?
KYLE BUSCH: I think so. You know, Denny and I were good friends anyway. We can work together. We weren't sure how Joey was going to be. But Joey is fine. He wants to learn. He wants to be better. He'll come around, ask questions. That's what he needs to do. He needs to feel that he's able to come to us any time and ask us questions and pick our brain.
He did it before the Budweiser Shootout, to myself and Denny. I didn't see him today yet, but I thought he did a flawless job in the race. There were some incidents there where he had nothing to do, couldn't do anything different than what he did. He held on to it, drove it home to a third or fourth or whatever place finish. I thought he did fine.
He's learning. This is a place where it's hard to learn in your first year. I came here. I was all over the place. I was hitting the pit wall, the outside wall, driving through everybody.
My first couple years here I was bouncing off everything. The way Joey has been this week, it's normal. I think it's fine. I saw a couple times where Jimmie Johnson, it didn't look like he wanted to work with him, but he had to work with him. Kind of stayed in line with Joey in the final laps of the Duel.
Joey, he's going to get better. Him and Zippy will get better in communicating, and the cars will drive better for him. As soon as that all happens, he gets experience under his belt, he'll be one of the guys.
Q. Has that helped with your relationship with Denny?
KYLE BUSCH: No. I mean, Denny and I, we've had a good relationship anyway. I think just working with Tony and Denny last year seemed to bring us all together into a close knit family. It's not any different having Joey on the team. We'll do the same with Joey.
KERRY THARP: Guys, great job out there today. Good luck on Sunday in the Daytona 500.
An Interview With:
KERRY THARP: We're going to roll into our post Duel press conference. We're pleased to be joined up at the podium by Jeremy Mayfield. Finished ninth in today's second Duel, and races his way into Sunday's Daytona 500.
Jeremy, your thoughts about being able to do that. Got to be a super feeling for you.
JEREMY MAYFIELD: It's a very unbelievable feeling. I mean, to do this, you know, we set out to do this thing I keep saying 23 days ago. Every day gets a day later. To know where we were at then, how much hard work has been done in such a short amount of time is just unbelievable. To come here and do this, it's like winning 10 races. I'll tell you that.
We started the race. The car was really loose. Thought I'm not sure if I'm going to have a chance to run with these guys. Came down pit road on the first caution. Tony made all the right changes. That's why he and I are back together. We work extremely good together. The car went right back out and handled perfect.
That set us up for the two tire change at the end, which was a gamble. But we figured we got to make a run for the Daytona 500, got to gamble sometime. It was a gamble being here. Another gamble wasn't going to hurt anything. We did that. It paid off for us. Certainly wasn't easy.
KERRY THARP: Questions.
Q. How many people do you have here? Are any of them volunteers?
JEREMY MAYFIELD: Most of them are volunteers pretty much. We got several guys we've hired full time. To be honest with you, haven't got the first paycheck. Hopefully we can pay them now. We got 15, maybe 20 at the most, including our pit crew.
Tony has done a good job of putting together a great group of guys. Everybody on this race team has been on winning race teams, have won races in the past. You know, that experience I feel like helped us more today than anything.
To be able to get our cars done in such a short amount of time, come here and race like we did with no problems is pretty cool.
Q. When AJ ALLMENDINGER got out of the car, he had to put his sunglasses on because he didn't want anybody to see him crying.
JEREMY MAYFIELD: I know how he feels. Still kind of blown away by it. Nobody realizes how hard this stuff is. To do what he did today, what we accomplished, is more than what you could ever imagine. I think we were both smart enough to help each other along the way, too.
You just can't imagine the pressure that's on a driver and a team to do what we did today. To be out there sliding around, running for your life.
You know, when it's all over with you finally realize you made the Daytona 500. I know how he feels. I couldn't even talk on the radio. Definitely an emotional day for us.
It just took a lot of people in place to do this, for me especially. I know he's been through ups and downs, has had kind of the same road going for him. I think it's why it's extremely emotional for both of us today.
KERRY THARP: Let's hear from AJ ALLMENDINGER. Finished 10th today. Races his way into Sunday's Daytona 500. AJ, your thoughts?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: I mean, I'm sure Jeremy summed it up. We've probably both been through about the same things in the last two years. For him to do what he did, start his own team, is pretty amazing. Besides him racing me at one point for the last spot, it was pretty cool to see that.
For me, you know, it's amazing. There's so many emotions that run through. I've been so nervous over the last couple days 'cause I've been in this position the last two years, but I really felt like this year I deserved to be in the race, that this team deserved to be in the race.
Everybody at Richard Petty Motorsports, for what they've done in the last few weeks to kind of throw this team together, get the cars ready, to run as well as we did in the Bud Shootout, it was a complete team effort.
Reed and Elliott, they had to kind of sacrifice their race to get me up there. We were struggling. Definitely wanted to run better than we were doing. I have to thank those guys and thank the Budweiser team. The 9 guys pitted my car, so it was a complete, from top to bottom, team effort.
I'm just thrilled. Want to relax, celebrate a little bit, and focus on Sunday, because we definitely want to run better than we just did.
KERRY THARP: We'll open it up for questions for Jeremy or AJ.
Q. AJ, obviously throughout the race you could see several times when Elliott was helping you. But especially from the Sadler standpoint, there's been so much talk about whether you guys could work together because of what happened in the off season. Does this prove that you can work together as teammates?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: Yeah. I mean, I think that showed 100 percent. I think early in the race Elliott had a chance to be up front. Looked like he had a chance to go win the race. I watched him fall back to come back to me. We didn't really have the speed in the racecar that we'd had over the last two days. That was kind of frustrating and surprising actually 'cause in practice the last two days the thing has been really fast.
Like I said from day one, I've never had a problem with Elliott. I think he's a great racecar driver. He's a great teammate. Obviously there's a lot of stuff that happened over the last two months. Honestly, it was probably out of both of our hands. Really neither of us could do anything about it. We happened to be the two guys put in the middle.
I'll definitely thank him. Hope he knows how much I appreciate it. Hopefully that can carry on over the 500 and the rest of the year.
Q. Jeremy, you got in this race. Earlier Tommy Baldwin got in. Is this kind of a day for the old school racers?
JEREMY MAYFIELD: Yeah, we both were driving Toyotas, so if that helps anything. I know that certainly helped us. You know, the cars came from the same stable, too. I think Tommy bought one and we bought another one from them.
Our cars handled great. Thanks to Toyota and Triad Technologies who built our engines. They built Tommy's engines, too. Just a great day for us. I'm glad to see Scott get in, Tommy. Just a great day.
A little bit of old school. That's what our whole team is built around. Our motto for our team is, Keep it small. Buy our engines or lease our engines from Triad, get our cars done from there, Toyota. Not really get big. I guess you could call it old psychological. Not sure. Old school with open minded technology or open minded something.
Q. Jeremy, losing your job at Evernham, all the emotions you went through then, how much steel did that put into your spine for this effort?
JEREMY MAYFIELD: That's a good question 'cause that's what motivates me. If I ever want to retire as a driver, I want to retire on my own, not be pushed to the wayside. I think that's what kept me motivated to do this. I wanted to come back. I love NASCAR racing more than anything. It's what I know. It's what I've always done.
I don't know that one thing in particular, you know, just like Evernham itself is what did it, but I know it's made me tough over the last couple years. I'll remember that today. When he and I were sliding around, trying to pass each other, trying to get in this thing, you got to dig deep.
It was tough. I say a lot of the things you go through in the past helps you to get where you're going in the future. Certainly was one of them today.
Q. Both of you were in unusual situations. You had to go real hard, but couldn't afford a slip. How did you handle that?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: I mean, I think for us it's pretty simple. You just had to drive hard. We had nothing to lose. Obviously those guys around us, I think you could see guys like Travis and Regan Smith, they had decent cars but they didn't want to get in any trouble.
For myself and Jeremy it was pretty much just run as hard as you could. You didn't really early in the race you didn't really want to take many chances. I think we kind of got in the back there and really couldn't move up. Once we got there, the draft was gone. It was just us riding around.
But when you're out of the show, you pretty much got two options: make it or bring it back on a wrecker. That's what I was doing.
JEREMY MAYFIELD: That's kind of the same for me. When he was talking about us riding around, I thought that was all right for a while. Kind of hoped it would finish like that. Caution came out. That's when all I guess everybody's decisions were changing on what they were gonna do, what strategies were gonna take place.
We chose to take two. Still fighting for your life all the way. You know, when all the guys around you got four on not sure if you took two or four but I seen you coming. It's just run as hard as you can run and don't really look back.
Q. When all that's going on and you got a pit stop, strategy calls, two fires, four tires, you're trying to keep up with who's where, is there ever a point where you just have to stop and tell everybody to hush and just try to find a moment of clarity to focus on what you're doing? Is it as confusing as it looks from the outside, or you don't have time to worry about all that?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: For me, I was surprised on how much we were struggling early in the race. I was trying to focus on I was kind of amped up a little bit, trying to figure out why we were struggling so bad.
I'm not sure about Jeremy, but it was kind of a Catch 22. I was happy where we were running and just riding by our self like that, you know we were going to make it in easy. I wasn't sure I could make it on fuel.
When the yellow came out, it wasn't really all bad. I knew I was going to take four because my car was slipping and sliding. Jeremy looked better than mine. Looked like he was running strong. Even when he took two, I was impressed how well he stayed up there.
Seemed like in the Shootout, even the first duel, even in practice, it seemed like after five or ten laps on tires you were slipping and sliding. When he took two, I thought he might kind of slide back a little bit more. He did a good job.
For us, I had my teammates around me. It was just a matter of kind of staying clear of everybody else that was trying to get up there and win the race, just focus on where you're running, where everybody else is running.
JEREMY MAYFIELD: For me it was just, like he said, at the start of the race, we were really, really loose. The first caution, was able to make the right changes, got the car really good, it was driving awesome. That's the only thing that enabled us to do two tires. I wanted four. Knew if I took four, it was going to put us right together somewhere down the line.
Here we go again. Could have got hung out in the last few laps. 71 was with us there, too. Wanted to get up front, get track position. Knew there was only going to be eight laps to go. Try to hold them off.
There again, couldn't have done it if the car wasn't driving like it was there.
Q. Jeremy, can you tell us who you replaced your Jackman with today?
JEREMY MAYFIELD: No, I don't have no idea (laughter). One of the NAPA guys. I guess Mike Waltrip's team. Steve King is who it was. Kyle, our jackman, obviously got hurt today. Our thoughts and prayers go out with him. Hopefully he's OK. We'll be checking on him shortly.
There again, really I don't know half the guys on our pit crew today, to be honest with you. I will get to know them because they did a great job and they're going to be with us quite a while.
Q. Can you talk about the camaraderie in the garage? A lot of people seem to be helping out a lot of teams.
JEREMY MAYFIELD: That's been the biggest thing for me. I can't believe the support we've gotten. For one, this guy right here, Gary Smith at All Sport came on with us. He had no business sponsoring a team like us. Coming to try to make the Daytona 500, wasn't in the top 35. He did. He stuck his neck out on the line with us. It been that way ever since we done this.
If I knew I was going to get this much support from so many people, I probably would have done this better, would have been better prepared. I don't know if that's a good thing or not. We would have been better prepared for the season.
It's been overwhelming, all the NASCAR officials, everybody at NASCAR, everybody in the garage. It's just been unbelievable as far as their support, everybody wanting to lend a hand. Makes you feel good when you come back like that. Feel welcomed back in the sport. Certainly for me.
Q. Jeremy, with so many people being laid off and the general economy in this country, you brought together a bunch of people who were laid off in the industry. Do you feel like you've struck a blow for the laid off folks?
JEREMY MAYFIELD: Yeah, I do. That makes me feel good, knowing that we've got several guys from Chip Ganassi Racing that were laid off over there. They're all good guys. That's what is kind of sad about the sport right now. There's a lot of good people that really deserve good jobs.
That's something I'm very proud of, being able to at least employ 10 or 15 guys that had been laid off, at least help their family, help them out. It's just amazing right now how many that's like that.
But for us, we had a little saying. We weren't going to hire anybody unless you've been laid off for three months, kind of hungry like we are, ready to go. That the just a joke, by the way (laughter). We had seven guys from Ganassi total.
I also want to say, too, the guys that work on our team, everybody there wants to work on it. They're all excited. Not one time has anybody complained about anything. I'm sure the economy has a lot to do with that, too, when you've been laid off.
From outside looking in last year, I'm not going to complain about anything anymore. I don't know who I can complain to anymore. Car owner. He can complain back to me. Makes you appreciate what you got when you sit out for a little bit and realize what you had is gone.
Q. Do you think you'll have a lot of fans Sunday?
JEREMY MAYFIELD: I hope so. I feel good about that, too. The fans that I do have in the past have all stuck with me. Hopefully we'll make 'em proud again and get this 41 car up front. Hopefully have a good showing the rest of the year for them.
Q. Jeremy, why Tony Furr? He hadn't been in the Cup garage for five years.
JEREMY MAYFIELD: Well, Tony, if you know Tony, he's a great guy. He and I just really get along well. Just been good friends over the years. I worked with him at Cale Yarboroughs in the early '90s. Tony is one of those guys that is pretty humble, hasn't forgotten where he's came from. We understand each other.
I knew that doing this I needed to get somebody that understood what I like in a car. It showed today. Our car was terrible to start with. Come down pit road, boom, dials it right in. Haven't had that in a long time. Five, six, ten years seemed like. To have a guy that just understands you. I knew Tony did. We worked together well.
Tony is a true racer guy. He's not in it for the media. Nothing against the media, but he's not trying to be flashy or nothing like that. He just wants to race hard and work hard. You can't beat a guy like that.
Q. Jeremy, the way you have this thing structured, there's true incentive for the crew guys to go out there, you finish well, because they'll get paid more out of the purse. Do you think by providing a little bit of incentive that brings more back into this game?
JEREMY MAYFIELD: I feel like, you know, over the years salaries have all gone up in every direction in NASCAR racing. I feel like sometimes if you're just getting a paycheck, you're making good money, maybe the incentive to do well is not there. I guess not for everybody, but some guys are like that.
This kind of happened by accident. But we just got to keep our budgets where they need to be. The way we're paying the guys is they get X amount of dollars for a salary, and then they get the rest of their money, about 70% during the week they get a paycheck, and the rest of the 30% comes when we make a race. So they're still making great money, but yet we have to make races and run well to do that.
If I'm on the car and spending money on it, I'm not making anything else, I make races. That's kind of the way they are with me. I feel like that's going to make us a tighter race team. Maybe we'll change that after we get a few races under our belt. Some raises. We'll work that out in the future.
Right now it keeps everybody in the same boat and making money when we make races.
Q. AJ, when I talked to you yesterday, you were really quick, kind of zoned in on what you had to do today. The fact that your car carries the Richard Petty sticker, did that put a little more pressure on you to make sure you got in this show?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: Obviously when the King kind of puts his hands around your neck and said, You got to go do this, it kind of puts a little incentive to make it happen.
No, I mean, pretty much 95% of the pressure that's out there is from me on my own shoulders. Like I said, it ultimately came down to that I felt like I deserved to be in this race. I've shown over the last six months that I have the capability of running up front and contending, being consistent, just doing all that.
You know, that's where that pressure came from. I knew I wanted to be in this race. The guys that worked so hard at the team, they deserved to be in the race. Valvoline deserved to be in the race. Heck, coming here, we learned we weren't in the race. We had kind of a little chip on our shoulders. We had to go out there and get the job done.
Basically since I've gotten here, I've been right on edge and just so focused on what we had to do.
Q. AJ, you talk about how that team deserved to be in it all that. Then you got the system that cost you an automatic spot. How do you feel about that, the thing about teams being able to buy points? It cost you having a spot. You found out at the last minute. Were you shocked by that? Do you feel that needs to change?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: No. I mean, it wasn't shocking, 'cause nothing shocks me in this sport any more. It's one of the those things, yeah, you know, coming down here, you learn about it, and it feels like, you know, it kind of kicks you in the gut.
I was more kind of saddened because Valvoline, that was one of the big reasons they signed on. They thought they were in the 500. Coming down here to learn they weren't. I had to promise them we were going to be.
You can sit and whine about it, moan about it, just worry about it, or you can go out there and get the job done. That's the only option you have. You can't change it. It's the system. It's the way they worked it. Can't change it.
So you only got one option, and that's to go get the job done. That's what we focused on when we got here.
KERRY THARP: Guys, congratulations. Good luck on Sunday at the 500.