KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What are your expectations for this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway? “I think things have gone well for us so far this year. We’ve built upon what we did last year and how Dave (Rogers, crew chief) and I grew as a team and how we grew the team overall and where we’ve come. I think things have gone really well this year. The communication has been good and the cars have been awesome. I can’t thank the guys enough for all their hard work -- everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing to Dave and the guys at the track with us. Looking forward to Texas this weekend, we’ve had some fast cars here in the past, just some unfortunate circumstances that we haven’t quite been able to capitalize on getting a win here in the Cup Series. I’ve been fast here in Nationwide and fast here in the Trucks. I’m looking forward to continuing on with Denny’s (Hamlin) momentum with winning both races here last year and trying to keep Joe Gibbs Racing in the winner’s circle.”
What does it mean to you to be first in the points after six races this season? “It is early, but we’re excited about it. We feel like it’s a great opportunity to be up front and having some good results. Unfortunately our engine failure at Las Vegas kind of set us back a little bit. We’ve been able to rebound nicely and get back up to the points lead. I feel good with where we’re at, I feel really good with where the cars are at -- I think that’s the most important thing. If we can keep building upon this momentum and our success of recent, then we can keep that going all year, hopefully.”
How was the NCWTS test session with Kimi Raikkonen? “The test went really well at Gresham (Motorsports Park in Jefferson, Ga.). Kimi (Raikkonen) is a race car driver so he does know how to drive race cars and drive them well. I wasn’t there until later on in the afternoon on the first day and I got to see it first hand. I got in the truck myself and ran some laps to see how I compared to where he was at on tires and stuff and we ran identical lap times, so he’s right there -- he knows what he’s doing. They ran another day at Gresham and was kind of getting his feet used to caution laps, running down pit road, watching the lights on the tach and how all that goes. Working on some restart stuff and getting him accustomed to coming up through the gears quick and not spinning the tires on restarts. There’s still some things that we’d like to work on a little bit more, but we don’t feel like there’s any time before he gets back. There was another test today, they were in Rockingham (N.C.) with our trucks and he did good again, ran a lot better than we expected to run there -- a lot faster than we expected to run there. I’m real happy with it. He’s off and on his way to Jordan now for the rally stuff. We wish him the best of luck this weekend. As far as the Nationwide and Cup stuff goes, we haven’t had any discussions on that. He has asked after the truck debut in Charlotte, which is what our first focus is, kind of evaluating and seeing where he’s at and how he feels and what he wants to do. He has asked about Nationwide and Cup and if Kyle Busch Motorsports could do that or where would be the best place to do that. Like I said, he wants to reevaluate all that once we get past Charlotte.”
How fast of a race track is Texas Motor Speedway? “It is a fast race track. Texas was really hard for me at the beginning with the Cup cars for some reason. I took to it right off the back in the Nationwide stuff. We’ve kind of correlated some of that information back and forth and having the cars from Jason Ratcliff (NNS crew chief) and from Dave Rogers (NSCS crew chief) being as good as they’ve been, we’ve been really fast here. It’s a fun place. It’s really challenging because of the flatness of the corners, getting into the corners and then they’re so banked through the turns and then the exits of the corners kind of fall off real quick. That was always really weird for me to try to figure out because of lateral grip seems to go away so fast on the exit of the turns, you kind of want to be straight by that point. It’s an interesting facility. Texas, Charlotte and Atlanta all might look exactly the same, but they drive nothing alike. It keeps you on your toes.”
What would a win at Texas mean to you? “That’s something we want to do -- I want to do before I’m done. Hopefully I have a long time before I get there. It would be nice to win here at Texas.”
Texas, Charlotte and Atlanta all might look exactly the same, but they drive nothing alike. It keeps you on your toes.
Does your knowledge of how cars work help you tell your crew chief about changes needed during races? “I think it helps a little bit. With the way technology has changed and with the way these cars have changed so much over the years, when I first started in NASCAR, we were coming here with 600-750 power right front springs to a place like Texas, for instance. Then it evolved into coming here and trying to get on the coil bind setup and running around on the spring. Now it’s evolved to the bump stops with our Cup cars now. Things always change so you have to think of the different dynamic of what all those do. When you get down on the bump stop, what’s the repercussion of getting down on the bump stop -- will it be harder on the tire, will there be more camber, will you hold more camber -- all that kind of stuff. I understand a lot of that and it’s helped through the engineers. It’s helped through Dave (Rogers, crew chief), it’s helped because you learn all that stuff so you can give better information back to the crew chief of what you feel that the car is doing.”
How do you communicate what you feel in the race car? “That’s always been there. I feel like I have the best knowledge of what I’m feeling. Dave (Rogers, crew chief) doesn’t know exactly what I’m feeling in the car -- so I know what a track bar does, what a wedge does, I know what air pressure does. I know what all that does, so when they ask me about a change, they’re like let’s do wedge, I’m like, ‘No, that’s not really going to help with what I’m needing.’ Sometimes Dave can look at the timing and scoring and say we’re two-tenths off from where we need to be and I can say, ‘Yeah man, I just need half a round of wedge.’ And he’s like, ‘Dude, we need something a lot more than that. We’re going to have to swing at this thing to get it right.’ That’s when you rely on information from both sides. It’s like what I’m feeling is this and what Dave is seeing on the stop watch is that, so you have to work back and forth. We work together on those decisions.”
What changes will we see on Saturday with this year’s race being at night? “I think it will be somewhat similar to last year. You’ll still have the heat of the day going into the night and into the deeper night. It should be a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to the challenge of going into the night race here at Texas -- something different than what we’ve done here in the past and being on a Saturday night. It should make for an interesting race. I feel like a lot of guys have been really good here in the past during the daylight because of the hot, slick race track having a better car setup. This time around it’s about night time and getting the most speed out of your car and the most grip out of your car. We’ll see how it all goes with everybody, but we like our chances.”
There have been people who have said we like the new you, or we like the married you or whatever it might be.
Have you had any fan interaction where they’ve told you their opinion about you has changed? “I have. There have been people who have said we like the new you, or we like the married you or whatever it might be. I have had those people, but I also have had the other people who have said it feels like you’re going soft on us. It’s the best of both worlds. It’s good. Like you said, I’ve changed a little bit and things have gone really well and been a lot different, but yet I still feel the same with on-track success and being competitive and all that stuff too.”
What do you say to the people that say you’re going soft? “I just say that as long as the results don’t go soft, we’re okay.”
Do you have any concerns about engine issues this weekend? “You try to not worry about that, you try to let the guys do their job. If you worry about it, then you’re thinking about something that you’re not supposed to be thinking about or should be thinking about other things. To me, it’s not a concern for us. I feel like Joe Gibbs Racing does a nice job and has done a nice job for a long time in the engine department with Mark Cronquist (engine builder) and the guys. I hope that we’ll be okay.”
Are you looking forward to racing double duty at Nashville? “I am going to Nashville. I’ll run both the Nationwide and the trucks there. It’s Dollar General’s hometown, so it’s going to be cool to go there and spend a day with those guys -- all the people and everybody that I have met or I haven’t met and go visit them on Thursday, the day before on track stuff. The race track is real finicky. It’s a fun place. It’s a mile-and-athird, and yet it feels more like a short track almost. You got real long straightaways, real fast speeds and you get down in the corner and you have to use a lot of brake, but yet there’s a lot of grip because of the concrete surface and the tire that Goodyear brings there. So, with the trucks and the Nationwide cars being there on the same weekend, I like it because it gives you a little bit -- it’s kind of like a Nationwide/Cup weekend, I guess. It gives you a little bit of a lead in to -- you know you get a little bit more track time, kind of gives you maybe a little bit of an advantage. I enjoy the back and forth stuff. And Nashville being a standalone non-Cup weekend seems to be a little bit more relaxing and a little bit easier. So, I’m looking forward to going to Nashville.”
Does being the points-leader help ease the pain of the multiple races you could have already won this year? “Not really cause you know you still feel like you give them away or you know you screw something up. There’s something in those races that has not allowed us to win those races. And so we don’t spend a lot of time worrying about that, but you do have to worry about it a little bit and try to fix it so then it doesn’t happen again. I feel like in the three instances this year -- Phoenix, you know I think that was just we got beat. There Jeff Gordon had a better car period. It didn’t matter if we would have made an outstanding adjustment, we probably still might have gotten beat. California -- we fell a little bit behind on our adjustments. We saw the lap times kind of favoring some other guys late in the run and we just didn’t adjust our car far enough. I told Dave (Rogers, crew chief) I thought the car was okay and he was looking at the speeds and going, ‘Man, we need to make a good change here, we didn’t make a good enough change.’ And then last weekend (Martinsville), I should have been able to get up on the wheel and won that race and I gave it away probably. In three instances we’ve had three different things there. So, we just kind of work on those and try to make it not happen again and see what we can work on to make sure that that doesn’t happen. Our team wants to win. It’s nothing more than getting out there and being in victory lane and spraying the champagne that we love anymore than anything else. Our sponsors want to win, our manufacturer wants to win, and our fans want to win too. So that’s what we are trying to shoot for.”
I wouldn’t say there’s much momentum out of leading the points.
Would Kyle Busch Motorsports consider running a Nationwide or Cup team for Kimi Raikkonen? “We just said that we would evaluate. Yeah, I’ve told everybody here that KBM would like to go to Nationwide. We’d like to have a full-time Nationwide team next year and work towards that. In order to work towards that, you’d work towards that this year. If it came to be the right situation and we can get cars built or get cars from JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing), it would all be a telltale thing. So, we just have to wait and see. Right now our focus is on Charlotte and the truck race there and making sure we get the right stuff under Kimi (Raikkonen) that he can run well and be good and get some results and some success.”
How much momentum do you get out of leading the points? “I wouldn’t say there’s much momentum out of leading the points. I think you are only as good as your last race. We’ve been consistent and we have that on our side this year, which is maybe a little different than maybe in the past. We feel good with where we are at, no doubt, but we would like to seen the two races -- these past two races be wins rather than third-place finishes. We’ve got to work a little bit harder at figuring out how to win those races when it comes down to the final moments of a race and if we can do that we’ll feel a lot better with the momentum and how things ride. With where we’re at in the points -- you asked about momentum -- does it really help us carry week to week. It gives you a little bit, I guess, going to the next race. But, to be honest with you we’d rather have won the last two races and the points take care of themselves that way than finishing third.”
-source: toyota motorsports