Transcript: Kyle Busch's Return

News - Transcript: Joe Gibbs Teleconference With Kyle Busch on May 12, 2015

An interview with: KYLE BUSCH

THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to today's teleconference. We are joined by Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M Red Nose Day Toyota. Kyle will return to on-track activity Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Kyle, welcome back. First off, how are you feeling and how excited are you to be back in the car for this weekend's All-Star Race?

KYLE BUSCH: Hello, everyone. Today is an exciting day, one that not a lot of folks would have thought possible that night in February down in the hospital in Daytona. Thanks to the good Lord, a tremendous medical team both in Daytona and of course Dr. Anderson here in Charlotte, the incredible support of my wife Samantha, my family and friends, everyone in the NASCAR community, and the many fans.
I'm happy to say I plan to be back in the #18 M&M Toyota Camry for the Sprint All-Star Race this weekend. I want to thank everybody for their patience. It's not an easy process and not a process that always has a clear-cut path either.
I know everybody has been anxious to know when I would return and it would have been great back in February to say we were looking at the All-Star Race. But truthfully not a lot of people would have bet I could be back by then.
As I mentioned to you all last month, it's been a process and you can only take it one step at a time. You know in the back of your mind you could possibly have a setback. So I can't do anything until my doctors clear me to make that next step. Once you have that, you see how your body responds to each of those steps.
Yes, I was cleared to get out of the boot a couple weeks ago, and was cleared to test my late model. That test went really well. I was able to come back again and test again last week at Hickory. My medical team was there with me and then declared I was cleared to get back in the car again for the All-Star Race in the Sprint Cup Series.
I think it's a great race to come back to. For one it's shorter. It's a non-points event. There's mandatory cautions after every 25 laps and whatnot, so it gives you an opportunity to take a breather, take a rest, whatever it may be. That will allow me to make adjustments to myself as well as being behind the wheel of the 2015 Camry for the first time because I haven't had an opportunity to race at all in this aero package and whatnot.
Again, I appreciate everyone's patience through this process and I'm looking forward to getting behind the wheel of the M&M Toyota this week.

THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions now for Kyle.


Q. Kyle, how is your race shape, your conditioning in general? You mentioned this is a shorter race, that it gives you the opportunity to take breaks. Do you feel you will need them?

KYLE BUSCH: No, I don't believe that's the reason. I think as far as my physical shape as to working out and whatnot, I've been doing therapy and whatnot three, sometimes four, five days a week. I feel like I'm well ready to go, that the cardio aspect is there, and the physical aspect of it is all there. I don't foresee there being any setbacks in that regard.


Q. Have you heard anything from NASCAR on whether or not they will make you eligible to compete in the Chase should you qualify?

KYLE BUSCH: I know there's been some good dialogue on the subject, but I'm not aware that there's been a decision made at this point. As I mentioned last month, I'd love to race for a win and a spot in the Chase. I think the top 30 rule makes a lot of sense.
But for me, in my mind, it was intended for someone in my situation that has a car, sponsor and team that was set to run the entire year for a championship. I think it was set up to keep guys from being able to grab a win at a road course or restrictor plate track or something like that.
We'll see what happens. That's in their hands. We'll see what the decision is.


Q. What is your biggest concern coming back? What are you most worried about? You mentioned you haven't really been behind the wheel with this aero package. Are you worried you'll be behind or that you've forgotten how to drive, your health? What concerns you the most?

KYLE BUSCH: Nothing really, to be honest with you. In my mind I think the thing, if I had to say what would concern me the most, it would only be a 2 factor on a 1 to 10, is the amount of walking I would have to do between the hauler to the car or pit road, whatever, for qualifying.
This week the All-Star qualifying is in the garage area, you pull out, you go for your laps around the track. Not that big a deal this week.
Being in the car, like I said, I felt really good in my late model test that I made. I feel like the cardio aspect is there. I feel like we're fine in that regard. My feet, my legs, everything works good inside the racecar. Even walking, walking's not that terrible. It's just the amount of time being on your feet, standing on your feet. They tend to get tired a little quicker than what they used to. The more time I can take being off my feet is better.


Q. There's no pain or anything like that associated like when you put a lot of pressure on the pedals?

KYLE BUSCH: No, No. I've not had that. The pedal pressure is somewhat around the same as to when I'm doing leg presses and stuff like that in therapy. All of that feels real relative.
Yeah, I mean, there's probably some soreness there, but I wouldn't call it pain. It's definitely not 100% cleared up yet. But I'm not so sure that other drivers haven't raced in worse pain than I have over the years.


Q. Kyle, is there a chance you'd get out in the All-Star Race, decide it was more than you thought it was, not continue throughout the season? Or are you fully committed and feeling you're confident and be able to move forward?

KYLE BUSCH: I mean, my plan is to obviously get in the car and to do all on-track activity each weekend. I'll admit we'll have Erik Jones on standby in case anything happens or in case I have any issues that I need to come out during any event. That's just a precautionary thing. I plan to be in the entire time.


Q. Who did you have to convince, other than the doctors, Samantha, NASCAR, that you were ready to come back at this point? You have to get the doctor's clearance, but who did you have to work on and convince?

KYLE BUSCH: I don't know that I convinced my wife 100% yet. It's a process. Like I said, I mean, we've just been kind of working through everything with the doctors each step of the way. We've been working with the NASCAR medical team as well. They've been well aware of all the progress and things that have happened thus far.
I appreciate everyone's, even the doctors', patience that they've given me, being able to work with me, for as many questions as I've had, for as many times as I've had to call or text people late at night. It's been good, and I'm ready to be back.


Q. You've had a lot of challenges through your NASCAR career from the age rule, then Hendrick, building your own race team, disciplinary issues. Where does this rank as the challenges in your career and why?

KYLE BUSCH: I would say physically this is obviously the biggest challenge. Even mentally maybe in the beginning, it was a tough challenge to get myself back into race-able condition. Obviously you want to be back as soon as you can be. Things will only happen so fast.
I feel like this is a great accomplishment for myself, for nobody else but myself, just to be able to come back as quickly as I've been able to.
Like I said, I don't know that anybody would have expected the All-Star Race would have been a place for me to come back when we were laying down in the hospital bed in Daytona and even in Charlotte here just days after the accident.
It's been good. It's been a learning experience, that's for sure.


Q. Why do you call it an accomplishment in the sense of we're talking about healing? What have been the challenges for you combined with the healing of the bones to be able to race at this point?

KYLE BUSCH: I call it an accomplishment because it's faster than anyone would have anticipated, even the doctors. I feel like I've had some of the best doctors in the world working with me. Dr. McCall in Daytona who was called in that night to repair my leg. Dr. Anderson is the best there is with feet. I'm very fortunate to have worked with those guys.
I'm also blessed to have the Ortho Carolina team on my side. They've really helped me and pushed me tremendously. Without them I don't know that this announcement would have been today. It would have been probably later down the road.
All of them have been extremely pleased with how rapidly I've progressed. I don't know if 'surprised' is the right word, but we exceeded expectations for a return, that's for sure.


Q. Was there a certain point where maybe in your head you said, I want to try to make this happen by the All-Star Race? You do go from that non-points race to the longest event of the season. Your thoughts about that, as well.

KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, there's been good days and there's been bad days. I definitely would have said a few weeks ago I'm probably ready for a return Talladega or Kansas. But then there's been a day or two within those two weeks where it's like, Oh, man, I'm glad I didn't decide to come back, I'm glad we waited a little bit longer.
You feel a little bit better, or some day you might feel a little worse after too much therapy or too much whatever and that brings on some pain symptoms.
For me, getting into the All-Star Race I felt like was a good idea just based of the fact of being able to get in, get behind the wheel, being able to go 200 miles an hour again, get a small taste of it, make sure everything is good, the body is good, everything is fine, which I anticipate it to be.
If there's things I need to work on, maybe I can work on during the week to get myself a little bit more prepared for the 600 coming up to the longest one.
I definitely would have said coming back for the 600 is going to be really, really tough. That's why I feel like the All-Star Race is the perfect advantage to be able to come back.


Q. What did you miss the most while you were gone?

KYLE BUSCH: I think the biggest thing I missed is being able to hold up trophies, being in Victory Lane. That's probably the biggest thing. I know my teammate Denny Hamlin has won, my teammate Matt Kenseth has won. Besides those races that they've won, it may look like we've struggled a little bit as an organization.
I'm excited to be able to get back behind the wheel of my #18 M&M Camry and being able to work with Adam Stevens, who this whole year was supposed to be him and I teaming up, getting ready, getting used to each other, which now we're 10 or 11 weeks behind schedule.
Really missed my team, just the guys there, being able to be with them each and every weekend. Of course, spending the weekend in the motorhome, being there with Samantha and everything else.


Q. Going back to the late model tests, what needed to be seen out of those to verify you were ready? Was it more the physical or just shaking the rust out for you being out of the car for so long?

KYLE BUSCH: Well, it was shaking the rust off for me, but also just proving that I can handle brake pressures, clutch, all that stuff with the foot, making sure the leg wouldn't tense up or spasm or anything in the racecar being locked in sort of a particular angle.
The test went really well. It worked good to simulate as much of the racing situations as we could. I ran over 300 laps in the first lap down in Greenville-Pickens. The brake pressure I felt was probably comparable most to Dover, Charlotte being lighter than what Dover would be.
I was the only car on the track, so you couldn't simulate side-by-side. We had random cautions in there, practice coming in and out of the pits, applying sudden pressure to simulate as best as we could race conditions to provide a good look at how I'd be able to respond and how my body would respond, so it was good.


Q. You talked about last month the safety aspects, how you were good from the knees up. Now that you're getting back in the car, is there anything you'll do, safety stuff, to further protect your legs? Would you be wearing any kind of a brace these coming weeks?

KYLE BUSCH: No. I don't think anybody else has changed anything that they've been doing. Like I said, I think a month ago it was a freak situation, it was unfortunate.
I'm comfortable enough being able to move forward with my typical race shoes, accessories, everything I currently wear inside the racecar. We're going to go down that path and I think it will be good.


Q. Kyle, can you talk about going to VIR. Do you have any plans to test there, as well, just to try to get a feel for that amount of braking? I would think it would be one of the toughest places to race with the upcoming schedule, Sonoma, Watkins Glen, et cetera?

KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, I mean, I would have to go do it in a late model car because we're not allowed to test the Cup car, XFINITY car, Truck, nothing of that nature. It's not on the docket at all right now to go do that test. Thankfully the Sonoma race is another month down the road.
I feel like I've made more progress every day. The last two weeks has been really good progress. If I look at it week-to-week, I've done a really good job of healing and feeling better. I can only imagine maybe getting back into the rhythm of things, being back in the car, walking more and more. All of that's just going to continue to get better.
We'll have to play that by ear once we get there. Nothing on the docket to go test.


Q. Specifically what day were you cleared by NASCAR's medical staff being able to come back?

KYLE BUSCH: I was cleared by NASCAR's medical team the same day I sent in my letter for them to review to release me. So that was just yesterday.


Q. We've seen some pretty serious injuries over the years. Why do you think your injury was the tipping point to see this sudden resurgence in trying to cover more walls around the circuit?

KYLE BUSCH: That I'm not sure. I don't know why it would have taken my crash for them to review it as in-depthly as they've shown lately.
California Speedway did make changes post the Denny Hamlin crash. They did respond.
It's unfortunate there's as much coming after crashes than there is beforehand. But it has been encouraging to see the response that we've gotten from post my crash, that they've been adding things and doing things in the right regard as far as safety around the racetrack goes. All of us drivers will appreciate that.


Q. Has that whole event changed you in any fundamental way? Maybe you have to get in the car to see. Outside the car, as a person, has it changed you in any way?

KYLE BUSCH: I don't know. Was I a bad one to begin with?


Q. It's not a good or bad.

KYLE BUSCH: I'm just messing with you, it's fine (laughter). I know where you're coming from.
I think so. I definitely believe it's added some growth to me. Beforehand every racecar drivers thinks they're invincible. In this regard certainly, it took that away. It shows you maybe there's a bigger picture going on to life than just driving racecars.
There's no doubt I ever thought about getting back in, being able to go back to Victory Lane and win championships. That's something I haven't done much of in my career, so I'm looking forward to being able to race for a championship this year and seeing how all that plays out.


Q. Have your doctors given you any perspective in terms of your healing? Were your injuries not as bad as what they once thought? Is this a miracle that you healed so quickly in some way?

KYLE BUSCH: I don't remember their exact words. One of the things I remember hearing from Dr. Anderson or one of his assistants in his office was that it's just been a remarkable timeframe in which I've been able to make as much progress as I have, as quickly as I have.
I do feel fortunate in regards that I don't have a day job, I don't have to go to work from 9 to 5, hopefully get a half hour, an hour of therapy when I'm all said and done at the end of the day.
Every single day since I stood back up, started to walk, this or that, I've been doing therapy sometimes three, four, five, six hours a day. I would do two and a half hours in the morning, I'd eat lunch, I would do another two and a half hours after that. I've had continuous therapy treatments, massage treatments, all kinds of things that have sped the process along. It's been really good. I'm fortunate to be in the situation I am in order to have all that time to heal.


Q. Could Samantha's due date be Saturday and is there a plan should it be Saturday?

KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, I mean, if she goes into labor, my plan has always been to be there for the birth. The good thing about Charlotte is we have more flexibility being here than if we were on the other side of the country.
We'll see what happens the next few days. Her due date is actually the 22nd, not till next Thursday. She's been great. She's healthy. He's healthy. We're definitely ready for Baby Busch to enter the world. We had a great Mother's Day and hope all the mothers out there had a great Mother's Day.
We couldn't be more excited as we get closer and the anticipation rises here. We're going hour by hour right now. It could be any hour that he decides he wants to be here.


Q. Wondering about your XFINITY and Truck Series plans moving forward. Have they changed at all from what you planned at the beginning of the year? Also, have you given any consideration to waiting till the baby came to make your return?

KYLE BUSCH: For this week the focus is getting as comfortable as I can in the #18 M&M Toyota, using that practice time to get a feel for the 2015 car, because I haven't been in that racecar at all. Just getting laps, learning what I need to do in the cockpit will be very important.
Going forward, the game plan right now is to focus on the Cup Series for the time being. I think that will be enough on my plate for the next several weeks. I plan to work my way back to multiple series. But it's a process on its own, and we'll be smart about that. We'll just see how that comes.


Q. Kyle, you mentioned Adam Stevens. What kind of conversations and chats have you had, new crew chief combo, new rules package? What have you gone over that you think is going to help you guys get the ball rolling quicker?

KYLE BUSCH: It's been good with Adam. He's been supportive through this whole situation. It's not anything we would have planned for. Given the circumstances, we worked through it the best we could.
Adam has been great. He's only expressed that he wants me back when I'm 100% and feel like I'm capable of being ready to go win races, not just run around in the field. That's what we're going to do. That's what we're going to try for.
Hope that the time that he's had with David Ragan as well as Erik Jones and Matt Crafton has been good for him to get a basis for what he needs to know for being a crew chief in the Sprint Cup Series.
We're going to go through another learning curve in a bit with some of our new cars phased in. They're a little different than what we've run the past two years. He and I will both have to transition through that together. I think it will be good to have me back. I think all of Joe Gibbs Racing would agree to that.


Q. This is a bit away from your injuries. You mentioned the Baby Busch coming soon. Have you thought about how being a father might alter your life?

KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, certainly. I definitely know you become a lot more tired and have a lot less time for yourself. You got a little one looking up to you trying to tell you what he wants but he doesn't know how to say it.
We're certainly looking forward to that, Samantha and I both. We're excited and itching at the opportunity.
I wished his birth date was 5/10. That would have been a cool birthday, Mother's Day. It would have been a great present for mama Samantha.
We'll wait to see when he shows up and decides that his time is to be here.


Q. Can you discuss for a minute the role Samantha plays in your driving career and in your whole racing operation.

KYLE BUSCH: We could be here all day. She's quite instrumental. She could be a huge person to look up to for a lot of women in this sport that come in as younger women like she was. You think about it. I was here, but then she came into the sport when she was 22 years old. Her birthday is just in another month.
She's a huge part of what I do each and every week, what we do at Kyle Busch Motorsports day-to-day. She's got a lot going on, a lot on her plate. She'll have a lot more here soon, too. Everything she's done through this process for me and being able to help me, she was there at every beck and call.
I can't thank her enough. She's my rock, like I said, since our first interview. She's been everything I could have asked for and plus some coming back from this injury.
As far as what she does, I mean, she does a lot. Kyle Busch Foundation, all the work she does there, the charitable aspects she does, just the continuation of her being supportive in my family life and everything off the racetrack as well, too.
She would say she's not itching to get back or wanting to go back racing, but she's very supportive in what I want to do, that she'll always be there in the decisions that we make together.


Q. In the business operation, does she offer her opinions on that? Do you go to her for opinions on that?

KYLE BUSCH: Oh, no doubt. She's actually a huge part of our hiring, upper office hiring, stuff like that. She's been there being able to interview PR people, media and web people, personal assistants, travel coordinators. She's done a ton of that stuff.
She can read people maybe better or faster than she can read a book sometimes. She's been fantastic in that role at Kyle Busch Motorsports.
As far as the competition side of things go, she leaves that to me. I also ask her in regards to crew chief questions or this person with that person, knowing whether this person will mesh with that person. There's some of that that I definitely ask her about.


Q. I know you ran a lot of laps and did a lot of testing with the late model. Despite all the preparation, are there some things you're not going to know about how you're going to feel or respond until you're actually out in a car in race conditions simply because of the rules, you're not able to have replicated that yet?

KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, I think so. I haven't driven in the 2015 race package yet, the aero package and all that stuff yet, for one.
For two, I was actually slated to have a new seat for this season. I moved from the Butler seat last season to the Hendrick seat this season. I have yet to race in the Hendrick seat. That's something else to get used to.
Since I started my driving career back when I was 13 years old, I've never been out of the driver's seat for this long. There may be some things that I got to get back to becoming accustomed to again.
I think one of the things maybe is coming down pit road, getting in the pit box. But all that's not going to be that bad. I've watched plenty of the races this year to see the new pit procedures and all that sort of stuff. I can understand how all that plays out. Hopefully I'm not one of the guys that makes a mistake and gets a pit road penalty for my team.
As far as anything else goes, though, I think it's all pretty typical. I've raced for 16, 17 years of my life. This was the first major injury I've ever had. Hopefully it's just like riding a bike: you just get back on that thing and you go.


Q. Earlier you said something about maybe you had lost your sense of invincibility. Is it fair to say you haven't lost your drive or ambition? Nothing you foresee that would change your style of racing?

KYLE BUSCH: That's 100% fact. I've never lost any of my inhibitions of wanting to go back or be just as successful as I was before. That's all still right here. That's actually why we're trying to get back in for the All-Star Race, then we're going to go and run the rest of the year, see if the success can't continue like it had before the crash, that we're able to run consistent enough to get ourselves in the top 30 in points, maybe get a win in order to get ourselves Chase-eligible. We'll count on NASCAR or wait on NASCAR's ruling for that eligibility status.


THE MODERATOR: Kyle, thank you for joining us today. We wish you the best of luck this weekend.

KYLE BUSCH: Thank you very much. Appreciate everyone's time.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you to the media for joining us, as well.