KYLE BUSCH, team owner, Kyle Busch Motorsports
How did the deal with Kyle Busch Motorsports and Kimi Raikkonen come together? "Agents -- that's how it came about. I have yet to speak to Kimi (Raikkonen) myself. Apparently there's an interest in him that he wants to run in NASCAR. He's shopped it around to quite a few teams and apparently we won the war. It's exciting for us at Kyle Busch Motorsports. Kimi, from what I understand, was real adamant about trying to work with me and our teams and being able to put a deal together to go out there and try to get him success in NASCAR. With our trucks, the way we've been running this year, he felt like that was a good place for him to come."
Will this shine a spotlight on Kyle Busch Motorsports? "That's not a reason that we do this stuff. We do this stuff because we enjoy racing -- we love it and we want to do it. Certainly that is part of it and that would essentially happen, but that's not one of our first thoughts that we looked at. I think it does lend some worldwide exposure. I think with a guy being as talented and as good as he's been in the realms of motorsports that he's competed in -- certainly I would like to expect that he runs well here in NASCAR as well. Maybe this could lend to a longer relationship than just a few races."
Is Kimi Raikkonen bringing sponsorship for the races? "Essentially, yes. I don't know where the money is coming from -- my contract is with Kimi (Raikkonen) himself. However the funds -- he's responsible. I do know that there's three sponsors involved. I'll wait for their press releases to see if they announce who they are. There is money backing him."
How many races does he plan to run with Kyle Busch Motorsports? "I would say we're talking three to five. Right now it's only Charlotte -- we'll see how he feels about Charlotte. He did express interest in running up to three or maybe up to five. We'll just see how it plays out. Right now it's only one."
Why was Charlotte chosen for his first race? "It comes down to his schedule. It's just a matter of logistics for him to come over here. Obviously, he lives overseas and does most of his business overseas with the Rally stuff. It's a big deal for him to be able to fit it in when he can. Charlotte - - they picked Charlotte for whatever reason. They were adamant about Charlotte and running that race. I don't know if he feels that he wants a challenge right off the bat, but I think it will be good for him."
Do you consider Charlotte a tough track to start in NASCAR? "Certainly -- definitely. With a Nationwide car or with a Cup car, yes -- with a Truck, you're close to wide open around there. Throughout the run you're going to have to work on some throttle modulation and some lines -- bottom, top and stuff like that. It will be good for him to get his feet wet and I would say if he can run top -20, top-15 in his first Truck race -- that will be a success. We'll try to help him through practice and everything as much as I can anyways."
Will you have a testing plan setup for him? "Not much testing, no. We're just going to Gresham (Speedway) -- that's it right now."
Do you feel that he has any idea what he is in store for in NASCAR? "I don't know. You hear from race fans sometimes that they're like, 'Oh yeah, we can get out there and we can do it.' I have a little bit more belief in Kimi Raikkonen that he's got the talent to do it. I've seen him race Formula 1 -- he's obviously a world champion over there. He's done real well in the Rally stuff. I can't see why he wouldn't be successful in our equipment."
Do you think his experience in Formula 1 and Rally cars will make his transition easier? "I think it will help him because he's (Kimi Raikkonen) gone from something that's been the ultimate amount of down force and grip to something that is essentially no down force and no grip. You're in the air sometimes. I think that will be something that he's had the best of both worlds. NASCAR is the best of both worlds. We do have a lot of down force, but yet we are still slipping and sliding all over the place. You've got to figure out how to handle all of that."
Essentially the plan for right now is that the 18 team will run Kimi (Raikkonen) in the second truck.
How long did it take to get the deal put together? "It came together relatively quick actually. Trying to think of when he first contacted me -- probably March 15 or something like that. About 15 days."
Will Kimi Raikkonen drive a second truck or the No. 18 truck? "The first race will be a second truck -- I'll be in the 18 NOS Energy Drink truck at Charlotte. Then he'll (Kimi Raikkonen) drive our second entry. We don't know what other places he's looking at yet so there could be an opportunity -- obviously, not all races are sold with the 18 and I'm not driving every one of them. There is an opportunity that he could be in the 18 -- yes."
Would there have been any reason not to do the deal with Kimi Raikkonen? "Essentially, all our partners had to sign off on it. We've gone to all our people -- Dollar General, Flexico, Mars, NOS -- we've asked them all to give us their input and what they thought about it. They're all fine with it. If any one of them had issues then we'd certainly look at not taking the opportunity and we would work through those."
Is Foster Gillett is involved in this deal? "There has not been one Foster Gillett mention in any of our talks. There is not one Foster Gillett mention in the contracts or nothing. We have no dealings with him."
Do you have a second team put together for Kimi Raikkonen? "Essentially the plan for right now is that the 18 team will run Kimi (Raikkonen) in the second truck. Then Rick Ren (general manager, Kyle Busch Motorsports) and I and some volunteer guys will handle my truck."
-source: toyota motorsports