KYLE BUSCH, No.18 M&M's Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
How do you perceive other athletes like Ben Roethlisberger or other athletes that not liked by all the fans? "It makes me relate to them and it makes me like them. Like a Barry Bonds for instance. He's a great baseball player, you can't deny that from him, although there might be some speculation or whatever you want to call it there late in his career that kind of hurt his image a little bit. Overall, the guy did a lot for baseball and a lot for the sport and was very good at what he did. Tom Brady, a lot of people don't like Tom Brady. Why? He's good at what he does. He's very good at what he does and he's very young and very good at what he does. Same thing with (Ben) Roethlisberger, same thing with now Aaron Rodgers --he's really good. There's a lot of athletes that I can relate to that are kind of under the same scope that I am and I like all those guys. I like people that are good at what they do and it's not that they know that they're good at what they do, but they are accomplished and they know how to accomplish what they want to."
Do you think Joe Gibbs Racing would ever swap pit crews during a race? "I don't know. Actually I asked that question and never really got a straight answer. For me, I think the biggest thing is that we all have great race teams. We all have great pit crews and I think the pit crew coaches work really, really hard and really, really good with all three teams. Actually all three teams workout with each other. They don't do it separately. They are all out there together -- they're all helping each other, they're all teaching each other. It's a way for the teams to become closer knit and become closer together. Maybe there was a problem one day where somebody wasn't getting the job done or they were having an off day where they would switch somebody. I don't think it would be a problem because they all work together already."
Is there any difference with your team this year that makes you believe you can win the championship? "I think the biggest thing that's different with us is just having a full year under my belt with Dave Rogers (crew chief) and now going into the season with that year's worth of experience to work with Dave and to try to reach our potential and little bit more this year. Unfortunately we've kind of fallen shy of that the past few years. This is the year we'd like to change that around and make it to where we get through the regular season okay and get to the Chase and then once we get into the Chase we stay consistent with what we're doing. Then if we can make it through without motors blowing up or getting involved in wrecks or something like that where we can have a shot come Homestead."
Are you carrying any hard feelings toward Kevin Harvick following the Homestead race? "You would like to say that you can wipe the slate clean. When you go from a shot at finishing fourth in points to finishing eighth in points --that's an awful lot of money and an awful lot of money for the race team to develop and to be able to carry on things a little further. Do I care whether or not I have a grudge against (Kevin) Harvick? No. Do I feel like I need to do something about it? No. If something happens to where it won't hurt me, woops." What is an early memory for you in NASCAR before you became a Sprint Cup driver? "I think the one that pops in my head first is when I was 16 and I was in the Truck Series running one of those races for Roush and all of the sudden NASCAR decided they would make the rule change and you had to be 18. That's the time when I was like, I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to come back. Most of the time you see people that are in NASCAR that they get either kicked out or lose their ride or something like that, there's really not that many opportunities for them to come back. Me being young and not having the experience or not being smart enough to recognize that you can come back and be just fine. It didn't sit well with me at first, but it became a lot better and a lot more understanding. I think that's got to be the most visible one to me. Anything else --it was always a dream anyway. As long as you keep clawing towards a dream then one of these days it becomes a reality."
What did you do those two years before you came back to NASCAR? "I was 16 in May and I raced in August, September, October and November in the Trucks and I got kicked out in November. Everybody at NASCAR told me I would be fine to race Daytona the following year when I was still 16 so then I turned 17 in May --never got to race any NASCAR stuff. Turned 17 in May, I was running ASA. I ran the full tour of the ASA national tour then when it was still alive. Then in January until my birthday in May when I turned 18 I ran ARCA stuff of that year. I won Daytona, but I ran Pocono and Nashville and Kentucky and a couple of those places with ARCA. Then once I was 18 I ran seven Busch races."
What do you think of the Budweiser Shootout compared to the Daytona 500? "I think it's a learning experience. It's just a race that we need to learn what the tracks going to do, what the racers are going to do, what the cars are going to do, how all this is going to play out with the new asphalt and everything. What people are going to try and see what they can get accomplished for that race. It's basically going to be the outline when we get to the 150s and then when we get to the 500 it's just going to be kind of what's going to happen and what to expect."
Do you feel more freedom to race in the Budweiser Shootout? "You feel like you can wreck and it won't hurt you too bad. You have to have some sort of mentality and some sort of respect for the game still in that race and not let it go all out the window. It's a race where it doesn't mean everything."
How was the No.48 team able to win a fifth championship with their adversity last year? "They did what they had to do. They're very good at what they do and that's why they're the five-time champions. It's hard for any of us to not deny that they're the best in the sport. We all might be a little bit jealous of them as well because they just seem to be able to put it together year after year and be able to accomplish the ultimate goal that we all want. They're good at what they do, they have very good leadership. I think it starts at the top with Mr. H (Rick Hendrick, team owner) and then it goes to Chad (Knaus, crew chief) and what he does and the engineers and those guys. They never let something rattle them. When they're behind, they work on it and figure out what the thing is that is the problem or maybe they're just that good to where they monkey with all the rest of us for a little while and they come back and show us what's up."
What did you think when you heard about the dynamometer problem at Joe Gibbs Racing? "I heard about it and thought, `Oh man, I hope that wasn't my Daytona 500 motor.' Apparently all is fine. Unfortunately some of those thingshappen where you'll see an engine blow up in a race car. Instead of in a race car, it blew up in a room and a confined area. It was a bit of a mess and made a big boom, but all was fine, nobody got hurt and everything was good."
Should people pick you to win the championship this year? "I don't see why we don't have the resources or the opportunity or the experience to win the deal. I don't know. Like I said, maybe if everybody just picks the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) then somebody out there has to be a jinx and then it kind of sets him back. It will be good for somebody else to try to win one."
Why don't you have a Sprint Cup championship? "Because the potential isn't reached. There's a potential you have to reach and there's a potential to every race, every week, every pit stop, every lap and somewhere within there, not everybody reaches their full potential all the time. Whoever's potential is obviously reached the most, which the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) has reached the last couple years, they've been the ones that have been able to do it."
What makes you want to race in all three series during the season? "For me its experience on the race track. You're able to go out there and you're able to spend the time on that Goodyear tire for that particular race track for that particular week whether it's a day race, a night race. You get all that experience in -- that's what I like to do. I learn so many things during the race that I can correlate to my Nationwide car or my Cup car. I like to be able to give that information to Dave (Rogers, crew chief). Other things too is when I'm working with Eric Philips (18 Truck crew chief) and with Jason Ratcliff (18 Nationwide crew chief), they have way different mindsets and thoughts and processes of how to make a vehicle go better and faster that Dave Rogers might not have. I can take all that information that I learned all the way back and forth across all three and try to increase the level of competition in all of those. My encyclopedia fills up quick."
-source: toyota motorsports