KYLE BUSCH, NO. 8 FICO CAMARO ZL1, met with the media in advance of the NASCAR Cup Series’ practice and qualifying session at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Media Availability Quotes:

I KNOW IT’S THE FIRST TIME THAT WE’VE BEEN ON THE CONCRETE HERE IN THE SPRING IN A COUPLE OF YEARS, BUT DO YOU NOTICE AS MUCH OF A CHANGE COMPARED TO OTHER TRACKS THAT WE VISIT TWICE, WHERE YOU’VE GOT A DAYTIME RACE VERSUS THE NIGHT RACE WHEN WE COME BACK IN SEPTEMBER?

“Probably not as much here at Bristol (Motor Speedway) as normal. I would say that both races here tend to act very much more similar than other places we go to. Even Martinsville (Speedway), the way the gaps are between the asphalt and the concrete, they change from spring to fall. But here, being all concrete and not much temperature variation in the concrete surface itself compared to asphalt, you don’t notice as much.”

HAVE YOU SEEN WHERE THEY’VE REPAVED AND PATCHED AT COTA? AND IF SO, HOW WILL THAT IMPACT THE RACE?

“I don’t think it’s going to impact the race any. I have seen it, yeah. I think they got rid of a bump on the exit of turn one, and I think they did a little bit into the backstretch straightaway through 12 or 13, and then out of the carousel and into 19. I don’t foresee it changing a whole lot. Like you’ll have lack of grip probably through the carousel, and then you’ll pickup grip on the exit and be able to go much faster through 19. But then out of 19, it’s back to the old asphalt and turn 20 is very slow with old asphalt being as slick as it is. I don’t know that it really opens up any more opportunities of passing or anything like that, just smoother surface I would imagine.”

WE’RE NOT EXPECTING ANY CHANGE IN HORSEPOWER, BUT LET’S SAY THAT IF NASCAR WERE TO CHANGE THE SPACER AND GIVE YOU MORE HORSEPOWER, WHAT ELSE WOULD YOU NEED TO KNOW? WOULD YOU NEED TO CHECK GEARING, THE TIRES, THE TRANSAXLE? FROM YOUR MECHANICAL KNOWLEDGE OF THE CAR, WHAT ELSE WOULD NEED TO HAPPEN BEFORE YOU COULD ACTUALLY GO OUT ON THE TRACK?

“I would say the only thing that would be a limiting factor might be the transaxle. But honestly, I’ve never really looked inside one or seen the components of one to see how sturdy the gears are. That would about be the only thing in my book of just knowing whether or not it would withstand the horsepower gain. I would imagine that it would.. that it wouldn’t be that big of a deal because I think Xtrac builds transmissions and such for off-road racing and things like that, where they’re over 1,000 horsepower. So I’m sure they’re used to, or at least have experience, in that realm of the higher horsepower.

The brakes are fine. We don’t blow the tires off enough. I think that’s what we’re all kind of talking about. We need these things to be faster going into the corner; utilizing the brakes more, utilizing the tires more and having the opportunity to overdrive the cars more to burn the tires up to see guys struggle over a run.”

YOU’VE HAD VARIOUS RUNS HERE OVER THE YEARS WHERE YOU’VE BEEN REALLY, REALLY GOOD. THIS PLACE HAS CHANGED A TON, WHETHER IT’S BEEN THE SURFACE OR THE WAY THE TRACK WAS CUT-UP ON THE TOP OR WHATEVER. WHAT ARE THE THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GOOD AT BRISTOL MOTOR SPEEDWAY, AND DOES THIS CAR, THE CURRENT VERSION OF THE TRACK AND THE RESIN GIVE YOU CONFIDENCE HERE GIVEN WHAT YOU’VE HAD BEFORE OR IS IT JUST A COMPLETELY DIFFERNET PLACE?

“The car really changes a lot for it, for me. We won here with this car on the dirt surface, but I would say that since we’ve been bringing the new Next Gen car to the concrete surface, I have not found my way with it yet. I definitely had a way with understanding this place; having a sense of setup, how to drive it and whatnot with the old stuff, but not with the new stuff. We’ll see what happens here this weekend with our No. 8 FICO Chevrolet. Looking forward to the truck race. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a truck here. I think the last time was 2017 when I won, so certainly would be nice to come out here and go back to victory lane with one of those.”

I KNOW YOU HAVE A LOT OF RESPECT FOR BUBBA POLLARD, AND HE’S GOING TO MAKE HIS XFINITY DEBUT HERE IN A COUPLE OF WEEKS. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN TO NASCAR, THE SHORT-TRACK INDUSTRY, TO HAVE HIM GET A CHANCE AND TELL HIS STORY TO THIS AUDIENCE?

“Yeah, I love it. A guy that works as hard as he does and does as much on his own as he does, I mean he’s a really smooth guy. I’ve raced against him a lot and we’ve had some really good battles. We’ve always been cordial with one another. I think the only time was when one of the younger kids was racing for me, he punted him out of the way, I think it was at Alabama one time at a race down there. He said, ‘well that’s what Kyle would do’. And I called him and I was like, ‘bro.. when have I ever done that to you.. like come on man’. We’ve always had a good relationship, so I respect the hell out of him for what he does. He’s honestly one of the best. Definitely one of the best from the south in the super late model ranks. I’ve raced against a lot of greats out on the west coast, up in the northeast and Midwest.. a lot of different names that always come to mind.”

LAST YEAR, YOU GOT OFF TO A QUICK START. HOW WOULD YOU CATEGORIZE WHAT HAS HAPPENED THIS YEAR IN THE OPENING PART OF THE SEASON?

“Yeah, the Clash was great.. we ran really well there. Daytona, we were fast. If I would have choose a different line on a restart, we probably would have had a top-four at Daytona, for sure. Atlanta, coming oh-so-close there with just needing a couple inches to win that thing. And then Las Vegas, we were really fast. We were probably one of the only guys that could keep up with Kyle Larson. We had a great shot there and pit road was our demise. And then last weekend (at Phoenix), we just weren’t very good, in general, with the short-track stuff still. We’ve tried everything, so I don’t even know where to go with what we do next. We’ll see, with some new ideas, if anything works here at Bristol.. being as though it’s a short-track race, but it’s still the different aero package. But yeah, I mean we’ve come to find what our strengths are, what our middle ground is and where our weaknesses are, for sure. We keep trying to improve on all of them.”

IS THE PIT CREW STILL AN UNSETTLED SITUATION, OR DO YOU THINK YOU’VE GOT THE PIECES TOGETHER AND YOU’RE GOING TO KIND OF LET THEM WORK THEIR WAY THROUGH IT AND SMOOTH EVERYTHING OUT?

“I would say it’s still unsettled. The proof is in your results, right? You’re only as good as your last race, as us drivers tend to say. So you’re only as good as your last stop, I guess, is what a pit crew guy should say. But I know that everybody at the shop and all of RCR is working hard on trying to figure something out and get through it with the resources that we have. Each week, we’ll keep trying to fine-tune the personnel and make the best that we can out of the situation we’ve got to have at least decent stops. My thing is – they’re either the defense or the special teams unit, however you want to look at that. When you come down pit road, I’ve been saying it the last couple of years since we’ve been racing this car – the easiest time to pass people is when they’re sitting still.. it’s when they’re in their pit box. And so, we can’t be the ones that are always getting passed. We need to hold our own.”

YOUR TEAMMATE, AUSTIN DILLON, WAS TALKING LAST WEEKEND ABOUT MAKING THE WIDTH OF THE TIRE SMALLER. HE SAID IT WOULD MAKE YOU GUYS FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE MORE SPEED WITH THE NEW SHORT-TRACK PACKAGE. I’M CURIOUS IF YOU FOLLOW THAT PHILOSOPHY, AND HOW DO YOU THINK THAT PACKAGE WILL REACT AT RICHMOND?

“Yeah, I mean I can see where he’s coming from. I think we’ve all kind of said that, when the tire got wider, we all knew it was going to produce more grip. We all expected it to be softer so it would wear, and it would wear out and then you would have less grip over the course of a run and have some falloff. But unfortunately, we haven’t seen that.. we haven’t seen that softer compound yet. We saw last year here at this race in particular where guys stayed out on 60 or 70 lap tires; went the rest of the way in the first stage and won the stage. Guys were finishing in the top-10 by staying out. You don’t want to have tire blowouts.. I get that. I understand Goodyear’s stake on that part. But I think when we have had softer tires in the past and have had blowouts, that’s because they were softer.. because they wore out.. because we punished them, you know. So you’re kind of to your own demise, in a sense. I guess tires not holding air probably don’t sell well on Monday.”

HAVING DRIVEN THIS PACKAGE AT PHOENIX, DO YOU THINK IT WILL HELP THE RACING AT RICHMOND?

“No… no… no. The problem starts at the front of the car; the splitter and the way the air is, and everything that we all do on setup stuff for make these things rely on the air as much as they do. That’s the problem.. I think they went about it.. that’s a funny way to say it.. backwards. There’s another way of saying that, but I’ll leave it for another day.

But they started at the back of the car. That’s not the problem.. it’s at the front of the car. So, that’s it.”

WITH ALL THE TALKS OF WHAT COULD BE CHANGED, WHAT ARE TODAY’S FANS NOT ABLE TO SEE YOU DO THAT YOU COULD HAVE DONE OR HOW YOU COULD DISPLAY YOUR TALENTS 10 OR 15 YEARS AGO IN THE CAR? WHAT IS THE KYLE BUSCH THAT FANS ARE SEEING NOW, AND HOW MUCH IS THIS NOT THE 100 PERCENT KYLE BUSCH THAT WE COULD HAVE SEEN 10 YEARS AGO.. IS THERE THAT MUCH DIFFERENCE?

“I get what you’re saying. I feel as though that when the teams were able to build the cars, with the manufacturers and they were able to design them the way they wanted to design them, you’d have particular teams that would really focus on chassis build. They would work on their front clips. They would work on their rear clips. They would work on their bodies, and they’d work on their engines. You had a lot more feasibility in where you wanted to dump your resources. Did you want superspeedway cars? Did you want intermediate cars? Did you want short-track cars.. road course cars? You get it, right?

So now, we all have the same LEGOS and it’s just about how you assemble the LEGOS, which apparently we’re not smart enough yet at the short-track LEGOS to have that program scienced-out. For me anyways, I feel the practice limitations that have been set forth – I don’t have time to work through and dissect the car as much as I once did of being able to go through practices; look at the data, go through another practice, go through qualifying, go through weeks of being able to do that to build on your program and to give that feedback to the team, engineers and everybody back at the shop to make your stuff better. So I would say that’s probably a big part of it.”

ALL THIS TALK ABOUT SIMULATION, AND HOW FAR IT’S COME AND HOW YOU’VE SEEN TO COME THROUGH YOUR YEARS. WITH WHAT YOU TALKED ABOUT, NOT BEING ABLE TO GET THAT FEEL IN PRACTICE AND SO FORTH, WHY CAN’T THAT BE DONE IN SIMULATION OR WHERE DOES SIMULATION FALL SHORT THAT PREVENTS YOU FROM GETTING BETTER IN PRACTICE SITUATIONS?

“I would say that there’s nothing like the real thing. There’s nothing like the asphalt dyno, as my dad would always say. Going to the race track with your stuff and competing against the rest of the competitors to see where your shortcomings are.

The smartest robot in the world will never be what a human is, you know what I mean? It takes a human to build that robot, so there’s going to be way too many circumstances that would come about to make sim life what real life is.”

HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR NASCAR TO HAVE A SUPERSTAR? SOMEBODY WHO TRANSCENDS THE SPORT, LIKE RICHARD PETTY, DALE EARNHARDT OR JEFF GORDON, AND DO WE HAVE ONE NOW? WHAT WOULD IT TAKE TO GET THERE IF WE DON’T?

“You’re looking at him.. no, I’m kidding (laughs).

I think his name is Chase (Elliott). He’s the man, so ask him.

But yeah, for whatever reason – I’m not sure what it is, but you have the diehard fans of NASCAR, of Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt, Rusty Wallace, Terry Labonte, Mark Martin, Harry Gant. You name it – guys from the 90s, mid-90s, late-90s, all of that. Our world now, today, of 2024, is a lot different fan base that’s following along. I don’t feel like we were able to transition a lot of the fans that were fans of those drivers of the names that I just mentioned, into a William Byron fan; into a Kyle fan or whoever. They kind of all probably went away.. just stopped following as much. Which is hard to say because honestly, when you look at NASCAR, the fans love the drivers. The driver star power, that’s what brings people to the race track, is the drivers. When you look at the NFL, for instance – those players on that team change so often. You guys think my pit crews’ names changing every week is a lot.. look at the roster changes of NFL teams, and what they do; what they go through with their 53-man roster. But fans are fans of the teams, and a lot of times – I’ll throw out a name.. Jacksonville, for instance. The last few years, they’re coming back because of Trevor Lawrence, right? They’ve got somebody back that has brought the team back into the forefront. But before that, their stadiums were empty, you know what I mean. You can find the same struggles across different sports, is what we see sometimes.”

I WANT TO GO BACK TO WHAT YOU WERE TELLING MATT (WEAVER) ABOUT HOW IT’S BEEN HERE FOR YOU IN THE NEXT GEN CAR. HOW MUCH OF THAT IS THE FEELING OF THE CAR BEING SO DIFFERENT FROM WHAT YOU WERE USED TO HERE, AND HOW MUCH OF IT IS RHYTHM WHEN IT COMES TO THIS RACE TRACK? JUST KNOWING WHAT YOU WANT TO FEEL AND HOW YOU WANT TO BE ABLE TO RUN THIS RACE TRACK.

“Well Bristol is a lot of rhythm, but it takes a feel of what you’re looking for here, as well, too. This car just drives a lot different, and it drives a lot different because of the limitations in which it’s built. It just has a different way of you needing to go about it. I’ve learned some of that, but I guess I’m not the best of figuring out how to be better than some of the other drivers. Or maybe their cars are better than my car.. I don’t know. It’s not like we can swap seats. I’d always run this place more round.. like I would always try to make it as much of a circle as I possibly could, and now you kind of run this place in a diamond. You go up to the wall; do you try to come off the wall? Do you up to the wall in the corner? Do you come up the wall, you know what I mean? So it’s more diamond-shaped. It’s definitely a different way of running it. That seems to be a little bit more of the faster way this day in age. It’s a different technique to get used to, but that’s not to say that I can’t do it. It’s just a matter of sometimes you can’t out-race your own equipment, and you’ve got to go and get what you can get out of it, but nothing more.”

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