An Interview With: KYLE BUSCH, ADAM STEVENS, JOE GIBBS
THE MODERATOR: We are going to continue with our post?race media availabilities here at Homestead?Miami Speedway. We are joined by members of our championship and race winning team, which was the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. We have crew chief, Adam Stevens, here. This is Adam’s second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship, and he is one of 15 crew chiefs to have won multiple titles. We will open it up to questions.
I heard you say on TV that you felt some good juju this week. Could you just talk a little bit more about that? You felt good?
ADAM STEVENS: It did. It felt a lot like 2015 to me, aside from the broken leg, obviously. But in 2015, Kyle came back, we got off to a pretty hot start, won a few races, we won Indy, and then we didn’t win again until we got to Homestead.
But we weren’t running poorly. We were competitive. We were leading laps. We were toward the front. And it takes a lot of things to go your way to win a race. One of those things that has to go your way is you can’t make any mistakes.
This year it was kind of similar. We won some races early. We tied the record for a top 10 streak or something I’m told early in the year and had a couple races get away from us. But it wasn’t because we weren’t fast. It wasn’t because we weren’t prepared. They just didn’t go our way. And there were some things that we could have done better and some circumstances that happened. It’s just the way that racing is.
It felt a little bit like that. We had to claw our way through the rounds, and we got in by virtue of points, which we’ve done three out of the five times we’ve made it, and you know, it’s about showing up and being your best when it matters the most, and tonight it mattered the most.
What is it ?? you guys coming in here, not a lot of people were picking you guys to win this. Obviously the sentimental favorite was Denny, and Truex seemed to be kind of the overall best here. But you pulled it off, persevered. You led the most laps in the race. You and Kyle seem ?? even when there’s issues on the track, you seem to come through. What is it about that chemistry there?
ADAM STEVENS: You know, it’s part of the sport. You have to be able to rely on each other and lean on each other, and through the good times and the bad times we’re able to do that. You know, these races are hard to win. There’s not one of them that I’ve won that’s been easy. It takes the hard work and dedication of all 550 JGR employees. We don’t employ all those people because they’re not doing something that needs to be done; it takes every single one of them to come out here and win these races.
I think you’ve seen that with 19 wins that JGR had this year, that we’re competitive. And through the dry spell that we had, we were competitive.
Kyle and I felt like to come through here tonight it was going to take a near perfect night to come out here and win. We expressed those views to the pit crew and to each other and to the team, and it was about being your best when it matters the most.
It’s a Game 7 situation, and you can’t afford to be back on your heels or holding back. You have to run the race that’s in front of you and judge off of what’s the circumstances that everybody else is having.
It’s just a tremendous belief in each other that I know even through his worst day that he’s doing everything he can do as a human. We’re all human, and we all make mistakes, but it’s just a tremendous belief in each other, I think, and that trickles down to the rest of the team.
Kind of along those lines, there’s been at times during these playoffs that Kyle seemed a bit subdued, at times he’s seemed a little perplexed about how things have turned out on the track. He’s not been the greatest fan of the aero package. I just wondered, coming into this weekend, did you feel that despite all that that he really believed that you guys were capable of coming out like it did tonight?
ADAM STEVENS: Oh, sure. Kyle has never wavered on the fact that when we put the car in the truck that we have what we need to win. And that’s what makes it frustrating because as a company we are winning races and as a team we are elite and we do prepare to win, and we do execute to win. When you don’t win, it’s frustrating.
I told somebody earlier today that there’s not a number of wins that makes your season successful. What makes your season successful is winning the championship. Unless you win every single race, you left something on the table because we have the tools at our disposal to go out and win on any given weekend.
You have to keep that kind of stuff in stride or in mind that it’s not always going to go your way, and it might go for a stretch and make it seem easy, kind of like it did at the beginning of the year, and it might go for a stretch and make it seem hard. And it’s not the first time we’ve been through a stretch like this.
I think ’16 into ’17 maybe we went an entire calendar year without winning a race, and it wasn’t because we didn’t know how to do our jobs, it wasn’t because we gave up or weren’t working hard enough, it was because things didn’t go our way. And some of the things that didn’t go our way were of our own doing, obviously, but some of them weren’t.
That’s the way it is in professional sports. You have to keep your eyes on the prize and establish what the goals are and keep your nose to the grindstone and get after it.
Because of the performance lately coming in, a lot of people viewed you guys as an underdog. Now, whether you pay attention to that or not, I’m sure it gets to the team or it gets to you guys. I’m curious, for a group that is often looked at as the favorites to win just about everywhere they go, the dynamic of suddenly being viewed as an underdog and how maybe you had to address that, because certainly that negative connotation could bleed down into the team. I’m curious how you handled that.
ADAM STEVENS: Well, I don’t really watch any shows or anything, so I didn’t get that vibe. I could understand why people would have that vibe, certainly, because the other guys came in on wins and we came in on points.
But you’ve got to understand, too, that for my team and my guys and Kyle Busch driving, our goal is to win the championship. And when we shoved that car in the box last year at Homestead and we didn’t perform the way we wanted to, our goal was to win the championship this year.
Everything we did from the time that tailgate shut until we got down here to race this race was to win the championship. To do that, we know for a fact there’s going to be one team get in on points. There might be two teams. There could be three teams, it could be all four that make it through the final round into Homestead. We know there’s going to be one, so you’d better be that guy, right. So the only material goal between the start of the season and the championship is to win the regular season points championship to give yourself the most points and be the guy, right. We also won the most stages, which added to the points, and unless we won every single race, there’s no amount of race wins that were going to be enough because we have every tool at our disposal to win every single weekend.
Did I feel like an underdog? No. Would I have rather come in here on some kind of heat or five?race win streak? Sure. But I saw some stuff out of the team that told me that we were really getting our ducks in a row and that we were performing at a high level, and I knew the guys were hungry. I knew Kyle was hungry, and I knew that we could have a mistake?free weekend, and that was going to be what it took.
Obviously you haven’t won the championship every year, so you put the car in the hauler without being the champion most of the years. I know you talked about and Kyle has talked about just how well you didn’t run last year. What was the difference? Was it any different frustration from last year waiting 365 days compared to any of the other times you didn’t win the championship?
ADAM STEVENS: Sure. This is the Game 7 for us. First off, you have to get to the Game 7. And second off, you want to be at your best. Last year we weren’t at our best.
I felt like not necessarily the car we brought but some of the approach that we had coming into it wasn’t right for my team, wasn’t right for Kyle, and I wanted to remedy that situation in the best way possible, and that’s to get here, number one; and number two, perform at a high level.
I feel like the shop worked really well with the teams, and giving us what we felt like we needed, and I think it showed tonight on the racetrack.
THE MODERATOR: We’re now joined by Joe Gibbs, owner of the championship?winning team. This is Joe Gibbs Racing’s fifth Monster Energy Series championship.
Adam, have you as a crew member or crew chief ever seen tires placed on a car incorrectly, and how does that happen?
ADAM STEVENS: Quite honestly, I have not seen it with my own eyes. I’ve heard about it in my first years in the sport. I have not actually seen it. How it happens is a physical mistake. They get misplaced, because they are marked clearly, and I don’t know if they were mismarked or misplaced, but I’m not really sure how exactly that happens. I bet they could tell you, and I bet it’ll never happen again.
Adam, Kyle seemed pretty subdued over the radio once he crossed the finish line. You got a little bit more hyped up about it, but were you surprised he was kind of that calm, and do you think there was maybe a reason for that?
ADAM STEVENS: No, I think it’s just a matter of being that focused. We’ve been through this rodeo before, and like I said earlier, the goal is to win the championship. Not that achieving your goals is anti?climactic, because it’s not, and it is a big deal, but I think the intense amount of focus and preparation and hard work that he put into it, it was probably more of a relief that it was over aside from the fact that we actually accomplished our goal.
I think both of you might be able to answer this. Adam, last year the 18 team had I think two bad pit stops in the race, and then today the 11 and the 19 had very bizarre things happen to them. Is it the importance of this event that all of a sudden makes these weird things happen? Are guys putting too much pressure on them and that’s what happens?
ADAM STEVENS: I really can’t answer for the other guys, to be honest with you. But the way you phrased that, in our situation, I didn’t really visit with my guys and assess that situation, because we are professionals. My guys don’t need a rah?rah speech. They’re all hand?picked, they’re all the best at what they do, and it’s a matter of giving them the tools they need to do that. And one of the most important things you can do for the over?the?wall guys is continuously put them in high?pressure situations and to defuse those high?pressure situations when they do get them in there.
And I think as a team we do a good job of that, but also as a team we won a lot of races last year. But there’s no race that’s a must?win until you get to the championship, and that was probably new for some of those guys, and especially when we weren’t running that well, our car wasn’t very good because of the setup that I put under it, not because of the job they were doing, and they were trying to make that difference up.
And you have to realize as a competitor that there’s only so much you can do. Bill Belichick, Coach’s favorite person, says you’ve got to do your job, and it’s important to do your job, and all you can do is do your job. Operating at this level, you have to do what you’re capable of, and there’s really no more margin to do more, and a lot of mistakes are made when people try to do more.
JOE GIBBS: I think the other thing I would say, this sport is extremely tough. It is human beings where no matter how much you train ?? we actually had races this year, and you guys probably remember, where all four cars had issues. So it can happen.
Tonight it’s going to be interesting for us to kind of go through this and see what exactly did happen, how we can keep it from happening again. That’s what you’d like to do in pro sports. You’d like to make sure you don’t make the same mistake twice.
But I think it’s a part of this is a long, tough, hard year, and when you get here, there is a lot of pressure, and it’s human beings trying to get this done. No matter how much you work on something, you can always have something be a mistake, really, is the way I look at it.
As a follow?up, what was with your eye roll to Bill Belichick being your favorite person?
JOE GIBBS: No, no, that was ?? I’m fine. (Laughter.)
Joe, it really felt coming full circle in a way tonight. You start the year with a one?two?three in the Daytona 500, end the year one?two?three tonight with a championship by Kyle. What’s the emotion like tonight reflecting on everything considering how you started the year?
JOE GIBBS: I want to just say a thanks to all the fans out there, too, and I hadn’t had a chance to do that. I’m glad that I’m being able to do it tonight. When J.D. went to be with the Lord January 11th, I got so many letters, so many prayer letters, so many little stories about J.D., and I appreciate our fan base out there.
Our racing family and our fans are special, and I just want to tell you, they really have meant a lot to me, Melissa, Jackson Miller, Jason Taylor, Coy, our entire family. So I say a big thanks to all of them. It’s been an emotional year for us.
For me, it started with the Daytona 500. I think anybody that saw that would say there’s no way that could happen by accident. I felt like God was kind of overseeing that. I think J.D. was there. And then it kind of continued the entire year for me. It’s been emotional to think that you could win the number of races we’ve won.
It’s just something that normally doesn’t happen. I think he was a big part of it for us. I think all ?? everybody that worked at Joe Gibbs Racing, when J.D. left us, I think each and every one of them felt that so much. I think they devoted this year to him and kind of everything ?? I know Coy and all of us did family?wise, and so I just want to say a thanks to thank everybody.
You ask me, it was emotional all year. I felt like I could feel J.D. all year, and it’s kind of hard to put in words. But it’s been special and different, and it was great to finish it up the way we did tonight.
For you, knowing that you had three of your guys in it all night and knowing what J.D. did not just for Denny’s team obviously but for the entire organization, would the emotions have been any different regardless of which one of the three of them, if any one of the three of them had won it?
JOE GIBBS: I think you never know exactly how things will play out. I know our preparation going in for all three cars was ?? we went after it with everything we had, the crew chiefs, the drivers, everybody. It’s so big for each person, for Martin and Cole, for Bass Pro and Auto Owners, and then you go with Denny and FedEx, there’s so much to that, and Chris over there, I think everybody went after this as hard as we could.
You don’t know what’s going to happen. Who knew that we were going to have the things that happened during the race. But we were certainly thrilled for Kyle, for Mars, for Interstate Batteries and for Toyota. It’s a huge deal for us.
KYLE BUSCH: In a roundabout way, he was asking you who was your favorite.
JOE GIBBS: Oh, who was my favorite.
KYLE BUSCH: He pleads the Fifth.
JOE GIBBS: I plead the Fifth.
THE MODERATOR: We’ve been joined by two?time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch.
Joe, who was really the initial push to get Kyle a part of Joe Gibbs Racing between you or J.D.? I know Kyle mentioned on NBC that he never asked you?
JOE GIBBS: I think it was our entire organization, and we’ve got a management group there that’s been together for 20 years, and everybody kind of prayed about it and thought about it.
We interviewed Kyle, weren’t sure we could talk him into coming our way, but I think everybody worked together on it, and certainly J.D. and Coy were a part of that and our entire management ??
KYLE BUSCH: I must have somehow passed the interview.
JOE GIBBS: You did. I could tell you a few things about that interview. (Laughter.)
KYLE BUSCH: We’ll save it for our retirement.
JOE GIBBS: Yeah, let’s don’t divulge that.
Kyle and Adam, Ryan Blaney spoke about it last year at Phoenix that stage points seemed to be the pusher to put all the drivers in the Championship 4. Tonight you won the second and the final stage. How did you feel like winning all the stages you did during the regular season and during the playoffs helped you excel tonight?
ADAM STEVENS: Like I said earlier, the only thing we know for sure when the season starts is that one of us at least is going to get in on points. You’re a fool if you don’t put yourself in position to be that guy.
As a team, our goal is to win the championship. Our goal next year is to win the championship, and we damn sure want to be the guy that has the most stage points and wins the regular season championship so we have the most points in case we don’t win one of those three races that we’re that guy.
I think what you saw by the four cars that made it being the highest guys in stage points, well, three of them won a race, right; that’s just by virtue of they’re the four best cars that make it, and that’s the cool thing about this system now is it rewards the guys that run the best all year, and that’s why we were all nose to tail the majority of the race because there was the four best teams competing for the championship.
It’s been longer than 10 minutes, Kyle; are you enjoying this yet?
KYLE BUSCH: Yet or still? Yeah, no, it’s good. I don’t even know quite yet how to put it all into perspective or into words, but it certainly is an amazing opportunity, and it’s pretty special. Just with everything that Joe had talked about and had mentioned from the start of the season and losing J.D. and all that sort of stuff, but then to have the beginning part of the season that we had and then to kind of lose whatever we lost through the last third, but to save the best for last and to come into here and score the win and score the championship is what it’s all about.
Can’t thank this guy next to me enough with Adam and the team that he has and has assembled as well as the way that he leads and expects the best out of all of us.
For Adam, after watching what happened to your competitors tonight and having won this championship before, does the winning team have to be flawless? Does it have to just be sheer perfection? Truex came back, but the kind of track position he gave up was extreme.
ADAM STEVENS: Yeah, I think so. You know, like I said just a minute ago, you’re going to have the four best teams here, barring some unusual circumstance. To beat the four best teams, you have to be at your absolute best. You can’t play it too safe and trying to avoid mistakes that you’re outside of the maximum performance in any single area.
It took the pit crew doing ?? I mean, they had the world record day on pit road tonight, even with adjustments, and it took the car being close, and we had to know that it was going to come to us when the sun went down. And it did. And it took Kyle on the track getting all he could get and not touching the fence and not making a mistake and not giving up too many spots on the restarts when it wasn’t perfect and getting all he could get on pit road.
We can’t just be 10 miles an hour under pit road speed. That’s not going to work. You have to operate at the very, very high level, and you have to eliminate the mistakes, and it’s a big stage, it’s a Game 7 moment, as I mentioned earlier, and you have to be at your best when it matters the most.
Kyle, my question is sort of following up on Lee’s. You came over the radio and it was so sort of subdued, you’re just like: Awesome, guys, we did it. It’s sort of you weren’t going crazy, you’re not jumping up and down. Is it shock or you’re stunned or something that this actually fell your way? What did you experience that made you react that way, I guess?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, I don’t know. Just ?? I’m not exactly sure. I kind of probably don’t remember much of it already, but I do remember taking the white flag and crossing underneath that and just ?? I had some tears rolling down my eyes for the last lap and was just like, come on, man, we’ve still got to finish this thing, don’t be such a sis. How was my last lap time? I don’t even know.
ADAM STEVENS: I quit looking about 10 to go.
KYLE BUSCH: Hopefully it was decent. We had a good lead to the guys behind us. But, overall, just emotions were starting to set in. I probably didn’t know where the hell my mind was at but knew we had won and we had won big and was just kind of being a bit more subdued about it.
Did you bow?
KYLE BUSCH: I did not.
KYLE BUSCH: There wasn’t any room. Did you see the crowd out there? There was people everywhere. In that moment you kind of forget. You even forget you win the race. As I was doing the victory celebration, doing the lap around with Brexton ?? that was really awesome, by the way ?? I was coming into Victory Lane, and they were there with the checkered flag, and I was like, oh, yeah.
Like you forget you win the race. It’s just that crazy. So yeah, I forgot to do a bow. It’s all good. I think Rowdy Nation will forgive me.
Back in 2015, as the laps were clicking down, you were singing a song in your head from Brexton’s play list, I guess. Was there a song you were singing in your head this year now that Brexton is four years older, maybe something from Frozen?
KYLE BUSCH: It was ROFLMAO. I’m in Miami. Yeah, that one. No, actually I wasn’t. I was just focused on hitting my marks. Like every once in a while I’d throw it off into 1, and it would slip, and I’d be like, Ooohhh. With racing around the lap cars and stuff like that, it was just like ?? who did I pass, Johnson maybe? He cut me a lot of slack. Brad also cut me a lot of slack. I slid up in front of him because I just lost the front end of the race car being in traffic with him. And then they cut me some slack on the exits, and then you get off in the next corner, and it’s just like ?? then it turns again. And you’re like, damn, this thing is all over the place. So just trying to be focused on the lines and where the grip was at and where our car was running the best and doing the right job.
How do you celebrate a second championship differently than you celebrated your first?
KYLE BUSCH: Well, we don’t get to go to my hometown of Vegas this time around, so we go to Nashville, so there’s going to be some differences in Nashville, that’s for sure. So hopefully somebody has got a hell of a plan, or they’re orchestrating one at the moment.
But found a few friends this year in the country music biz, so maybe we’ll give them a call and see if they can come on out and we can have a hell of a party and put on a good show. You’re buying, right? (Laughter.) Vegas was good. Vegas was really good. With the banquet being so close to the race weekend, your talent pool of people that are available was kind of limited, so we’ll have to see who’s limited. I don’t know, I’ll make some calls.
I was watching, I think, the moments that you were celebrating as a dad, taking your son in that ride, he’s going to remember that for as long as he lives. Talk about the emotions of that and being able to provide those memories for your son, and also on another note, have you thought of boat names yet?
KYLE BUSCH: So, yeah, Brexton actually came to me, I don’t know if he got the idea from somebody else or if he just remembered it from Keelan doing it with Kevin, and said, Dad, can I go for the ride with you? And I was like, Oh, hell, I’m good with it. So we asked the NASCAR guys, and they radioed up to the tower, and we got approval to be able to do that.
So that was really, really special for Brexton, for me and Brexton to be able to take in that moment and go for a ride around the track. At first he was sitting down on the floorboard, and I was like, You can’t see anything, man. I was like, Stand up a little bit.
So he then was kneeling and holding on to the roll bar and stuff, and that was really, really cool, got him a chance to go around. And I was smiling the whole damn time and looking over at him and making sure that he was having fun, enjoying in that moment. We were waving at the camera that was in there and stuff. It was a lot of fun. I’m thankful for that.
KYLE BUSCH: Boat names, yeah. Hmm.
JOE GIBBS: You’re going to give that to Adam, aren’t you?
KYLE BUSCH: That’s what I told him. I told him he’s supposed to have this one because I sold the first one. (Laughter.) Shh, don’t say that.
ADAM STEVENS: I’ve always found it’s better to have a friend with a boat than actually be the guy ??
KYLE BUSCH: I’ve heard that, too. There’s the three F’s that you don’t ever want to own.
I guess the first thing that came to my mind was “Should Have Been ’18.” I won the championship in ’19, should have been ’18. Okay, glad that worked well. (Laughter.)
Kyle, just because you referenced that, I know you’ve talked about just not being able to perform well here last year, and for an athlete to only get so many opportunities at this, what was the wait like or all the things that took place in the 365 days since, because you just don’t get these opportunities?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, I mean, fortunately for us and our group (knocks wood), we get these opportunities every year, five in a row. But you know, what’s ?? I think it’s what Adam said best earlier, is that we prepare as hard as we can prepare and do everything that we know how to do and be ready for this moment, and sometimes you just kind of miss it somewhere, someway, somehow, and other times you’re like we were in ’15 or this year, Carl was in ’16, we were in ’17, it just didn’t come to us.
But overall we’ve been pretty stout here with fast race cars, and so I thank Adam for that. You come in here, and when we first unloaded off the truck I was really loose, kind of like we were here last year, on entry especially, and I was like, oh, hell, here we go.
And then we worked on it. Adam did some really good adjustments to it early on in practice to get us to the tight side where I was really, really good at being able to rip it off the wall and had good rear security, and I was like, okay, now we’re tight but we found both sides of it, so at least we’re not stuck with what we had like we did last year.
That was the defining moment for me of knowing that we had something for them, and we just had to go do our jobs and race it out.
I’m also curious, as an athlete, you have performed so well, and obviously a lot of people feel that you’re the most talented driver and laud you for your success, and obviously worthy so, but when you come into an event like this and people view you as an underdog as opposed to how great you are or how great you can be, I’m curious what that is like for an athlete. Because whether you want to tune that out or not, I’m sure it’s there and you can’t necessarily ignore it. I’m wondering how you deal with it, channel it. Does it help, hurt? How are you able to flush it away?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, I try to tune a lot of things out. When I come to the racetracks, people look at me certain ways that ?? Brad probably said it best, that I’m an A?s?s, right? But that’s just because I try to focus on what I’ve got to do. This guy here and then the 15 ?? this guy here, also. But the 15 or 16 guys on my team are the most important people to me Friday, Saturday, Sunday. So I know what work and everything that I do to prepare throughout the year, throughout the weeks, throughout the year that gets us to these opportunities, and I just try to focus on my group and who I am around those guys. And they know about my focus and my determination and my work that gets us to these situations.
You know, not a lot of people outside my circle understand exactly who I am because I just try to flush it out.
Kyle, you’ve mentioned it before, you mentioned it a little earlier. You’ve talked about Adam, how important he’s been, but in five years the numbers are just incredible, 27 wins, now two championships that he’s helped guide you to. Could you have comprehended when the decision was made to change crew chiefs that in a five?year span he would be this influential on your career?
KYLE BUSCH: Probably not. Obviously any time you make a change like that you hope for better. You hope for more success and whatever. But certainly I do wish that I would have had more success with prior leadership. I feel like I missed out in ’18 with Addington for sure. I feel like ?? I think it was ’13 with Dave that could have, should have, would have. Would things have been different if I would have won with either one of those guys? I’m not sure. But things work out the way they do for whatever reason sometimes, and you’ve just got to live in the moment.
When Adam was slated to come on over and be my crew chief, I was not apprehensive about it, but you know, him and I had worked together on the Xfinity side and grown a relationship for a couple of years and we had success over there. Sometimes that success works and sometimes it doesn’t. You just never know.
But obviously I’m very fortunate and thankful for Coach and making that decision and putting us together and having us to have the success we’ve had has been really, really good. Could it have been better? Sure. Could it have been worse? Probably. But it’s good right now.
Kyle, to follow a little bit on what I asked Joe earlier, you started to tell the story, but talk a little bit about J.D. and the impact he had definitely during the early part of your career, because I know that’s one of the big things we heard about from Denny throughout this, but maybe not as much from your perspective.
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, look, J.D. is ?? he’s an honorable man and honorable father and one that reflects the Lord and lived that way and showed people how to do that. A lot could be learned from those type of individuals, and I think that comes from Joe but also J.D. and who he was and the relationship with Melissa and the kids and being around the kids.
I’ve been with them now 12 years, so some of them, man, they were six. I think Jackson was six or seven when I came over. And there were times ?? it’s funny, there were times when we were at the races, and Jackson would be there, and he would sit on the pit box and sit on Samantha’s lap. That’s probably a little weird now, but back then it was cute.
It’s just the relationship, though, with the family has been really, really cool. J.D. was ?? I’ve had ?? it’s funny, I’ve said this before, I’m not sure I’ve ever really been yelled at, but I have been sternly talked to, and J.D. was the same way. But in the early years and coming over to Joe Gibbs Racing, J.D. and I knew each other a little bit from Truck Series stuff. Coy and I knew each other better because Coy was there when I was there, and so I’ve just always respected the family and have given them everything that I’ve got and have appreciated what they’ve given me.
Did you know you had a 10?second lead after Harvick pitted, and if so, what’s going through your head if you have a 10?second lead?
KYLE BUSCH: I knew I had a 9.7 second lead I think they were telling me over the radio, so yeah, call it 10, if you will, and I was just trying to keep it somewhere around there. I was hoping that my car was fast enough ?? the way that it felt, it kind of started to feel a little different toward the end of the race, and didn’t quite ?? especially at the end of runs, like in the beginning of the runs, the car felt great. Like when we put tires on that thing, I was like, Oh, hell yeah, we’re fast. And was just hoping others weren’t faster and that they weren’t just running me down for some crazy reason.
I knew the 19 had speed all night, and obviously they showed that. They came from the farthest back probably there at the end to run runner?up, but I was just trying to continue to hit my marks and do the things that I’ve been doing all night long and not necessarily keep the gap big but just underdrive the tire all the time to make sure that nothing crazy or stupid would happen.
Did you think a caution was going to come out?
KYLE BUSCH: The caution, yeah, that always crosses your mind. So like as the run was going, I kept thinking in my mind, I’m like, okay, that’s five laps in, that’s 10 laps in, how is my car feeling, how is it driving. Because as soon as that caution would have flown, I would have been right on the radio talking to Adam, like, okay, this is what I need because I need to be better on fire?off here, here, whatever, in determining how many laps were left and what the restart was going to be. So I was constantly thinking and being ready.
Along that same lines, it’s just like ?? it feels like this sort of doesn’t normally happen to you. When you have a stretch where you’re not winning or something, it’s not like stuff falls into your lap, where if you have a dominant season or a dominant stretch, things might get taken away from you, and you’re like, oh, man, I had a good playoffs, and something happened and we didn’t win. But to be sort of so?so by your own standards and not win the whole playoffs, and then you win the championship, does that feel weird to you or surprise you?
KYLE BUSCH: When was Media Day? Thursday? I think one of my lines was: It’s not what have you done for me lately, it’s what can you do for me now. So I think that that’s true in itself with all these guys that were fast, Denny being fast. I knew Denny was going to be good here. He’s good here. He won here in ’13. He was fast here a couple years ago, I think, too.
Truex is always fast, always a force to be reckoned with, and same with Harvick. We knew the 4 was going to come here with their stuff that they’ve been fast with all year long, and we didn’t think that was going to end up being the ticket on the long runs. The short run for sure, he was fast on the short run.
So again, to Bob’s question, if a caution come out and Harvick and myself come off pit road one and two with 10 laps to go, it was going to be damn hard to win.
So yeah, you’re right, it just worked our way. It was long runs to the end. It was 50?something laps on both the last set of tires, so that played right to us and how good we were.
Did you get to throw Brexton eventually?
KYLE BUSCH: Dammit, no, I didn’t do that, either. Everybody is like, do this, do this, do this, do that. Anyway, we’ve got more photos and stuff to take, so we’ll do it. I’ve got an idea already, thanks.
What is a moment like that like for a dad to do that with a son in a situation like that?
KYLE BUSCH: It’s really cool. When we were on the stage, when we were on the first stage, I was thinking about doing it there, and I was like, hmm, it’s kind of small, there’s a few people up here, I don’t want to do it here, and then on the next stage we got ushered out of there pretty quick. I asked him if he wanted to sit in the trophy for the photos, and he was like, Dad, I’m too big for that. I was like, okay, let him do what he wants to do, it’s fine.
Did he say throw me, dad?
KYLE BUSCH: He was like, Dad, does this mean you can throw me because you won the race? So I was like, yep, that’s right, we will. Anyway, what was your question? Are you good?
Yeah, just the opportunity for a father to do that with his son?
KYLE BUSCH: So having him here and having him four and a half now ?? I can’t remember my memories of how old I was when I started remembering things. I was a ?? never mind.
I hope that he can remember these moments, and obviously TV is really good these days. There’s a lot of great HD coverage, and so it’s pretty clear the opportunities of him being on television and him in the car with me and that sort of stuff is special.
Were you informed of what happened to Martin Truex Jr. on pit road, and if so, what was your reaction?
KYLE BUSCH: I was not, no. I found out on the stage afterwards that they put the lefts on the rights or something? On the front? Yeah, I heard that on the stage, and I was like, man, that’s just ?? it’s crazy just how things can happen sometimes.
I mean, it’s just an honest mistake, I’m sure. I didn’t know that that’s why he had to come back ?? I just figured it was a loose wheel. Same thing, if it was a loose wheel, he had to do the same thing. But when he marched back through the field, I was like, damn, he’s fast. And then for him to come out second after having that happen to those guys, they were quick. I’m sure they’re going to look at this as one that got away.
After Martinsville, Aric Almirola said he was going to make the last three weeks hell for you. Unless he has a strange idea of what hell is, I don’t think he did that. Did you patch things up with him prior to the last couple weeks?
KYLE BUSCH: I did not, no. I didn’t reach out to him or anything. I just thought it was a Martinsville thing. I spent time and laps of working him over and trying to get by him cleanly, and I did that, and the first time he got back to me on the next run he just ran over me and he crowded me and we got together. That’s Martinsville. That stuff happens. There was a couple moments I thought he would maybe try something or whatever, but Texas we saw each other for like five laps, and then I never saw him again because he drove away. And then Phoenix I don’t remember ?? I think we were around him a couple times, and he was ?? I don’t remember what was happening.
And then tonight I had to put him a lap down there towards the end of the race, and he was fine. I think that that’s respect, for one, because even other guys that I had issues with, Bubba waved me by, Stenhouse waved me by, these guys that you would think are going to make your life hell, in the championship moment, they know what that race means, and I would do the same.
Larson was probably my biggest pain in the neck tonight, but I had fun racing with him. I thought that was pretty cool. This place is really racy. It’s a great place to do that. Myself and Harvick had a lot of fun, as well, too. I’m sure ?? you know what I thought about in that moment, too? It’s funny, was it 2010 where he flat?out wrecked me on the frontstretch, and he was like, that kid was running all over like a clown all day or whatever. So I thought about that. I was like, hmm, looks a little eerie, doesn’t it, buddy.
Times are different, and things are different between he and I, so it was pretty cool. I had a smile on my face once I marched away.
This is your second championship, first two?time champion we’ve had since Jimmie and Tony, and it pushes you past guys like your brother Kurt and Brad and Matt Kenseth. Does that hold any significance to you, especially in a position you’re in win?wise, where you’re among them? Does that second title hold any extra weight for you?
KYLE BUSCH: I guess. I would like to think that any time you’re able to win more races and more championships that it helps your stature and helps you become ?? I don’t know what it helps you become, I guess. More successful. But it’s all about just doing our job to me.
I would love to be sitting here right now talking about eight. I’ve been in the sport for 14, 15 years, whatever this season is for me, and so we’re only talking about two. It’s nice to have the success that we have, take it when you get it, but there’s certainly a few missed opportunities for sure.
What do you make of JGR winning 19 of 36 races and in a year with a new rules package and all the other things that were thrown at you? How does one organization set the record for wins?
KYLE BUSCH: Hell yeah. Good for us. Great for us, everybody. Joe is a phenomenal leader. I think Joe said it, too. I’m not so sure that everybody just didn’t dig in as hard as they could. When it’s 4:00 and it’s time to go home, they don’t leave until 4:20 or 4:30 or whatever it might be.
I think that ?? think it’s the group of drivers, as well, though, too. When we had our team meetings with myself and Kenseth and Carl and Denny, they knew the group of drivers that we had, and if we weren’t successful, they knew it was because the stuff that we’re driving around the racetrack.
And so I think the same is to be said for the Kyle, the Denny and the Martin, and Jones, too, because the better you make the stuff for us three, the better it’s going to make Jones, as well, too.
I think that we just all have really good communication, and the way that we all share, and I don’t know how everything went this morning with last adjustments and whatever, if all that was shared or not, but we had our team meetings the same as we had all year long this weekend.
What do you think it means to Joe that you guys opened the season one?two?three at Daytona and you close the season one?two?three at Homestead?
KYLE BUSCH: Did we finish one two three?
Yeah, Jones was third. Do you think that means something for Joe in this year that ??
KYLE BUSCH: Well, it damn sure better. What else can we do for the guy? I mean, damn.
But that shows ?? that man is relentless, and he is at the shop, whether it’s 7:00 or 8:00 in the morning, every single morning, that man is there, and he works. This is his life. This is what he does.
Same as me, this is what he does. And I think that’s why we respect each other so much and we get along so well in what we do, is if he’s at home and in North Carolina, he’s at the shop, and if he’s got to go somewhere and get on an airplane and fly somewhere, it’s for his race team or his family, there’s certain times where it’s for his family, of course, too, but that’s how a leader is, and everybody follows the leader that you have from the top.
How does the feeling of winning two championships compare to one? Is it similarly satisfying or more so or less so?
KYLE BUSCH: This one feels like the first, like today, but like getting into next year being two?time is going to be cool. I’m certainly looking forward to that, and I’m just ?? again, I can say it over and over again, but it’s just about the people that you’re around and the people that you work with, and certainly everybody at Toyota and TRD and Joe Gibbs Racing, TRD, Costa Mesa, Salisbury, everybody that does everything for us, whether it’s David Wilson or Graves, they’re in our team meetings, as well, too, and so it’s important to all of us to be successful.
For me to have a second championship, I mean, it wouldn’t have mattered if Denny won his first or Martin won his second, it’s the collective team and what we do and who we are.
Adam said that this year and tonight kind of culminating with it kind of reminded him of the 2015 season minus the broken leg, of course.
KYLE BUSCH: Oh, I won a full?time championship. What do you know? So does anybody know what the score would be with the old Winston Cup points? I won the old way, too. Thank you.
Did tonight remind you and this year as a whole remind you of 2015 as a whole?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, it did. It certainly reminded me. We won ?? I think the Brickyard maybe was our last win or something after that was our last win in ’15, and then we won Homestead, and then this year kind of the same thing, Pocono and then all the way to Homestead. So looked awfully familiar.
Man, it sucks when y’all want to talk about 21?race winless streaks, damn. Sorry.
Does that make you happy?
KYLE BUSCH: Well, it’s zero right now and hopefully it’s zero again after we run the next race, that’s all I have to say, because that one is a big one that I have yet to get.
Do you feel like this might boost your popularity ??
KYLE BUSCH: I don’t need to be any more popular. I don’t. (Laughter.) I am by far the most popular, I’m just not going to win the award.
What else you got?
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