KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What is your outlook for this weekend at Richmond? "This has always been a really good place for us. We like coming to Richmond. It's always one of those places that I've looked forward to coming to whether it's been in April or May or September that you get an opportunity to race at a short track similar to Bristol, similar to Martinsville and come out of here with a strong run. We've been good here and I just kind of hope to keep the trend going and not mess up."
Who do you consider your biggest threat in Saturday's race? "I feel like Jeff (Gordon) is probably our biggest threat. The 24 car has been good here in the past and they obviously have a good notebook with the Stewart Haas cars running well here in the spring and also just having the resources and everything that they do have, they're no slouch. For us, that's probably our guy. Jeff (Gordon) and I could've brought boxing gloves here and made it a thing between us two, but there's also five other guys that have an opportunity I think to make the Chase as well. For us, the 18 team, it's just that we need to go out there and run well, run strong and if we have the chance to win the race then great. From there, if we don't have an opportunity to win the race we just hope that somebody that is in the top-10 is going to win the race or someone that is ineligible."
Which team is the biggest surprise to not yet be locked in to the Chase? "Probably the 24 (Jeff Gordon) car. You look at those guys and you look at us -- I think both of us are surprises that we're struggling to get ourselves into the Chase. You think of other teams that are a surprise to maybe be in the Chase -- I would look at Clint Bowyer, and not because Clint is not a great driver or he hasn't made the Chase before, but that's a startup team this year, so that's a brand new deal over there at Michael Waltrip Racing. Those guys have great resources too -- a little bit there between JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) and MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing). They've done a nice job in being able to put themselves in. There's only room for 10 in the top-10, but beyond that you've got to race for wins and whatever else you can to get yourself into the Chase for the final two. Carl (Edwards) too being such a fierce competitor the last few years for the championship whether he's finished second or third or fourth -- he's always been right there coming down to the last race in Homestead. Carl is a huge surprise and that's very unfortunate especially last weekend having his engine troubles that doesn't allow him to come in here."
Is it exciting for you to be in this position? "I'd rather us be in. I'm used to that. I'm used to being in. We came here in 2009 not in the Chase and actually I was in Jeff Gordon's position where I was just outside. I was the one guy outside of it and I needed to beat Brian Vickers by I think eight spots. We weren't able to accomplish that. I finished sixth and he finished ninth or something so we didn't accomplish the goal that we needed to. Anything can happen. It's certainly a race where Jeff could be leading and you could have a teammate buffer or something like that behind him. I could also have Jeff leading and really count on Denny (Hamlin) to do something for me or however you look at it. You can play it so many different ways. In reality, you've just got to let it play out. There's already somebody who knows what's going to happen, we've just all got to find out what it is."
What would you like to see play out in Saturday's race? "I think it would be great if it was the two of us going after the win whether it be he (Jeff Gordon) or I leading, but in all reality I think it comes down to every man for himself and this is everyone's year. This is your year -- this race here to try to make it into the Chase. Otherwise if you don't make the Chase, essentially the way I feel about it is you are just another car out there making circles. I'd rather it not get ugly."
Are you confident you can make the Chase? "We're confident coming into this weekend. We feel like we've always done well here. We have really good notes that we have a good basis for being able to run well here and have a good foundation to start practice with. We'll continue to do some of the same things that we've always done here in the past to make our car what it needs to be for the race on Saturday night."
Have you ever had a more important weekend than this weekend? "Not really. There's been some scenarios, but none as important as this one I feel like. We've never had a shot for the championship at the end of the year besides my Nationwide championship that I had in 2009 and we had that wrapped up with just needing to make a start at Homestead so that doesn't really matter. Other than that, it's just been big races or important races that you felt like when you were racing Late Models or something like that."
Do you feel work well as a team at Joe Gibbs Racing? "Anytime that your company is able to win, I feel like that you have some significance to that. Whether Denny (Hamlin) followed some of our notes during the weekend or whether he just being able to win in the equipment sort of solidifies your thoughts that, 'Hey, this stuff is pretty good. We're no slouches.' Denny has done a phenomenal job this year. I feel like our roles have reversed a little bit from last year where we had four wins and we were kind of the guy each and every week and saying, 'Why isn't the 11 running a little better?' I think this year it has kind of been the other way around. Denny has four wins and now he's kind of like, 'Why hasn't the 18 run a little bit better?' We've been fast at times. We just haven't quite had all of the luck go our way."
Do you feel like you thrive in this type of situation? "I feel good about being able to bring it to the race track when you need to, but we try to bring it every weekend. When you only win one out of I guess 25 it sort of doesn't make you feel too good about yourself. Here in Richmond, you couldn't have asked for a better place for us and our team in being able to come out here and run strong. What makes it really good too is that the 11 (Denny Hamlin) does run well here so even if we got off track we've got notes to go back to."
Source: Toyota Motorsports