- Third place in points
- New schedule at Martinsville
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 Pedigree Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What are the challenges of racing at Martinsville? "Martinsville is a challenging track in itself already anyways. With the short track feel that we had a couple weeks ago at Bristol -- that's always fun for us. It seems to be a place we can really run well at -- Same with Richmond. Just trying to hit the stride here at Martinsville. Just kind of a tough little tricky race track. Still probably figuring things out. The guys have done a nice job with our cars lately where we've come here a lot better prepared and we've been able to have better results. Still qualifying kind of eludes us, but in the race once we kind of get into a rhythm and get moving, it seems to go our way. We finished fourth here last year so I'm looking forward to trying to improve on that. You can almost guarantee the top two spots will be either the 11 (Denny Hamlin) and the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) so everybody else is racing for third. It seems like I can't even get to third yet, but we'll see what we can figure out here this weekend."
When do you start looking at where you are in the points? "I think you actually want to try to do that sooner rather than later. It's about Charlotte time -- about the end of May when you get into the season and you look at where you're at. You're about going to be where you're going to be when you come down to Chase time. You kind of look at Charlotte and kind of evaluate where you're at. You can pretty much say you're either going to be four positions -- you can be four positions better or five positions worse once you get down to Chase time and Loudon, which is actually Chicago this year. It can go either way. If you're really good, you can be four better. If you kind of hit a road block and have some bad races, you can probably be about five worse. That's how we look at it. Right now I think we're solid fourth or something like that. I don't even watch or even pay attention to them right now. If you have good results then they'll take care of themselves."
Do you think you have gained patience at Martinsville and do you expect any April Fool's jokes today? "I didn't even realize it was April Fool's so thanks for the wake-up. Now I'll know if I'm getting screwed with or not. I've grown a little bit of patience I would say. Here at Martinsville it's tough sometimes. When you're outside row or eight back -- you're stuck. You're pretty much battling as hard as you can to get to the bottom or to try to get into a lane that you can get away from some guys and not have them all over you the whole time or roughing you up a little bit. To me, that's just kind of Martinsville racing here. If you're in the top-four, you can pretty much get single-filed out pretty quick and you can kind of ride your own race and pay attention to your own car and not have to worry about anybody else. When you get back in traffic, you're pretty much at the mercy of everybody else and you're watching the beating and banging that's going on. You're trying to figure out what lane's going to move -- it's like rush hour traffic. There isn't a third lane. You're pretty much stuck in two so you're trying to weave your way in and out of traffic."
Have you asked what the problems have been with the Joe Gibbs Racing engines? "I do ask what happened because I am kind of intrigued by all aspect of the car and trying to figure out ways to make it better. I've heard a little bit about the problems that we've had this weekend. I know there were some valve issues and things like that. I don't want to elaborate too much on it. It's something that at least we know what happened and where the source of the problem is. Anytime that you can figure all that out, you're moving forward. For us, it was like my bottom end issue that we had at Las Vegas -- that was catastrophic failure. We don't know what happened so we haven't been able to diagnose that, but we haven't had any of those in so long that we don't know if it was just a part malfunction or something that we missed or what. We already found the source of last week's issues with both Denny (Hamlin) and Joey (Logano) so we feel pretty confident that we're heading in the right direction with that stuff."
When you get back in traffic, you're pretty much at the mercy of everybody else and you're watching the beating and banging that's going on.
How do you feel about the new qualifying schedule at Martinsville? "I think it's definitely interesting and different for sure. We have two Truck practices and two Cup practices and then we're done for the day. We come in and qualify the Cup car tomorrow and that's it. It's kind of awkward to be honest with you. I don't know. We'll see how it works out. I was always partial to the old schedule. I kind of like that. I liked getting a little bit of practice in, I like qualifying, going home, thinking about it and getting some ideas. Coming back, working on the race practice tomorrow and going through all that before the Truck race. I always thought that was a really smart way to do it and they've always done it that way for a long time. That was why they probably did it and this is just going to be different now. Now you have practice, which it depends on which crew chief you're with and how they lay it out. You have your first practice, which you're most likely going to work on race run stuff and then you're going to go into the second practice and do you continue to work on race run stuff or do you make your qualifying run and then switch back into race trim -- what do you do? It's kind of difficult to figure all that out and sometimes for the crew chiefs to get an idea of how they want to do it or how they want to structure it. We'll see what happens. We'll keep a close eye on what other guys are doing for in the back of our minds in case somebody does it better than we do."
What are your thoughts on Paul Menard? "From my vantage point, I can't speak for the other drivers, but I think Paul's (Menard) a fine race car driver. I've had some issues with him in the past in the Nationwide Series, but that has all been blown over. Him and I -- we've raced well, we've raced hard with each other a long time. I never raced against him, but he came from the Southwest Tour days, the Northwest Tour, the Midwest Tour and those series. He won some races there and then got his opportunity to move up so he's moved up through the ranks -- he's won races where he's been before. Maybe not as many as other people have, but still I think where he's at in the points this year is really good for him, it's really good for the Menards brand. I hope that he's successful enough to stay there or even win a couple this year. I think he's with a really good team."
What are your thoughts on going to Talladega in a few weeks? "It's going to be a crapshoot. You have no idea what's going to happen or how it's going to happen. For us, what do we worry about going there? We just worry about surviving and trying to survive. Right now, with the way that we saw the race play out in Daytona we're expecting the same thing -- NASCAR is expecting the same thing and that's why we had the restrictor plate change already. They're being a little bit proactive in that, and allowing us to get some testing done -- some dyno testing done with the smaller plate so we can be ready for that aspect. I expect speeds to be higher because we'll be pushing all the way around. Other than that, it's just Talladega."
What is your reaction to the reports of Kimi Raikkonen racing in the Truck Series? "I think it's cool. I think that some of these guys from the Formula 1, or from the open wheel background I should say, trying to take a step in NASCAR and see how it is pretty neat. It kind of gives a world presence to NASCAR. Everybody thinks that Formula 1 is the World Series -- I don't mean that in baseball terms I just mean that in the racing world globe. I think that NASCAR as big as it is a lot of drivers want to see how they can do over here and how they can have a feel for the race car over here. I think it's neat and I hope that he (Kimi Raikkonen) gets the things worked out that he wants worked out and that he can come over here and run some Trucks or run whatever he is going to run."
Do you think it's a good idea for Kimi Raikkonen to make his debut at Charlotte Motor Speedway? "I reckon most teams are from around Charlotte so it's probably easier for him to get there. Probably a cheaper route for them to start out in having him (Kimi Raikkonen) as a first race. I think most of it has probably got to do with his schedule and what he can do around his Rally stuff. I don't know how busy those guys are, I don't pay attention to the Rally schedule all that much but maybe that's his only opportunity. I don't know."
Can you be a great driver without being an aggressive driver? "The part about can you not be aggressive, but yet still be successful -- sure you can be that. I look at the 11 (Denny Hamlin) and the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) and they are probably the best two here at being able to pass cars and get through the field and either win the race or finish second or right up there at the front and you can look at their car after the race and they don't have a mark on it sometimes. I think those guys are pretty good at it. There's a bunch of other guys that feel like they can be more aggressive here and they might move you out of the way a little bit more or bump and bang with you or grind on you through the corners or what have you. It kind of depends on who all you're racing sometimes, how hard you're racing those guys sometimes. Certainly, there's some drivers out there with different dynamics about how to approach this place and some are aggressive, some are not so aggressive, some are smooth, some are erratic and I think I'm about all of those somewhere in-between."
How much does it hurt Joe Gibbs Racing to have one of the dynos out of production right now? "The engine dyno deal -- I don't know when that is going to be up and running again, but I would presume that it's still down. I have not been back there lately and I hate that I haven't been. We do have a lot of support still through the TRD (Toyota Racing Development) guys out in Costa Mesa. They're doing a lot of stuff. They're doing a lot of testing. We work hand in hand together. They do a lot of stuff for us and we do some stuff for them and vice versa all of the time. I don't think that it's necessarily a huge issue. It would definitely be better so we could have all of our resources back up and running to an optimum and trying to move along with where we are at." Have you seen any of Samantha's skits online at Fox Sports.com? "I have not seen any of Sam's (Busch, wife) skits on Fox Sports. I try to tend to stay off the internet or if I'm on the internet I'm doing my RC car stuff."
How much have you talked to Denny Hamlin about the philosophy of running this race track? "I've talked to him a little bit about it. It's kind of like me at Bristol. I might not tell everybody everything that I know so I don't know how much Denny (Hamlin) is really telling me. All I can pay attention to is how much Dave (Rogers, crew chief) gives me. Mike Ford (No. 11 crew chief) and Dave and even Zippy (Greg Zipadelli, No. 20 crew chief) too. We all share our information all day long and it's just a matter of applying the right information for my driving style. We do talk and we do talk about different things. I will give Denny a lot of credit, that's why I'm a lot better here than I've been in the past. But, I think a lot of it still has to do with basic car setup and how that is. So, we've gone closer to Denny's way and migrated his way which I think has helped us and just gives me a more consistent feel every time we come here."
What is it like for you at Bristol where you go to the track and know you are the guy to beat? "What's it like? It's pretty cool. You go into Bristol, for myself I should say, I go into Bristol and I'm like, 'Alright, well we're here to win this weekend obviously.' If you can put it all together you're going to be the guy to beat. You wouldn't say I'm the guy to beat at a place like Michigan or something like that where my record is horrendous. I don't know -- it gives you a little bit better pep in your step and a little bit more confidence. It gives you a better feeling for how your weekend should go baring any catastrophic failure or something like that. Here at Martinsville, I come in here with a topfive mentality. I know I can run top-five here. I've done it however many times and I've been really good here in the past where I probably should have finished better than what I have but not quite got there. A place like Richmond -- the same way. I expect to go there and I expect to run top-three at Richmond. You always want to go to the race track to win, but you give some realistic expectations first. I feel like, yeah, we can win this weekend but we're going to start with a topfive. Yeah, I can win at Richmond -- I'm going to start with a top-three. We go to Michigan and it's like, what can we do to finish in the top-15 here. It's just kind of stuff like that. We'll see how it plays out and hopefully I'm right."
Do you notice the same mindset in Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin here at Martinsville? "Not really. I think Jimmie (Johnson) has got enough confidence. He's confident enough anywhere he goes that he's pretty good. It's just a matter of -- if you look at it this way disappointing those guys sometimes and giving them something to shoot out for next time when you come here."