Transcript: Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson & Justin Haley – Press Conference – Chicago Street Course

THE MODERATOR: We’ve now been joined by Kyle Busch. We appreciate you spending some time with us in a little bit of an eventful day for your team but you were able to capitalize there at the end. Give us a couple thoughts on the race and then we’ll go to a couple questions.

KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, so for us today was eventful for sure to start. Just trying to get all you can there early in the race and try to make some passes when other guys are being a little bit tentative and seeing some areas where you can try to pounce on them and just got too much in the braking zone there for our car and slid all the way into the tire barrier.

So unfortunate right then and there in that part of the race to have trouble, but honestly the rest of the day we were mired back in traffic, wasn’t really able to make up a whole lot of ground in order to make our moves to come forward.

We had a hand dealt to us there late in the going where we thought about the race getting shortened and pitting and getting ahead of some of those guys, so we did that and was able to flip the field and get ourselves back up front.

Real good effort for us and our No. 83CHI Chevy. Proud of come out of here with a top 5 and continue our top 5 strings on these road courses.

Q. It was intentional that you guys were sort of calculating, all right, this race is going to be shortened so if we pit now we’ll be ahead of the game?

KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, exactly. We were on the radio talking about that. I was like, you guys need to stop talking about this so much. Just do it. (Laughing.) We’re going to give it away and have everybody else follow suit.

I think there was about six or seven of us that probably did it, and obviously it kind of worked out just with daylight and everything like that.

I hate it we weren’t able to go the full distance, but just kind of the way it was the whole day just kind of running together with the rain and everything else.

Q. Just your thoughts in general on did this work?

KYLE BUSCH: I don’t know. I don’t know how the show was. I thought that probably the race was pretty exciting there with Shane being able to drive through the field and get up towards the front and make some really good moves and make some passes all the way to the lead.

As far as being able to race on the streets, yeah, we did it. We accomplished it. We accomplished it in the wet. We had a few instances out there, but none that were too terrible.

I thought the single-file restarts was definitely the way to go. Even being back as far as I was for most of the race, you want to make ground and you want to make passes and stuff, but on restarts going into Turn 1, one groove being dry, one groove being wet, that wasn’t going to be the way to do it.

Q. Kyle, you’re a two-time Cup champion. To watch what Shane was able to do in his debut as a rookie making his debut hasn’t won a Cup race in 60 years. Can you talk about that accomplishment and what you saw out of your windshield?

KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, obviously being a rookie to NASCAR, yes, but not being whatsoever a rookie in road racing and his expertise that he has. That’s what he’s grown up doing. That’s what he’s done his whole life. Fortunate for him, he’s done it in bigger, heavier stock cars, not lighter weight GT cars or some IMSA cars or something like that.

He’s probably, I don’t know, four, five, eight years ahead of us in this sort of car in the things that he’s done with the V-8 Supercars. I’ve worked with him before as a teammate with the Lexus program down at Daytona at the Daytona 24 Hours. He was on the other car, but we were all — six of us, eight of us were all in the same meetings talking together, so worked with Shane a little bit there.

Yeah, saw he was talented in that car. We were all really fast, so he always kept probably the quickest time for the team the whole time we were down there for Daytona. He is no slouch. I knew he would be good when he came over.

Q. Can you talk about your comeback, because to be as up to your ass in tires, right, and then to come back and do what you did was — I mean, a team effort.

KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, no question there. It’s just unfortunate early getting caught up in the barriers and going back that far, but we all dug in and gave it everything we had to rebound and come back.

I wish it was done more in the way Shane was able to do it where I was passing guys and coming up from the back, back to the front, but I definitely lost confidence after putting it in the tire barrier in my braking zones for the rest of the day, and I had a lot of lockup issues today, too.

So I don’t know what was going on with my brakes. Different from yesterday. I just could find not find the right rhythm with it until late. Probably the last 10, 15 laps I really felt like I was clicking some better times off and rolling forward.

THE MODERATOR: We’ve also been joined by Chase Elliott. We’ll continue with questions for Kyle and Chase.

Q. Kyle, how hard was the hit into the tire barrier? What did that feel like, when you’re sitting there with tires halfway up your windshield? What are you thinking about your prospects in that moment?

KYLE BUSCH: I was just hopeful that the radiator wasn’t busted. I guess this is an instance where I’m thankful these cars are built so tough because if it was the old car, I would not have made it. Well, maybe. I don’t know.

I looked a lot similar to him and what he did at the Roval on one of those laps where he got in the tire barriers in Turn 1.

Yeah, it wasn’t too terrible of a hit. I knew I was going in — I was trying everything to get it crooked so I could hit it flat side, with my side, but I could not get it to rotate. Just augered it right on in there like a lawn dart.

Q. How slick were the roads? It had been raining all day. Did that impact the race at all?

CHASE ELLIOTT: Yes, it did impact the race for sure. Obviously when the road has water on it we have to run treaded tires like a streetcar.

But when it dries out, it gives us the ability to run slick tires, which is a bit different.

Yeah, certainly added a dynamic to the race that isn’t super uncommon. We’ve been through that scenario before. But it was adding that to an already kind of new and different atmosphere and different circuit was a little odd.

THE MODERATOR: All right, Kyle, appreciate you coming in and spending some time with us. We’ve also been joined by Kyle Larson. We’ll continue with questions for Kyle and Chase.

Q. Chase, yesterday was such an uncharacteristic day, not just for you but for most of Hendrick Motorsports with the exception of Kyle. Can you just talk about what the last 36 hours were like just trying to get back to where you could be competitive today?

CHASE ELLIOTT: I wouldn’t say it’s uncharacteristic for me. I’ve just struggled. Just wasn’t very fast and was trying to just get comfortable finding more pace, and I felt like I was just starting to get a big chunk of what I needed.

Then obviously made a mistake and put us in a really big hole and I crashed again today and got super lucky.

For me personally, I’ve just appreciated everybody digging in and putting this car together. I hate I put them in that spot to begin with and then crashed again today and got super behind, and obviously we were one of the beneficiaries of the race distance having to be shortened because it was going to be dark.

So we went from not being in our window to me crashing that second time and us being on pit road and fixing it to fueling up one more time and getting us enough fuel to get to the end.

A long weekend, but a decent result considering how bad of a job I feel like I did for the past 48 hours.

Q. (No microphone.)

CHASE ELLIOTT: I mean, I think the rain probably puts a bit of a damper on that. Otherwise I think it would have been a home run, personally. I think the rain added an element of excitement for TV or the fans here at the racetrack.

But certainly for people coming out and having that pre-race excitement, I do think it hurt that a little bit.

Overall I thought it was a success. I thought it ended up being a pretty good race. It was difficult to find areas to pass. Some of the areas that you might could have made a move there were still a little wet, so it was kind of risk versus reward.

But as always, the people who do a better job than others tend to find their way to the front, and you saw that today with Shane. He was in a league of his own, and in my opinion, put on a really big-time clinic.

I don’t want to speak for everybody else, but he made me look bad, and I kind of think the rest of us, too. Looking forward to going to work and trying to be better.

Q. Yesterday a lot of the talk was about Turn 4, Turn 7, Turn 8 being the treacherous corners, and today it showed that Turn 6 was. What made it so difficult in the wet conditions?

KYLE LARSON: I don’t know, I didn’t have any issues there, but I assume people were locking their brakes up when it was wet. It gets a little bumpy there, as well, so you can get out of shape. I think had conditions been dry the whole race, I think there would have been less probably issues there, but it made it sketchy and made it difficult for us, which is sometimes good.

THE MODERATOR: We have been joined by Justin Haley, who was our second-place finisher today.

Q. Kyle, can you address the frustrations your team had with the running order placement after the big pile-up in Turn 11? I know Cliff Daniels wasn’t very happy at all.

KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I guess I’ve got to go and see what all happened, but obviously there was the wreck in 11, and I’m just slowing down trying to not be in it and everybody ended up just stopping to miss the traffic jam.

I felt like we were — we should have gotten our spot back, which it seemed like they were letting the guys who were basically at a stop to miss it get up there, and then they left the 45 and the 54 way up in front because they happened to get lucky and get by it.

Then they put the guys who were in the wreck also back in front of us. It was just confusing. I don’t know what the conversation was like going on. It sounded like Cliff said that NASCAR sent out a message that the 24, 4, and 7 were in the wreck and they were going to go to the back, and the next thing you know they were landing in front of us. I think that was where he was really frustrated.

It was just confusing. Also I’m grateful that I got to blend back in where I was, but I still feel like I should have been a little higher.

I don’t know, I’m sure there will be a conversation with the drivers’ chat and all that. I don’t know, I think maybe now that we’ve had it, we can discuss like what’s the proper way to fix the running order.

I think they got it half the way right maybe. But it is what it is, and eventually I was just like, screw it, let’s just go back racing at this point. We’re wasting daylight. It all worked out for us.

I think had that not happened, maybe I’d run one or two spots better, but Shane also was behind me, so he drove by me and got the lead. I wasn’t going to win.

Q. Kyle, what did you think of what Shane was able to do today? How impressed were you?

KYLE LARSON: It was so fun to watch from my view. When he got to my back bumper, I felt like I pieced together a really good section and I was like, I thought for sure I’d look in the mirror and I was going to be like two car lengths or something in front of him, and he was glued to my back bumper and I was like, holy shit, this guy is flying.

He was able to get by me, and then I got to watch the show. I kind of followed him through, and the moves he was making really everywhere — he could pass anywhere, but the moves that he could make into 2 was really neat to see, and then the pass that he had for the lead — I thought their battle for the lead was great.

He made his move into 2. Justin was able to get a good exit and squeeze inside, and I was like, man, he’s going to be able to fight him off here for a little bit longer, and he just made a super aggressive lane change back to his right side. It was just — it was sick. It was awesome.

He put on a show and it was cool to see, and I think when a guy like that can come in and kick your ass at your own game, it shows that we all have room to improve.

I’m curious what he thinks about us. He obviously passed a lot of us, so I’m curious if he thinks we all suck or if we could actually like compete, if we weren’t really that bad.

We come from a different background than him, but it was great to see, and I hope the fans enjoyed it. Congrats to him and the team and Justin Marks. That was really cool to see.

Q. Chase, with the remaining races left in the regular season, do you have one or two identified that you feel might give you the best opportunity to grab a win and make the playoffs?

CHASE ELLIOTT: I hope all of them. I hope any and all. That’s where we need to be as a team. That’s where I want to be as a driver. I want to be like the rest of those guys that are the top 5 or six drivers in the series. They can win anytime. That’s where I want to be. That’s where I want to get to. I think if you’re among that group, you’re doing a really good job.

I think I need to be a little better from where I’ve been to assert myself amongst that crowd, but that’s my goal. I would like to say that any of these next however many are left we can go and compete at. That’s what I’m intending and shooting to do.

THE MODERATOR: Chase, we appreciate you spending some time with us. Kyle, appreciate you spending some time with us, as well.

Justin, runner-up finish today. You led many laps on the track. Do you mind giving us some thoughts on the race itself? But really, what a great showing for your team today here in Chicago.

JUSTIN HALEY: Yeah, obviously a really good day, really good finish. Not a great weekend. I put the team behind yesterday. We really were struggling at some of the braking zones and I got in the wall and had to stay late last night, didn’t get a chance to qualify.

We repaired it, and I wrapped like half the car myself. I feel like that was pretty cool.

We started last today and I felt like we had good pace. We just — yeah, Shane was just better. He had 16 or something lap better tires. Just a world-class racer. He was very calculated, very precise, and very smooth. He wasn’t overdriving it. He was very calculated.

For someone to come in and race like that was just incredible. Very clean, as well. Our race for the lead was clean, and he gave a lot of room and very respectful.

Yeah, great day for our finish, Chevrolet and everyone at Kaulig Racing, the 31 team. I felt like where we’re at right now as an organization we’re just trying to get better. This is my and the team’s second full-time season, and unfortunately I haven’t been in a position like that legitimately to try to hold off championship-caliber drivers. I’ve just never found myself in that position early in my career.

Definitely was battling some demons in my head there just trying to stay focused and trying to get to the finish. But I felt like my lack of experience and his better tires were just how he won today.

I don’t feel like it was a complete loss. We still finished second. But definitely wish I would have been better. But that just comes down to being in that position more often.

Q. Justin, you heard Kyle sit there and explain what he saw from behind you and Shane when you had the little battle down the backstretch. Run it back through your head, what you were thinking, how did you —

JUSTIN HALEY: It wasn’t much of a battle. You’re just trying to do everything you can. I was really struggling into Turn 4. That’s where I wrecked yesterday, and our car was just so rough in the braking zone and I was really struggling there, trying to adjust my brake bias to be better there, and I just couldn’t.

His car was just smoother through there and could out-brake me.

I don’t feel like he pulled away from me. I felt like I held my own there on the green-white-checkered especially, but was that just him only needing that five-car-length gap, knowing that it was his race to lose.

Like I said, as a driver you don’t want other forms of motorsport drivers to come in and beat you at your own game like Kyle said, but unfortunately he’s just really good. This was my first street race, and I can’t imagine how many he’s raced.

I have nothing bad to say.

Q. If I had told you yesterday afternoon that you’d get to be in the picture at the end of the race, you’d be in the frame when the checkered flag fell, what would you have said about that possibility?

JUSTIN HALEY: I would have told you I’d be in the frame getting lapped, not finishing second.

I just feel like we’re — obviously we’re not a manufacturer supported team to an extent. I had 20 minutes of simulator time for this race. 20 minutes at the Chevy GM Tech Center. That’s all I had. It was on Thursday evening at 9:00 p.m. I had 20 minutes.

Just what we’ve built at Kaulig Racing, Matt Kaulig, Chris Rice, everyone have just done an amazing job and it shows that this car has leveled the playing field. I can’t imagine how much sim time Shane had, but I had 20 minutes. I don’t know if it would have helped or not.

When you sit back at the end of the night and think about what we don’t have compared to the other teams and that we’re just at our — we’re just starting to blossom as a race team, it’s just incredible. I feel like we’re realistic of where we need to be. AJ has put together some great runs. But it’s a fight.

This is a tough race series, and every week it’s tough. Definitely enjoy it when we do run up front. That doesn’t mean that we can take tomorrow off, though.

Q. When you came to that first restart where you’re in the lead, what’s going through your head? What do you think your chances are? You’re going lap to lap and you’re still in the lead.

JUSTIN HALEY: Like I said, I’ve never found myself in that situation in the Cup Series. Obviously I have in the Truck and Xfinity Series, but the level of talent — I had Chase Elliott behind me and Kyle Larson and Shane and Austin Dillon for a little bit, all champions and multi-race winners. Big confidence boost for me, especially as I’m right in the middle of contract talks.

Definitely just got to keep going forward, though.

Q. What are your general impressions of this event now that you’ve gone through it, the course, the atmosphere, and the street racing aspect of this first time?

JUSTIN HALEY: Yeah, I mean, first of all, amazing. Everyone at NASCAR was first class. They kept us updated for months. We’ve had countless meetings at the racetracks. They were getting our feedback for the restart zone and this corner and that corner.

Our relationship with NASCAR right now as the drivers is better than ever.

It was really just an awesome event. Obviously you wish that the rain didn’t come and the Xfinity race obviously didn’t get a fair shake at it, and obviously with the rain, cancelling the concerts and everything, just a bummer.

But at the end of the day, I hope it was fun to watch on TV. Maybe not. Or maybe it was.

Just incredible idea that NASCAR is expanding their market, and this is just a testimony to everyone there. I felt like the Coliseum was kind of the first you saw, and ever since, we’ve just been coming to tracks like this.

It definitely was a first-class event. I obviously enjoyed it and hope we come back tomorrow. I don’t know about the back half of the grid, but yeah, very cool. Glad to be a part of it.

THE MODERATOR: Justin, congratulations again on that second-place finish. We appreciate you spending some time with us.