KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 Doublemint Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Is Atlanta a race you look forward to? "Just looking forward to getting to Atlanta here and seeing what we have and what's in store for us. We've had success here in the past and we've also had not such great success here in the past so we'll see what kind of weekend this is for us. Looking forward to driving the Doublemint Camry and getting it up front where we have a chance to win come 500 miles on Sunday."
Do you feel like other drivers sympathize with your struggles to make the Chase? "I was asked the same question last year and I said, 'Yeah.' You sympathize with those guys there because you know what kind of situation they're going through and you never want to put yourself in that situation. Roles were exactly reversed last year for us and somebody is always going to be in that position. It doesn't matter what year it is -- somebody is going to be locked in and somebody's not. Whether it's your year to be locked in or not I guess is given to the fact of what I have in front of me now."
Do you think you can contend for the championship if you make the Chase? "I don't see any reason as to why we wouldn't be able to go out there and contend for the championship if we were given the opportunity to make the Chase. We've just got to solidify our chances here this weekend and next weekend in Richmond and do everything right the way we know how to do it and be a Chase contender when the checkered flag flies at Richmond next weekend and then from there go on into the final 10 weeks and bust our butts to put together 10 great weeks. There's no reason why we can't. Don't see our competition nor the way that we're running as why we're in the 13th position -- it's just due to dumb circumstances."
Do you think driving in the Truck race will help you for the Cup race? "I've always said that I felt like it's an opportunity to get out there on the race track and feel what the tire is like, feel what the track conditions are like and what they do from day to night and what they do from a green race track to rubbering up. To me, it's just always about getting that track time and just making sure that you're feeling all the correct things that you're feeling. Sometimes you get a false sense of security on the Cup car -- it's loose, but how loose is it? I get to understand more of that when I drive more vehicles."
Did you have to ask Joe and J.D. Gibbs for permission to run the Truck Series race? "No, it wasn't tough to get the okay. Actually, I never asked. They told me a few weeks ago that if I wanted to go run, I could go run. We're just playing out the rest of the year as we will with other drivers that we have that are capable of running the truck as well. Brian Scott has got some more races that he wants to run, so we're going to let him run. Denny (Hamlin) -- I think he might run a couple more too and we'll see what other races if any Kurt (Busch) wants to run or myself."
Do you have any plans to bring Kimi Raikkonen back to NASCAR? "No plan. Nope, none at all. Kimi's (Raikkonen) doing his F-1 deal now actually and I think that whole deal kind of came together through (George) Gillette and another agent type person. Haven't heard from either one of those in a year and half."
What are your expectations for Richmond? "I don't know. We were in this situation in 2009 or '10 -- I don't remember which one, '09 maybe -- and we had to go to Richmond and we had to finish five spots ahead of Brian Vickers and we finished fifth, which was great, but Brian Vickers finished eighth, so we missed the Chase that night. Not necessarily one that you bank on going there and getting a win or anything like that. You feel like you can run well, but I've struggled there in the past. Again, you just do what you've got -- do what you need to do to run as well as you can. There's definitely never any guarantees you're going to show up to the race track and win. You've just got to work hard, communicate with your crew chief the best you can and not get too frustrated when things aren't exactly correct, but yet be determined enough that you can get them fixed and get out there and make the most of your opportunities."
How does being judged by your personality impact drivers? "I think it impacts everybody a little bit differently. Me particularly, it's just something that you don't really focus much attention on. I'm out there to run hard and to get a race car as fast as I can get it and to push hard around the race of the competitors that you have out there on the race track, so for me it's tough to sometimes know exactly whether you're being a good personality or being a good race car driver. It's just always been more focused on the race track rather than off the race track."
Did you break down the schedule and target races for wins to make the Chase? "No, I've just broken it down that we need to run like we have all year. We just need to push hard and do the best we can, get a good race car out there on the race track. I mean, that's all it boils down to. I'm not going to make the Chase by suffering through a bad day and finishing 20th. We know that, so if you've got a good car and you push as hard as you can and you get solid finishes that those are going to take care of themselves. But, obviously the win would be nice and that would lock yourself in a heck of a lot easier -- either way. Right now, I feel like if we run top-five both these weeks and don't score a win, I feel like we still have a really good shot at getting in or if we run 20th this week then going into Richmond it may take a win to make it in. We'll see how it plays out."
How is your relationship with Dave Rogers? "Things are fine. Things are really good. Dave's (Rogers, crew chief) is actually -- he works tremendously hard. He works a lot of hours and does a really good job. I feel like our engineer staff does too. They work really, really good and work really, really hard at trying to give us the best opportunities for making our cars go better. Our relationship is great and he's actually -- you ask him that same question and he'll probably have a lot of praise for me, which he has given me. I still try to work as hard as I can each and every week and humble him, tell him I'm not really doing that great of a job. It's just a matter of working as hard as we can and keeping a level head and keeping our focus forward."
Is attempting to make the Chase a stressful situation? "Yeah, it's definitely stressful. You don't work as hard as you do all year long to suffer along through a season and miss the Chase. Obviously, you know we miss the Chase and we're just going to be another race car out there on the race track running around in circles for the rest of the year. That's how I feel about it. That's what it feels like and we certainly didn't want to be in that position. We want to make the Chase and we want to go out there and have the opportunity to race for a championship and be making circles for a reason and be making circles for wins and what-have-you. That's just what the year's kind of drawn out of me, I guess. It's just been a frustrating season, a tough one that's tried to bring us down and there really hasn't been too much to be excited about this year. Hopefully, we can make the Chase and try to turn our focus a little bit towards putting smiles on."
Do you look at Talladega like it's a wild card? "Yeah, Talladega is always a wild card race. I've finished one race there without getting damage on it and I won. All the rest of them, I've wrecked or been torn up or have been in the garage-area or have been backwards through the grass or something else. It's certainly a race that is not all in your control. There's a lot of other things and circumstances that can happen that can take you out of a good opportunity to run well, so we've had fast race cars at Talladega. It's a fun race track -- certainly challenging. As far as the physical attribute, it doesn't take anything to steer a car around a race track and run it wide open, but when it boils down to the mental game of that race it certainly will drain you quite a bit and when you're all said and done with that race you wonder where the 500-miles went."
Source: Toyota Motorsports