Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch was made available to media in advance of the race at the Richmond Raceway and was asked about downsizing Fontana to a short-track.
“Fact of the matter is that I don’t like it. I like California Speedway, I like it the way it is. I think it’s a really fun race track. I kind of understand the fan point of it where it can get a little strung out, it gets a little extended. Cars aren’t up on top of each other and such and all of that. There’s a good point to argue where there’s really been some fantastic finishes there over the years. Being an old, worn out surface, it gives itself an opportunity to put on a good show or put on a good race with us drivers………see more below.
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
How will you work with Jacob Canter as your crew chief this weekend compared to having Adam Stevens usually on the pit box?
“I’m not sure with technology today and the war room and all that stuff at Joe Gibbs Racing with the communications and all that stuff that we have going on right now that much is going to be different at all really. Based off of Adam (Stevens, crew chief) being at the track or not being at the track. Especially with no practice and none of that stuff, basically just calling a race, the only thing that sometimes Adam can see is essentially the car going down the front straightaway by him. There’s no seeing the car on top of the truck or seeing what it does on that. They’re still going to have the same photos available to them, the TV coverage available to him – I don’t know that it’s really going to be all that different. Me talking on the radio is basically me talking directly to Adam, it’s just I can’t hear back from Adam. That will be all information coming back to me from Jacob (Canter, fill-in crew chief). I don’t foresee it being a whole lot different. Obviously the car back at the shop is all setup by Adam and everything else, it’s just a guy on top of the box.”
What are the challenges running Richmond with this downforce package?
“It’s not going to be what it was last year. I think it’s going to be more reminiscent to maybe 2017 or 2018 as far as downforce package and the way the cars feel and such like that. I’m sure with the tire upgrades that have been going on from Goodyear over the last year or two, the tires are certainly going to react different so the downforce level is not necessarily going to feel exactly the same. You’re going to look at your notes from ’17, ’18 and kind of look and see what things you did or didn’t do well in that time period and start from there.”
How much will it help you to race the Xfinity race Friday night at Richmond prior to the Cup race?
“I think any time you’re able to run a race will give you an opportune time to just kind of check out the track, check out the tire and kind of feel and see what’s going on. Not real sure what the weather is going to have for this weekend so we’ll see how that all kind of plays out with tonight in the Truck race and then tomorrow night trying to get our Xfinity race in. You always try or want to run the Xfinity race prior to the Cup race, especially this day and age with no practice and such so that would give you a little bit of a heads up as far as what to expect. It might not even happen Friday night. If Mother Nature steps in and says no Xfinity race on Friday, then I’ll run my Cup race before my Xfinity race. The use of it is not necessarily going to be what we expect it to be. We hope it all goes down on schedule and it should be a useful tool.”
How much do you enjoy the racing in the Xfinity Series?
“It’s good. Some of those guys are all really doing a good job and putting on a good show, fighting hard. The races this day and age, the way the driver etiquette has changed the last couple of years is very different and it comes from all these guys in their younger ranks and younger series that they run in and just bringing up that aggression all the way through and even the Cup nowadays with the aero package, there is no chill time. There is no let somebody go and they’ll let me go later, although sometimes, some of us older guys – myself or Kevin (Harvick) or Denny (Hamlin) or Martin (Truex Jr.), Jimmie Johnson for instance, we may still play in that realm a little bit where we kind of give and take a little bit and see what happens later on in the race.”
How important is it to have a long-standing relationship with your crew chief in this time where you’re not allowed as much time in-person with your team?
“I think it’s important. Sometimes like we’re seeing right now, for instance, the Jason Ratcliff and the Christopher Bell, they’re kind of going through a hit or miss, a little bit of a rough patch just not having the experience and not having the communication together, especially with these Cup cars, obviously they’ve run the last couple of years in the Xfinity Series together. Learning a new car and sometimes learning new tracks has been challenging. Having that notebook and having that experience that’s been developed over time with myself and Adam (Stevens, crew chief) certainly helps and gives us a good basis to go off of, but also too, the setups and everything else is ever-evolving and always changing so there’s a lot of things that we always have to take into consideration going into race weekends. What to do or what to change and what to improve on from the last time we were somewhere.”
Do you feel you and your team are on the verge of breaking through or still have a lot of work to do?
“I think we struggle in traffic, that’s our biggest problem. I can’t get through traffic very well. We kind of saw it in Darlington this week. Wherever I single-filed out in a race run is kind of where I ran. There wasn’t much of me going forward or going backwards for that matter. When I got up front and got up to second, I was able to restart with Martin Truex Jr.. Truex and I ran really fast, really hard and drove away from the field. Our car had speed. We had the comfort in being up front and the aero being in second place versus being back in seventh or eighth or whatever it might be. We were able to drive away from the field. That gave me some optimistic measures for things to come and obviously our teammates have been starting up front, they’ve been running up front and they’ve been doing a good job of keeping themselves in the mix as far as all that goes. If we can continue to evolve and get ourselves up a little bit higher then hopefully that will bode well for us too down the stretch here.”
What do you think about Auto Club Speedway being reconfigured into a short track?
“Fact of the matter is that I don’t like it. I like California Speedway, I like it the way it is. I think it’s a really fun race track. I kind of understand the fan point of it where it can get a little strung out, it gets a little extended. Cars aren’t up on top of each other and such and all of that. There’s a good point to argue where there’s really been some fantastic finishes there over the years. Being an old, worn out surface, it gives itself an opportunity to put on a good show or put on a good race with us drivers. Even as much as we want to to applaud or what not that put on good races from the driver’s seat, sometimes they don’t always do that from the TV standpoint. Atlanta, earlier this year, was a heck of a race from the driver’s seat, you could run all over the race track, but when Kevin Harvick runs away from the field by four or six seconds, it’s kind of boring. You can’t run away from the field at a short track by four to six seconds so there’s going to be everybody up on top of each other a little bit more and guys running into guys. If the layout really is what they show and what we expect it to be, it’s going to be a track that’s going to be hard on equipment, hard on brakes and hard on tempers.”
What is it about Richmond that suits your driving style?
“I don’t know, over the years – I started out really bad there. My first Truck Series race there was horrible. I think I ran into everything but the hot dog stand. The next time I went there was with Hendrick (Motorsports) in the Busch Series in 2004 when they first repaved the track and I ran really well, we were able to win that race and I led the most laps and won. From that point forward, I feel like I kind of learned or had a sense of what it takes to be fast there and what you need to be able to do to win there. As the years have gone on, the race track has definitely aged, it’s definitely gone through some transition, it’s lost a lot of grip. There’s been some changes in that respect as well just trying to figure out, okay, what’s next. What’s the next thing that’s going to keep you on top of your game at Richmond. It’s always been a good track for me, I enjoy going there. It’s a fun short track. It’s a very challenging short track that doesn’t lend itself to typical short tracks around the country. That kind of lends itself to some different ideas and concepts that you have to be ready for and myself and Denny (Hamlin) and Martin (Truex Jr.) now and Carl (Edwards) when Carl was with us and Matt Kenseth, I think we’ve all won there at Richmond in Joe Gibbs Racing Camrys. We certainly have a good basis of our cars that tend to run well there.”
Do you have any family or friends that are impacted by the California wildfires?
“I have not heard of anything, no. I’ve got a few friends out in the LA area and a couple that are in Idaho, not too far off of the Sonoma area and stuff like that. Fortunately, we haven’t heard of anybody having any issues. Thankfully, that’s been safe as far as our connection goes, but we know there’s plenty of other family connections and people out there that are suffering through the wildfires and such. We wish them all the best and hope they can come out of this all good on the opposite side.”
What is your assessment of your Truck Series drivers as the Playoffs are ready to kickoff?
“It’s been alright. The last four, five, six weeks, Christian Eckes has really come on strong and he had a few second-place finishes in a row. Had a third in there. Probably should have finished in the top-three at Gateway before we had a mechanical failure. He’s been having some good runs and that’s been very promising and he’s running in the top-three, top-five and getting some good finishes where he belongs. You do that enough times and the win is certainly going to come. Raphie (Raphael Lessard) had struggled with the beginning of the season and not having a whole lot of practice going to all of these race tracks for the first time, but really his last three weeks have given us a vote of confidence where he’s run well. He ran well and ran strong at Darlington, probably or arguably our best KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports) truck was his effort at Darlington. Then also had a good, decent run there at Gateway too being in the top-five, running fourth at a point. Looking for some strong runs here to finish out the season. I think Eckes will be in the Playoffs obviously. I don’t know that Raphie will make it. We hope for a win, but other than that, he’s kind of on the outside looking in. We’ll just have to keep fighting it out and try to get all those guys some wins. Chandler (Smith) has been running real hard and had a good run at Darlington going. Had a loose wheel there at the end so that was derailed, but also had a few wrecks in there as well so those guys need to clean that up a little bit and get themselves in contention of running in the top-eight. Don’t shoot for wins, let’s shoot for top-eights right now and we’ll work our way up to top-fives and get where we need to get first.”