Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch was made available to media at Daytona International Speedway:
KYLE BUSCH, No.18 M&M’s Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Talk about your practice session and the teams individually hanging together on the track.
“Yeah that’s kind of the way it’s been typical here the last few years or so – manufacturer alliances, all that sort of stuff, teams and practicing together. Trying not to get in packs. Trying not to tear up stuff. I think there’s a more push on that by the owners just to try to get through this year with the cars that we have so they don’t have to rebuild new ones every single speedway race and move on into the new car next year."
Did you get out of practice what you need or was it just sort of shaking the bugs out?
“Just shaking the bugs out essentially. No real handling issues, so felt pretty good about that. Making sure the car goes straright where it’s supposed to go straight and does what it was supposed to do in traffic was best as we could figure it out."
Is it fun to be back when you walk into Daytona?
“Yeah, it’s always good to get back at it.Certainly feel like we were just in Nashville a few weeks ago, so it’s certainly been a really quick offseason."
Talk about what you put into your energy drink and the process of getting Rowdy Energy on the market.
“There’s a lot behind that. I could go on for a while. Essentially, to keep it short, just trying to figure out something a little bit healthier for people to have an option of being able to be less chemical filled, obviously be more natural and have the opportunity to give people a little bit more option. I feel like we succeeded in that. The chemist did a really good job. I was involved in all of that. I was involved in the flavor developing and all of that as well too, so the look of the can – everything. Every aspect of it. We soft launched, essentially, with the website RowdyEnergy.com and from there we’ll see if we can’t get some distribution. We’ve had a lot of contacts through the world of that space and we’ll see if we can’t get it going into stores."
What was your motivation for making an energy drink like Rowdy Energy?
“To be able to get out there and have a healthier option for the fans, for myself. I feel like I’m getting into the Tom Brady years of my career, so you kind of watch everything that you’re putting into your body and doing in order to kind of try and make sure you can get a little bit more out of it."
What do you expect in The Clash?
“I think the biggest thing is just trying to run all the laps, trying to stay out of the mess, trying not to create any mess and just have a good run. Obviously, you want to win, but it not being an important race or a points race, just kind of knock the bugs off and get ready to go for next week."
What’s the motivation of The Clash?
I mean the motivation of The Clash, like I said, just to get out there and knock the rust off essentially. I ran the 24 Hours (of Daytona) so that was good for me to be able to do that. Just to get out there, get the feel for being in the draft again and kind of get a better understanding. Maybe learn a couple things about some different tricks to the trade that maybe you kind of forgot in the back of your mind or whatever from the last speedway race. This is the first time – well we did run July here – but first Daytona Speedweeks with this package, so maybe there’s something else to be learned in that."
You went to the sand dunes with a bunch of drivers and John Elway was there. Have you spent time with Elway like that before because he was your hero growing up.
“No, that was the first time being able to do that. I’ve met him a few times at Denver Broncos games. He and I, we had lunch together one time. We were talking the automobile business and things like that. We’ve had some exchanges, so that was kind of the first laid-back time. Don’t talk business. Just chill out. Talk amongst friends. Hangs amongst friends and have a good time. It was really a lot of fun."
Do you ever get starstruck by anyone considering you’re like a celebrity yourself?
“When you kind of look at it in that regard – I did and I even told it to them. We were sitting around the couch at this guy’s house. It was myself and my dad and then it was Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, Ray Evernham, Snake Prudhomme. Take the Snake out of it, but it was like the mid-90s to late-90s NASCAR, that’s them right there. I was like"Boys, we should probably hash out some of these disagreements we had back then, what do you say?" I think the only one missing was probably (Jack) Roush to be involved in that. You know Ray and him probably could’ve hashed out that New Hampshire tire-soaking debacle. It was pretty cool to hear their stories back and forth a little bit about Jeff knocking Rusty out of the way and then Rusty dumping Jeff at Richmond. Good stuff."
The expectation has to be more of the same for Joe Gibbs Racing considering the parts freeze and things not being a whole lot different this year. Is there any reason to believe Joe Gibbs Racing can’t go out and do what you did last year?
“Well, yes and no. I think anybody with the parts that they already currently have can find a better way of doing things, so they’re going to improve. They’ve had all off season to kind of think about it and work on it, so for us, same thing. We feel like we can probably improve on things that we have as well too already. It’s just a matter of who’s done that and who’s made the biggest gains with the stuff that they’ve had. I’d like to think that 19 (wins) is possible again – 19 wins for Joe Gibbs Racing is possible again – but other than that, just to go out there and try to be successful as an organization and keep that strength is where it’s at."
Last year with the 1-2-3 finish for Joe Gibbs Racing – were you upset at all when you didn’t get that help at the end that Denny Hamlin did?
“I don’t really remember how the late restarts went, but I know Denny was leading on a late restart and then I beat him on a restart and got the lead. I sustained the lead on another restart and then the final restart, Denny was able to beat me on that one. It just – obviously it hurt not being able to bring home that trophy and for Denny to be able to bring home two, but that’s just a part of racing. Hopefully we can get it done this year or whenever, sometime or another, before it’s all said and done for myself to be able to at least have one."
You’ve done so much throughout your career, does it take away some of the weight for not doing one thing on your bucket list like winning the Daytona 500?
“I don’t think so. The whole aspect of having one item not checked is not that big of a deal. It’s not going to end my career by any means. Obviously it would certainly be nice that I’ve come this far and been able to do all those things to get that done. We’ll see what happens."
When Jimmie Johnson retires, you could be the only multiple championship winner in the series, does that shock you?
“A little bit, yeah. It’s kind of odd that there’s only a two-time guy out there, everybody else is zero or one. It just kind of shows you the influx of newer, younger drivers and just how many of those guys that have won championships are now gone. The Tonys (Stewart), the Jeffs (Gordon), the Jimmies (Johnson) that no longer are here. Hopefully it’s three (championships). I might could be the only one."
Sammy Smith won for you guys last night. What kind of progress are you looking for with someone who has limited experience, but a solid resume at this point?
“I think the biggest thing is – Vegas is going to be tell-tell story – or if I can get out to any other races and see where our stuff is at. If he’s not winning and I’m able to win or if our cars are fast and competitive, that’s an issue. So far, so good. He started out week one, day one – he’s got a victory. That’s pretty cool. It’s nice to have an experienced crew chief on board with Anthony (Campi), who comes from down here in Florida. I’ve not met him yet actually, but I’ve known of him and his results the last few years in the Pro Late Models, so to see them come on board and have success in race one with our stuff is pretty rewarding. I’m looking forward to that. But what’s going to turn him and make him viable or successful to move on to the next level is going to be the same as it was with all the rest of the drivers. If they are running up front, if they are competitive and winning races, parts aren’t falling off the cars and cars are prepared well and they are fast, that will obviously show that they’ve got the opportunity to get to the next level."
How much can you help with the young drivers?
“It’s a lot of they have to figure it out on their own, but they’re certain times where we are in meetings where I’m able to talk to some of those guys. My phone is always open. They can call or whatever. I’ve seen some of the film from Chandler (Smith) or Erik Jones or Christopher Bell and some of the races that they have done. I’ve gone back and fast forward through the film and kind of looked at some of the stuff they have done and given them some pointers and such. That’s kind of the biggest thing is to just help speed up their learning curve, their process. Having drivers know they are in good equipment gives them a sense of comfort to be able to go out there and race hard and produce results."
What has been Jimmie Johnson’s impact to the sport?
That’s a wide open question. In short, if you want to say, one to 10, I’d say it’s a 10 out of 10. The guy is obviously a seven-time champion. He’s the winningest driver on the circuit right now. He has had a lot of success here with Hendrick Motorsports and Chad Knaus. He’s carried our sport very, very well and obviously been a honorable champion in the years that he has been. He will remembered as such."
Is it going to be an end of an era somewhat?
“I would agree with that. It’s an end of era, if you will. There was sort of the (Dale) Earnhardt era into the Jeff Gordon Era. Then it kind of seemed it went from Jeff to Jimmie. Now it’s kind of moving on from that. It’s interesting just the competitive nature of our sport, you don’t really ever know who has the opportunity to win or win a championship in a given year, but you do see the cream rising to the top with Kevin (Harvick), myself, (Martin) Truex, lately. The big three essentially the last few years have kind of been able to keep that there, and four, five and six is always kind of a mystery."
Has there been a difference between the first championship and the second championship?
“It’s been good. Once Jimmie is gone, I can be the only multi-time champion (laughter), barring someone who has won winning this year. Hopefully, we can be three and everybody else can be one or none. It’s pretty cool, especially the way it all went down and happened. To become champion again and now to be two-time coming into this year is really special. To know that we’ve got an opportunity coming into this year to chase guys – there is not that many that have won three, four or seven championships."
Did you enjoy Rolex?
“Yeah, I did. It was fun. I wish our stuff was a bit more competitive, if you will. I kind of saw that at the test, that we were a little behind. I thought barring some different circumstances and how the race played out, we might have a chance to race for a podium, but it kind of went down because of all the long green flag runs about how I expected it to go down. That was kind of a little discouraging, but the overall experience and to understand and see how much effort and work and everything for the drivers and the crews and the cars that goes into the event. When you win it, you can understand how rewarding it is for the people that win it."
Looking ahead to Las Vegas, can you talk about your excitement to get there?
“It’s interesting with the West Coast Swing being right after Daytona. I always kind of remember Atlanta or some other places coming up before that. Going out there early, is going to be the same – but different, I guess. A little different order I think too. Overall, looking forward to it. I love going out to the West Coast. That’s kind of home away from home if you will. I enjoy all the tracks – going to Vegas, going to Phoenix, going to Fontana. Those are cool places."