KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Halloween Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Do you enjoy racing at Martinsville? “Coming to Martinsville -- not lately -- but has been a challenging time for us in the past. We’re getting a little bit better at it and kind of picking up on it each and every time. Looking forward to being able to do some more of that here this weekend and continuing our strong runs that we’ve had here recently. Excited to be here at Martinsville and to continue to move on through the end of the year and through the Chase here. See if we can’t continue to gain as many points as possible."
Is Martinsville similar to tracks that drivers grew up racing on? “You say it’s similar probably just because the size of it being a half-mile, but Martinsville is not like any other race track that I’ve ever grown up racing on. Not even close. Denny Hamlin would probably be able to assess your statement a little closer because he grew up at Southside (Speedway) and that is a lot closer to this place. Although it’s a quarter-mile, it’s flat and it’s like racing in a parking lot. For me, I’ve raced on three-eighths mile, half-mile, three-quarter mile race tracks all across the west and they were banked, they were flat, but nothing that was so inducive to heavy braking and all that kind of stuff. It’s certainly a challenge to figure out how to get around here and it makes it tough on you because the guys that are good here have run here for that many years. There’s always that transition period of younger guys coming in here and having to spend their time and cut their teeth and learn what it takes to run around this place. You’ve got the Harry Gants of the world or the (David) Pearsons of the world and then you have the (Dale) Earnhardts that come in and take a little while to get better at it and then they’re really good at the place, and you have the Jeff Gordons that take a little time to get used to it. Then they are really good here. It just goes in cycles like that."
Is Martinsville a race track where you have to control your temper? “For sure. It’s certainly a race track that you can be leading the race and think you’ve got a shot to win the thing in the last 30 laps and then getting beat on from behind and getting moved out of the way. We did that. It’s certainly a race track that’s indicative that if you’re just a little bit off then the guys are going to be right on your rear bumper and trying to get by you. For us, it’s been a challenge, but yet we’re getting better at it and learning some more as we go along. We would like to be able to continue that here this weekend."
Are your best years are still ahead of you? “I don’t know -- I would certainly like to think so obviously without winning a championship yet. We’ve still got to be able to do that. It’s certainly going to be harder to do on your downswing than it would be on your upswing. For myself and what I’ve got ahead of me in the sport is hopefully a long time to come. Being here seven years, I’m not sure that I’m on the down slope yet, hopefully I’m still on the up slope and figuring out that championships are still on the horizon."
Do you see the same issues that Denny Hamlin does with the team’s race cars? “I don’t see those issues -- I don’t see the same issues. Denny (Hamlin) sometimes feels things in the car that I don’t feel or if I do feel I drive through them. I talk around the garage area to other drivers and they’re talking about the same things. It’s not just indicative to the JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) cars, it’s across the whole board with what these cars are and how these cars have been designed. It doesn’t have anything to do with how we weld them together or build them ourselves at Joe Gibbs Racing. I think our guys do an awesome job. Everybody at the shop, they continue to work on development and pieces and making our cars better and giving us the opportunity to win races. What’s been awesome is that Joe Gibbs Racing has won -- since the new car of tomorrow has been introduced in 2007 I think it was -- I think we’re second on the list of wins to only Hendrick Motorsports. We’re neck in neck -- we might be two apart or something like that so it’s not that much different."
How do you balance what you want versus what Denny Hamlin wants in a race car? “It’s certainly difficult to have to manage throughout the organization if one driver wants something and one driver wants something else. Certainly, we can’t build three different chassis for three different teams and three different drivers. They need to be the same across the board. It’s just a matter of what you do with those chassis. I had the same feeling that Denny (Hamlin) had years ago when I was racing Late Models -- I thought that our Late Models weren’t the best chassis and I was looking at other chassis builders and then you get a few more people involved and a few more smarter people involved and get them introduced to that car and get them working on it. Now all of the sudden, we haven’t lost a race all year in Late Models. It’s not a matter of chassis, I think it’s a matter of what you do with it and how you bolt it together. What pieces you use and all that kind of stuff. I think Dave Rogers (crew chief) and I have become accustomed to each other and know what we want inside our race cars that make us go faster and run better. There’s still a lot for us to gain on too. We’re not the best by no means for sure, but there’s nobody out there that is currently dominating this thing either. You just have to take it in stride and take what you can get and get what you can out of the race cars each and every week."
What rule changes do you expect for Daytona in February? “I don’t know. Certainly, we’ve got a new car coming in 2013 so it’s not worth our while to go out and make huge changes and big expenses to a car that’s going to be obsolete in one more year. That makes absolutely no sense to any of us. I hope they’re (NASCAR) smart about it and if anything we’ll run one more year the way this is and we’ll see what the new car has in store for us in ’13. It’s definitely not something that we’re all looking forward to in spending more money for four races next year."
How many points back would put you out of contention for the championship? “To be honest, I don’t know. I haven’t thought about that. Obviously, we’re in a lot more challenging position than we’d like to be in. If we would have finished in the top-10 at Talladega, we would certainly be right in the thick of things. Probably 10 or 15 points out. That would make our lives a heck of a lot easier in these final four races only having to pick up three points per race or so. Now, we’ve got to pick up 10 points per race. That’s obviously a big challenge. It’s just to the point where anything can happen and you just have to play it lap by lap, race by race and let it come down to the end of the year and see where you’re at. If you score the most points, you win and if you don’t then there’s another year out the books."