Kyle Busch on contract status, 2019 rules, Gen 7 car, NASCAR leadership

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Kyle Busch has offered some of the most candid (and critical) comments on the 2019 rules package that will feature lower horsepower and likely tighter packs of cars.

His views from the recent test at Las Vegas Motor Speedway drew a slight rebuke from a NASCAR official. So naturally, there was an anticipation of what the 2015 Cup champion would have to say on Daytona 500 Media Day.

In a wide-ranging interview session Wednesday, Busch, who began the year ranked No. 1 in NASCAR on NBC’s new power rankings, addressed the rules, the Gen 7 car and the status of his contract (which expires after this season). Here are some of the highlights:

–On the status of his deal with Joe Gibbs Racing: “What year is this? How do you guys know this stuff? … We’re in discussions right now (with JGR). We’re talking. It’s all been agreed to; it’s just a matter of putting pen to paper. Yeah. We’re all good.”

–On the Gen 7 car proposed for 2021: “There’s a lot of unknowns. There’s a lot of ideas that everyone has thrown out there and what they want to see or like to see or what kind of things they’d like to have happen for Gen 7. I’ve even heard independent rear suspension being thrown around, that would be a complete overhaul of anything we’ve ever done in our sport. I’m not sure where all that lands or where they’re at the current moment. I think ’21 is a tight timeline to get all of it done by, and we’ll see how aggressive they get and what comes down the line.”

–On the necessity of the reduction to 550 horsepower, which NASCAR has said is aimed mostly at improving race quality at 1.5-mile tracks: “I certainly wish we didn’t have to deal with those things, but I do understand that back in the ‘70s or ‘80s, they were at 500 to 600 horsepower. Now we’re pushing 900, 950. I understand that we can go too fast. How fast is too fast, I don’t know. It’s all about throttle response and crispness of the engine.

“What we’ve already known and become accustomed to, now we’re taking a step back in time a little bit. I say all that because you have tapered spacers on trucks, and Xfinity and Cup cars. They’re all that way; we’re reducing horsepower across the board to slow these things down. The mechanical and aero grip of these things are so great, that at some tracks, you’re wide open. You’re able to cruise around by yourself and when you get in traffic, you’ve got the draft, which will play a role. There’s some interesting variables that are going to come out with this new package.”

–On whether restarts will be wilder this season: “Someone posted that video of that IROC race earlier this week on Twitter. I don’t think it’s going to be as great as that IROC race was, but you’ll see restarts like that for 5 laps and then separation. We’re all looking for just not the 6-second separation between first and second, which is too great of a distance to create any sort of excitement. If you can see someone in front of you within 3-4 lengths, then there might be an opportunity to get that guy eventually somehow, some way. We’ll have to see how all that transpires.”

–On whether Goodyear should make a softer tire: “Absolutely. I think so. They’re going to say we’re going through the corners just as fast if not faster than before so they can’t create a tire that’s softer because it’ll blister. The way I felt it in Vegas, we weren’t to the complete limit of the tire by ourselves. When we were running wide open, we’re under the tire. You’re not slipping the front or the rear. You’re just driving the car in a circle. So I think they can still make it softer to make it have falloff and have that driveable feel all of us would like to have for the race.”

–On how NASCAR drivers can deliver a message without a Drivers Council: “We’re just race car drivers. We don’t know anything. We just drive what we’re given to drive and what the rules and the rules are. Our team’s got to go to work and build around that and what they know how to make speed in our cars in order to go out there and beat the rest of the competition. That’s how I look at it. It’s not that it’s fallen on deaf ears. The problem is still creating something that’s viable for the fans to see excitement. When you have a guy that’s leading the race that’s out front by six seconds, it’s not exciting. I get and I understand where we’re going and what we’re doing. It’s just frustrating as a driver to know that’s what we’re doing and how we anticipate all the races kind of playing out at the 1.5-mile and above race tracks.”

–On new leadership in NASCAR: “I think with (NASCAR president Steve) Phelps and (CEO) Jim (France), I think Jim has done a tremendous job of at least being around. He’s always carrying a pen. He’s always carrying notebook. He’s always taking notes. He’s always listening to people, talking to people. He’s in the garage area. He’s down in the trenches. He’s figuring it all out and trying to make some moves for the betterment of the sport and that’s what we all want.

“We want somebody that’s involved, that’s into this as much as we’re all into this and care about all of this. I think that we’ve seen some positive out of all that. Now whether or not Jim is a proponent of this car or not, I don’t know. I think that it’s for all of us to take with an understanding that we’ve got to get better and we’ve got to put on a show and do a good job of creating excitement that’s on the race track as well as the race tracks being able to create excitement around the race tracks and have a good time for the people that come to the events – to not just sit out in 95-degree weather with the sun beating down on them and watch a race. There’s more to life than that these days.”

–On if 200 national series wins would compare to Richard Petty’s 200 wins: “No. Absolutely not because his number is obviously Cup wins and mine’s not. I feel as though I’m chasing Jeff Gordon or maybe even David Pearson. Maybe – I don’t know if I can get there. I like to think I can get there. I’m at – what is it 51 or something? I’m at 51 right now, so if I can get another 50 in the next 10 years, that would certainly be nice to go out with 100 Cup wins. … If I’m fortunate enough to be here 10 more years. I’m Tom Brady factoring right now. I’ve got to work on this fine frame to make sure it lasts that long.”

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