KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M's Red-White-Blue Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Would you be excited to claim back-to-back NSCS wins in Kentucky? "We certainly would. It was a great race for us last year. I remember just being pretty quick right off the track and being able to have a fast car during the test that we had and during the practice session. Qualifying got rained out and then we still got to start up front because of the practice speeds. Feel good about it again this year. Feel like we're right where we left off. We had a pretty good race car right off the truck this time around as well and looking at making some changes that make sense to it to try to give us a little bit more grip overall all the way through the corners here. It's definitely hot. It's definitely slick out there. The grip level is just at a premium. You want to work as hard as you can to get as much grip now knowing that the track is going to cool down and everybody is going to gain grip. So, if you're the best now, you'll be the best in cooler conditions."
How have you been impacted by your recent engine issues? "Certainly, it's definitely frustrating beyond belief, but the positive of it is what you mentioned there about us being fast everywhere we've been. So, we know we have speed. We know our cars are pretty decent. It's just a matter of getting to the end without a problem. Last week we got tangled up in Denny's (Hamlin) spin there towards the end and it actually broke part of the front end geometry on the car. We just had to struggle along and limp the rest of the race. We did have old tires, so we faded like that, but also the car got screwed up, so that was another reason why we were fading at the end. It's frustrating because you try so hard -- everybody tries so hard -- and this team works really, really hard on everything they've been able to do, whether it's been at the shop or here at the race track and putting through this heat and everything else. Through the month of June, it's been crazy. The tests that we've had -- the Pocono test, the Michigan test, road course test that we had and now having to come up for another Michigan test in a couple of weeks after Indy. These guys have been through the summer months of hell so far, so maybe it will slow down one of these days."
Do you dwell on the issues and how they can be fixed? "You dwell on it as much as you want to, but in reality they're not going to be able to do anything about it. You've got to focus forward and be able to put your attention and energy towards running well and just trying to get those finishes. So, we come in here just fine. Obviously, I think we've proved that by being on the top of the sheet both practices, so we know what we're doing and we feel good about what we are doing. We'll just have to see how the race plays out, but feel like Kentucky has been a pretty good place for me in years past. I think there are a couple of cars that are really good beyond us today, but we'll just have to work at what we've been doing a little more and get better yet."
Do you worry about being on the Chase 'bubble'? "I'm just hoping that we work as hard as we can and run as hard as we can that we get good finishes. Right now there's nothing to worry about - we're either going to be in or we're out. Just got to work as hard as we can to control our own destiny and get the finishes we need to get ourselves back in the top-10 for one. Or for two, be good enough to win one or two more races and guarantee ourselves a spot by a wild card berth. Either way you look at it, there's potential there and we just know that we've got to achieve that and our results should take care of that for us."
Do you feel like rookies get pushed around by veterans? "A little bit, yeah. I remember -- I don't remember if it was my rookie year or not -- but it was Vegas and (Tony) Stewart and I were racing each other hard for third there at the end and he got made about it and fenced his car and I ended up finishing second or third that day. But, afterwards he was mad and then a couple of week later we talked about it -- everything was good. As a rookie, sometimes you don't necessarily get the benefit of the doubt all the time -- I would admit that. And when you're the veteran, you kind of expect a little bit more courtesy from a rookie, I guess. But, everybody is racing out there for the same real estate, so sometimes it's just as good to go up and try to talk to someone and try to help them out. Just give them some advice -- whether they use it or not, there's kind of the three-strike rule that you get two and the last one you better be ready."
What do you think about the pop off valve being changed at Daytona? "I think it's just so hot outside that they knew we were going to overheat anyway, so they just gave us a little bit more cushion. That's about it."
Is Kentucky a unique race track? "It' definitely a unique race track. You look at it from high above, birds-eye view and it's 'cookie cutter,' but out there on the race track it is entirely different than that. It's definitely rough and rougher every year it seems. Definitely slick. The premium groove right now actually is kind of the second lane off the bottom, so that makes it interesting. That makes for a two-lane race track, but yet we kind of know that one lane is faster -- a little bit more superior than the other. It seems like though when you get outside that second lane that's off the bottom and up any higher, you definitely loose grip. I don't know if they ground up there differently than where they had ground or used a different machine or technique, but it's definitely different at the top-three grooves, I guess you call it. But other than that, this place here has got its own character to it and definitely got to work around some of that, so at least it's not one of the same repaves that we go to all the time, but we'll see how many years we get out of this place."
What would it mean to win a race at the Brickyard? "Brickyard's a great race. It's been a pretty cool race track -- just I think cause of all the history and everything that's built around that race track and the 100 years that it's been going. I think that's kind of what makes it so exciting too -- and from a fan's perspective, the history of the place. Of course, I'm not sure we go to any other golf courses that have a race track built around them. That's what I call it. I don't call it a race track with a golf course. I call it a golf course with a race track. Those guys do a great job out there. It's a lot of fun. To see the atmosphere and to see the fans that come out to that race and everything. It's a little hard to pass there. I think we've all kind of seen that over the years. The restarts are always kind of exciting. And, looking forward to -- if we ever get the opportunity to win there, we'd love it. We'd take it."
What do you think about the upcoming New Hampshire race? "Loudon is tricky, man. For some reason, I haven't been able to figure it out that well here with the COT car. The old car we were pretty decent there. I remember 2007, I think, one of the last races we ran with the old car -- I won that one. So, it's been one of those places that's just kind of tricky sometimes to figure out for me -- just the flatness of the corners, how hard do you get into the corner, how much brake do you use, how much do you let the car roll, how hard to get back on the gas -- there's so many different things you've got to work through at Loudon. I've got one of the best teammates in the business to help me with that with Denny (Hamlin). I definitely use him a lot when we go there on those weekends. Hoping we can carry on our success that we had there last time. Maybe, better obviously that. We finished 11th I think. We'd certainly like to get up in the top-10 and contend for better finishes at Loudon."
Is having three engine issues better than having one engine issue three times? "The engine failures that we've had -- you know it's a little disheartening, obviously. It sets us back a little bit, but we can only do what we can do to work harder. Having three different issues, whether that's better or worse -- I don't think any engine issue is good. But, those guys there are working hard and trying to run through everything and figure out what's been going on and why we've been having the issues that we've had. I think (Clint) Bowyer had similar to the same issue I had at Pocono, but his last made it to the end at last. And Mark (Martin) had an issue I think at Michigan, as well. So we got some work to do. Those guys need to work a little bit more and get going on the same page as the rest of us. Overall, I feel that they've been doing a good job. We've been gaining power and anytime you gain power you sacrifice a little bit of durability, so you have to take one with the other."
Have you gained patience through this season? "Yeah, maybe I'm too patient -- I don't know cause I'm sitting 12th right now. I haven't been back this far in a long time. We're just running through what we can do. There was the early stretch of the year where everybody thought, 'What's wrong with the 18?' Then when we won at Richmond and then clicked off five top-fives in a row, then it was, 'Oh well, the 18 is back.' Now, we've had some bad luck again. I guess it comes in cycles sometimes. Certainly we'd like to prove that when we have a bad week we can rebound well, but we haven't been able to do that just with reoccurring issues. Got to get that monkey off our back somehow, shake it and get going."