KYLE BUSCH, NO. 8 CHEDDAR’S SCRATCH KITCHEN CAMARO ZL1, met with the media prior to the NASCAR Cup Series’ qualifying session at Atlanta Motor Speedway – Media Availability Quotes

From the time you come off of turn two, could you go through the process of how that all works?

“Yeah, so we’ll likely have two pages – one for under green and one for under yellow that we’ll use for different lights and what we’ll look for in the gearing, RPM ranges and whatnot. If you’re under green and you’re coming off of turn two, you have to make sure you’re on page two – whatever page it is – and then you’ll slow down as quickly as you can, as late as you can, in order to make it to the 90 mph speed zone by the first line. Carry that around the corner and then you’ll slow down through your lights and then run your pit road lights. There’s different colors – you’ve got three different sets of colors that you can go through, so there’s a pretty wide range. You’ll probably run all reds.. actually you’ll run probably four blues through the corner, and then you’ll run all reds on pit road. That’s typically what we do.”

When you were scouting talent for up-and-coming drivers, what were the factors you were looking for besides just wins?

“For us, the skill level and the background of where they come from. Racing in the super late model ranks was kind of where I got my best sense of racing against some of those younger guys and got to pick up on some of those guys. Brian Ickler was one of our early guys at KBM, and then we obviously got Erik Jones from when he beat me in super late model race down in Pensacola. You look at those characteristics. I don’t know if we ever necessarily looked at their persona, or relied on that a whole lot, or their media training and anything like that. We’d just kind of help them through some of that stuff once they got to us. Toyota, TRD and their workforce of what they all did was a huge part of all of that, as well, too. I had a couple of guys that I really liked that I picked and sold them on, and we were able to bring them in. And then they had a bunch of guys that they wanted and basically said – hey, we’re going to run these guys and we all kind of agreed and worked together on.”

You have a new jackman this week. I don’t know how involved you get in those decision, if at all, but the fact they wanted to try something different after struggle the first week – did it surprise you at all because teams tend to kind of work with the same people, at least for a little bit before trying something different?

“Well the jackman we had was the same jackman we had all of last year. We were trying to redo a few different positions over the offseason, and some of the talent we were scouting, talking to and giving offers to, they declined them and went somewhere else. We kind of just had what we had, and we’ve been working through that. It’s tough out there. It’s really hard to recruit and get guys. Especially with where RCR is based and where they’re at, it’s a long drive to get up to Welcome to pit stop practice sometimes three and four times a week, whatever it might be. I know that Ray and all the guys there in the pit crew department are working super hard. Trust me, they’ve heard it – not from me, but from Richard week in and week out. Their ears are bleeding, but I know they’re trying and I know they’re working hard. Trust me, there were plenty of offers over the offseason to try and get different talent up there, and we just weren’t able to secure it.”

There’s a lot of talk since the fuel saving last weekend. Obviously it’s always been an important part, but how much it’s grown even more so the last couple of years. What can be done, if anything, in terms of taking emphasis off of that and allowing you guys to do a little bit more and race a little bit more, as opposed to riding around more?

“Yeah, good question. We kind of talked about it in our Chevy meeting last weekend among the other drivers, and there was really no solution that came to the forefront. The only one that I really had was to reduce the fuel cell size to create more opportunities of coming to pit road to just break it up more. But then you put your pit crew and the guys on pit road in more danger.. you put twice as much emphasis on doing all of that. When you come to pit road, it kind of breaks up the field for a little while.. like you take about 10 laps to kind of get it sorted back in and get going again. We go like 30 to 33 laps on fuel. If you go 15 or 16, and it takes 10 to bunch everybody back up – well now you’re getting ready to pit again. So you’re not going to sit there and save. You’re going to be going all out as much as you can, and making sure that you’re not fuel saving in order to do the leap frog strategy. A couple of guys said – no, you’d still do the same thing, but I don’t know that you would.”

Is it a problem, or is problem the right word?

“I believe it is. I believe it’s a problem. The start of the race last weekend for the Daytona 500 – we’re all sitting around there running half-throttle; not passing and just riding in a line. I felt disgraceful, myself, being a race car driver – wanting to go fast, lead laps and win the Daytona 500, and that was our strategy that we had to employ at the start of the race because everybody was doing it. When you’re running wide open and you’re in the draft, your pace is probably a 46.30. We were running 49.80’s.. almost 50 second lap times. It was pathetic.. I was like, how slow are we going to go? I felt bad for the fans. This is not good for them. It’s not what I want to be doing. But when you kind of get in that situation, I don’t know what you do. The third lane could have developed. It was so early in the race; nobody wants to develop a third lane. We’re riding – it’s a 500 mile race, don’t blow everything up in the first stage, right? But somebody could have just pulled out into the outside lane and literally just ran to the front and done whatever they wanted to do. So I was surprised nobody did that.”

When you say disgraceful.. there were a lot of races where it’s a 500 mile race and you can’t lose it immediately; you have to take your time to kind of buildup…

“But there’s no passing.. people want to see passing. The fans are all about – hey, we want to see racing. That’s not racing.. that’s riding. Yeah, back in the days – sure, you had 500 or 600 mile races where you needed to ride for a while. The Coca-Cola 600, for instance – it’s a long race, but you’re at least still trying to pass the guy in front of you and get in position as the day goes on. You’re not just riding 15th for the first 100 laps and being like – yeah, cool, I’m good with riding 15th right now. No.. you want to get further up the ladder and run with speed, your talent, your car’s ability and everything else. Doing what we did last week, you might as well pull the cars out of the parking lot and run rental cars around.”

Was there any conversations among your team about how to approach these first two races? You’re down a car from Daytona. You’re in Atlanta and you could very easily be down a car, so how do you approach that?

“Yeah, our Atlanta car was the car that we raced in the Daytona 500. So everything kind of got pushed up a week. The Daytona 500 car that we crashed – it went back to the shop and I think we’re on a five-week cycle, so whatever the fifth race is, it’ll probably be where that one goes. But yeah, this week’s car was slated to be our Las Vegas car, so it just kind of moves everything up. The cars are all the same, so there’s not really much differences that you have. You’re talking maybe a small part on a body part that you can maybe push or pull or whatever that you can get through the hawkeye, but it’s not a lot.”

Going back to last weekend, you had the issue on the pit stop. Richard Childress comes on the radio and tells everyone to get their heads out of their butts. When you have a car owner like that, one that’s really involved, what’s that like?

“Well that’s kind of what I answered early, was Richard is very involved and wants any situation to get better. If we’re not winning every single race out of the year, then how did we lose that one race? What can we do to make it better? That’s a racer’s mentality.. that’s what we all try to strive for and try to be better at. It’s tough sometimes when you have the human element. We all make mistakes.. I made tons of them last year and my crew stuck behind me – was passionate that I was their driver and wanted to go to the next week and figure out how to win the next one. I know where Richard is coming from, and I appreciate that – the emphasis he puts on greatness and wanting to be better. It’s what we all strive for.”

With two years on this new configuration, are the ‘warm and fuzzies’ all gone? What has been gained, and what has been lost?

“Yeah, any form of restrictor plate, pack-style racing is not high on my list. I would say – obviously as much as the surface deteriorated, there comes a point where something has to be done and they went through it. I just don’t understand or appreciate why we added the banking and the stuff that they did here in the reconfiguration.. although it’s the same outside wall spacing. Would I have much rather seen them just repave what we had? Probably because you would know then that, at least when it deteriorates some, it can get back to the old Atlanta ways. This deteriorates here, I mean it’s going to be fast.. it’s going to be damn fast sliding around, like 10 mph faster through the corners sliding around than what the old track would have been. We’re racers, though. As I’ve said before, we all want to go fast and do what we can to be the fastest ones out there. It’s not that you’re scared of that, it’s just that the hits are harder.”

Later today, you’re going to make your first drafting track start in the Truck Series since 2015. What was behind the decision to run the Truck race here?

“Well watching the Truck race here last year, it doesn’t necessarily fall in line or orchestrate itself as a Daytona or Talladega-style race. It is different. So I kind of took that into consideration, that you can make some moves by yourself. Yes, you’re in a line, you’re drafting, you’re trying to hold onto the draft and all that sort of stuff. But it did seem like there were some times in which handling kind of came into play.. making some moves kind of came into play and whatnot. It’s definitely not like a Kansas, where you can be the leader, run away and go hide.

It wasn’t my first choice. Definitely wouldn’t have been at all my choice, but I’m thankful for the opportunity that Spire Motorsports and Group 1001 gave to me to be able to come out here and run the five truck races that I’m allowed to do. This was the fifth one that was available on the list that I could do. I didn’t have much pick. It’s tough of a pick with all of the regulations and things that I have with NASCAR and all that sort of stuff, which the triple-truck challenge races, the playoff races. I don’t do speedway races, so my pick of the litter was I think literally eight or nine races that I could do. It gets small.”

What is your thought on the current state of the Truck Series?

“You know, you could talk about the current state of NASCAR. I feel like the current state of NASCAR is healthy and strong. You look at the Cup Series – having all of the things that are kind of happening behind the scenes, with big team owners coming in and being a part of all of that, and it just trickles down. Being able to get a new TV deal and all that sort of stuff, with NASCAR and the TV networks – we’re all grateful and thankful for that, and the hard work that was put in behind-the-scenes. It trickles down into the Xfinity Series and it trickles down into the Truck Series. Would I say that there are 500 ‘Fortune 500’ companies that are all out here participating in our sport? No, there’s not. So the sponsorship landscape is absolutely the toughest landscape in our sport, but I don’t know that’s any different than what it was in the high time.. in the mid-90s to the mid-2000s. I think you still saw cars that were in the back of the field that were under funded or had a struggling time being able to find big name sponsors to be able to get them to the track or to get them a better footing within the series to withstand and have some strength to their company.”