“That means he’s got secrets,” Busch said with a broad smile after being relayed his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate’s viewpoint during a Friday news conference at Chicagoland Speedway. “I’m going to find out what those secrets are.”
The 2015 series champion should be able to learn far more about the modus operandi of Truex’s team now that it’s housed under the same roof in Huntersville, N.C., as Busch’s No. 18 Toyota.
“It’s difficult because we are working together, and we are sharing everything,” said Truex, who joined JGR this year after the shuttering of Furniture Row Racing. “There are no secrets. I can’t keep any secrets from him; he can’t keep any secrets from me. It’s a real reality check in your own mind on how things are going, when you are looking at those guys and how they are doing and how you are doing. You are constantly comparing yourself.
“It has been different for sure from the last couple seasons, but I think in a good way. I think it’s just another little push.”
The past three seasons, Truex has been racing chassis that were built by JGR, which also had a technical alliance with Furniture Row.
But even though the teams held weekly debriefs, they didn’t share everything about how their cars were being tuned – and Busch (who has 21 victories from 2016-18 to Truex’s 20) intimated more than once that Gibbs wasn’t privy to how Furniture Row Racing was able to optimize its No. 78.
“Kyle was always saying in the media ‘I don’t know how the 78 is doing that,’ ” Truex said. “There is definitely more insight into that now.”
Busch said there are some limits, though – the trade secrets that stylistically separate drivers in NASCAR.
“I’m sure there are things, tricks of the trade or whatever, things we do behind the wheel,” Busch said. “Our driving techniques or things we do that don’t always share.
“As far as the crew chiefs go, what they do or the tricks of the trade or things they do with their race cars. How tight is this bolt, how loose is that one. I’m sure there are different things that crew chiefs do in how they prep their cars that you can’t put it on paper. So you never really see those things. But when it comes to paper and what everybody writes on that, there’s no secrets there.”
The pairing seems to be working well: Busch and Truex are tied for the Cup Series lead with four victories apiece through the first 16 races. They finished 1-2 last week at Sonoma, where Busch was the first to congratulate Truex on the win but also said “it sucks losing to a teammate.”
It’s the first time since 2015 (when Matt Kenseth had five wins) that a JGR driver other than Busch has had more than three victories.
“It’s nice to have (Truex) under our roof and in the same equipment and to be able to communicate and to be able to share with them,” Busch said. “There are racetracks that he is really, really good at and shines at and does well, and there are racetracks that I am good at or better at that we can go back-and-forth on. It could be any one of us each week. We have all the tools necessary at Joe Gibbs Racing.”
There is a yin and yang to the relationship between the tempestuous and outspoken Busch and the reserved and understated Truex. But despite a few notable on-track skirmishes (Indianapolis in 2017 and Bristol last August), there also is a mutual respect between them.
“I would say that it’s a friendly rivalry,” Busch said. “The way we go about it, we put everything out on the table. We have crashed each other a few times, and we have been pissed at each other a few times, but a couple weeks later, we are back to business, and we are joking around in meetings and we are working with one another. You are going to have those situations that happen just because of how close we are running. Sometimes we run into one another, but that happens. But it has been good overall.”
Said Truex: “We are definitely a lot different people. In the garage or in the car, I would say we are very similar. Very intense, very focused, not settling for anything but first.”