KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What would it mean to win the All-Star race? “It would certainly be nice. We’ve run well here in the past and we’ve had some fast race cars and some opportunities to win. Unfortunately, we’ve never been able to seal the deal. It’s a fun weekend. You get a chance to run your truck around here a little bit. You get a chance to race for no points -- all pride on the line for the Sprint Cup Series and have a good time while doing it. Pretty much people say you either bring home the check or the steering wheel. Unfortunately, I’ve been the latter the last few years. Maybe we can change that around.”
How did you connect with Kimi Raikkonen? “Agents.”
What was the process of having Kimi Raikkonen drive for your team? “His agent called Rick Ren (competition director, Kyle Busch Motorsports) and said, ‘Are you interested in running somebody in some Truck races?’ We were like, ‘Who is it?’ He said, ‘I can’t tell you.’ We were like, ‘Okay.’ We told him the cost of what it took to run them and they said, ‘Okay, talk to you later.’ They worked it out on their side I guess where they felt like that was an okay price to pay, called us back and said, ‘Okay, we’re going to do this, we want to do Charlotte.’ We said, ‘Ooh, Charlotte’s already taken, can you pick another one?’ They were like, ‘No, can’t pick another one, you have to run a second truck.’ So we were like, ‘We don’t have a second truck.’ So we talked to Vision Airlines and asked if we could supply them a truck and they could run the race for us. That’s how it worked out. I don’t know what else there is to it.”
How much more aggressive are you willing to be in the All-Star race? “You can be a lot more aggressive. That probably may be the reason why I’ve gotten myself in trouble a little bit is just trying to push it as hard as you can push it to try to win the race. You get yourself on somebody’s inside and get spun out or spin out or on their outside or try to make a move and get squeezed in the wall or what have you. To me, it seems like the tires that we’ve had here at Charlotte the past few years -- it’s really hard to pass. It’s hard to get a car that anytime you ever see somebody out front leading the race, you hardly see somebody just drive up and pass them. You try to get as much as you can on the restarts. That’s why it seems like your first two laps after a restart, you get what you can get and from there you’re pretty much going to run single file the rest of the way.”
Do you consider yourself a favorite for the All-Star race? “Not really. I’ve never won a Cup race here so that’s why I wouldn’t favor myself here. You can be really fast here and you can feel like you’re going to win the race and then all of the sudden you don’t. Last fall, we led the most laps, we were leading the race and coming up to the final pit stop we made a slight change to the car and we lost. Jamie McMurray beat me. It’s never over until it’s over. Here at Charlotte it just seems like I can’t get a Cup win here. Been good in the Truck, been good in Nationwide -- just not Cup. The guys that you would favor I would say would be guys that have run strong this year -- Carl (Edwards) definitely -- his mile-and-a-half program has been good. (Matt) Kenseth -- they seemed really good at Texas. Even (Tony) Stewart’s been good at the mile-and-a-half stuff too. I can’t remember how the 24 (Jeff Gordon) ran at Texas or the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) -- they are always contenders at least.”
Could Kimi Raikkonen run a car for your team next week? “Could it be? Not really. We don’t have a Nationwide Series license or our crew guys aren’t licensed for the Nationwide Series or anything. It would have to be with somebody else.”
Were you surprised that Juan Pablo Montoya spoke with Kimi Raikkonen in practice this morning and how do you think he did in Truck practice?
We don’t have a Nationwide Series license ...
“I’m not familiar with their relationship and being teammates there, I actually thought they had a pretty good relationship. It’s nice to have Juan (Pablo Montoya) to be able to come over and kind of give Kimi (Raikkonen) a little bit. I don’t know that Juan’s ever driven a truck so that’s different. He does know how to drive stock cars around Charlotte Motor Speedway though. He was just kind of giving him the feel that he likes and how he likes to be able to turn the steering wheel in the car -- react and unfortunately that’s what we were fighting with our stuff today. Mine as well as Kimi’s was just our front end when we would turn the steering wheel, it would react too fast and the rear would kind of swing around. We were trying to get the rear end of the truck in the race track and in doing so, you try to do that without making the front end then too tight. You’re trying to make a balancing act and the tires are kind of hard. Seemed like they were a little bit slick, especially when the sun kind of came out. It makes for an interesting feel going around the race track. I felt like Kimi took to it okay. We’re a little disappointed that we’re not higher up on the speed charts with him. We feel like that’s maybe more our area than his area. I know he knows how to drive a car -- we’ve seen it already. Hopefully, we can get it a little bit better and get it to where he’s comfortable so he can run all the laps tonight and have a good experience.”
Can you explain having Zahra Baker on your truck tonight? “It’s through the Kyle Busch Foundation and what we do is we help kids that are in residential homes or have living situations that aren’t to their doing. Working with my foundation, we actually had Brian Ickler and Tayler Malsam last year that they went to an event and they got the history on the Zahra Baker story as well as my foundation lady that works for me. They brought it back to me and Samantha (Busch, wife) and I talked about it and we really wanted to do something in her remembrance and what all she went through. Knowing that she wasn’t around long enough to live a full, happy life. We thought it would be good with the ‘Riding Shotgun with Kyle Busch’ program that we’ve setup at Kyle Busch Motorsports this year with the 18 truck to put her name on the side. We’re really pleased to have her name on there and to hopefully have her guided spirit help us this weekend and be able to bring her to victory lane.”
Where do things stand with you and Kevin Harvick? “My priorities are to go out on the race track and race everybody as hard as I can, as clean as I can and do my job to try to win races. The things that happen on the race track sometimes when you get into somebody and wrinkle some sheet metal and hurt some feelings -- it’s a part of NASCAR racing and has been for years. Unfortunately, there seems to be a following between Kevin (Harvick) and I and what’s going to happen next. To me, he’s just another competitor out there on the race track. I race them all the same and give them all the same room that they give me. I don’t foresee any further incidences, but that’s from my side. I’ve forgiven and forgotten.”
Does next week’s 600-mile race feel different than other events? “It depends on what kind of car you have. You know, I’ve been in races in the 600-mile race where it’s been really, really easy and short or it’s been a long, drawn out, knock ‘em, sock ‘em kind of day. Hopefully, Dave Rogers (No. 18 NSCS crew chief) and the guys can bring a really good M&M’s Camry for me next week and it will be a smooth race for us. You know, I like running the 600 miles. I think it brings a new aspect to our sport -- its longevity. People will say, ‘It’s too long. It’s boring. Whatever.’ Well, you know, it’s a part of the product and the history that we’ve had here on Memorial Day weekend for a long time that you run that extra hundred miles. And, you know, car preparation goes into that – will your car make it? Will your engine last? Are the drivers, you know, fit enough to make it all the way? And not necessarily being fit enough, feeling that they’re, you know, competitive throughout the whole race. You’ll have fatigue sometimes, even at a 500-mile race of something, so if you don’t show signs of weakness you should be pretty good.”
What are your expectations for Kimi Raikkonen in the NCWTS race? “Yes, (Mike Swaim, Sr. is spotting for Kimi Raikkonen) I believe so. Yeah, expectations for Kimi tonight are pretty simple really. Just try to get him to run all the laps, try to get him to gain some experience, get out there with some other trucks, try to drive the truck a little harder, and get a feel for it -- feel the loose, feel the tight, apparently we’ve already given him both of those. Just to be able to get him to feel that in traffic and kind of race around some other guys and see if he can’t make his way forward and, essentially, just try to complete all the laps and get experience.”
What are your expectations for and advice for the drivers of the NNS No. 18 and No. 20 in Iowa this weekend? “I wish them all the best really. Last year we ran well there and we won one of the races with the 18 car, but that was the old car, you know. Now with the new car going there, Goodyear went and tire tested there. It’s a different tire, so it’s going to be crucial for those two drivers to really communicate with the crew chiefs well and give Adam Stevens (No. 20 NNS crew chief) good feedback, to give Jason Ratcliff (No. 18 NNS crew chief) good feedback , you know. (Michael) McDowell, he’s been there before. Drew’s (Herring) has been there before. Drew’s run there and I know he ran well there last year too in the 27 car. They certainly know how to get around there, definitely. Just being able to give good feedback and be able to work with the crew chiefs to get the car driving decent where they can work their way around cars and, you know, expectation wise, I mean, you expect them to run well and you expect them to run top-five, top-10 and, you know, keep the fenders on it and as best you can try to bring the car home in one piece. To be honest with you, all three of us haven’t been very good at doing that. Whether it’s myself or Joey (Logano) or Denny (Hamlin) or even Brian Scott, we’ve all had our issues in the Nationwide Series tearing up some cars, also winning some races, but tearing up some cars, you know. I think our fleet is getting a little short over there, so hopefully we can have a good clean weekend in Iowa.”
-source: toyota motorsports