Kyle Busch: "... I’m not sure I don’t have many pulling for me anyways because I kicked their butt too much.”
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Peanut Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Is Las Vegas the most significant track you race at since it’s your hometown? “There are others that have special significance as well, too. Just coming back to Las Vegas being my hometown and just being back at this race track. I remember watching it being built and racing over at the short track over the corner there and having some fun, being able to hone in my skills, I guess and somehow make it to this level. It’s been a journey, but it’s always fun to come back and race here and we won in 2009 and look forward to always being able to try to capture another win here if we can. This time is no different. There’s just a few different rules this year we’re trying to tackle with yesterday’s test session and seeing what we can learn, getting ready for this weekend.”
For instance, my start is not terrible, I’m 14th in points or something like that, so I’m kind of already in if you look at it that way.
Kurt (Busch), for instance has had a horrible start and if he wins here this weekend, then all he has to do is get himself top-30 in points and he’s in. It changes everything the way the whole year and everybody’s strategy is and what all it’s going to boil down to. You never know what you will see next weekend at Bristol. You could have guys racing each other hard for the win and move the other out of the way just to get that win and lock themselves in.”
What kind of racing town is Las Vegas? “It’s not necessarily a racing town at all, really. When we were growing up, I remember back in the early 90’s and whatnot, watching my dad racing Limited Late Models and Late Models and then we started racing dwarf cars in ’92. Then we started moving around a little bit from Vegas to Pahrump to Mojave to Lake Havasu and places like that. It wasn’t necessarily that we ran in Las Vegas, my dad and brother (Kurt Busch) didn’t necessarily run in in Las Vegas for points until about ’95, Kurt started racing here for Street Stock championship.
All in all, I remember car counts being so great back then and it was always fun to go to the race track. I remember I had my heroes growing up, not necessarily my dad and my brother, but there were other guys I kind of always pulled for and liked to see do well and stuff like that was kind of neat to see. From what I understand now, I haven’t been out here in a long time, just like anywhere else in the United States, the car counts are starting to dwindle a little bit.
It’s tough to get out there and get good racing going on. It’s always cool to see talent come from anywhere and Las Vegas is obviously built up three of those -- Kurt, myself and Dylan (Kwasniewski), but also Brendan (Gaughan) as well. Brendan is a native and he’s running Nationwide, he’s run the Cup Series before. It’s pretty cool to have four guys from this town, not necessarily a racing town whatsoever.”
What is the fan reception like in Vegas compared to other tracks you race at? “No. This is a vacation destination for a lot of race fans, so there all a lot of out-of-towners that do come here. It’s not 100,000 from Las Vegas that will be sitting in these grandstands. I bet you it’s like 20 or 30, but it’s just a part of the deal. Plus, I’ll tell you this, when I was coming up through the ranks I won a lot and probably won too much and didn’t make very many friends, so I’m not sure I don’t have many pulling for me anyways because I kicked their butt too much.”
Will you feel a sense of urgency to get a win as the Chase draws closer? “I don’t think there’s a sense of urgency at all, to be honest with you in my book. I thought of it both ways. If I get a win or multiple wins or whatever, great, that’s cool. If I don’t get any wins, as long as I’m in the top-16 in points and there aren’t 16 guys that have wins, then I’m fine, right? The time or the urgency to get those wins is going to be in the Chase in order to lock yourself in the next (round). I think -- what's the first round – Chicago, Loudon and then Dover, so those three – that’s when you start hunting wins really hard and trying to do whatever you can to get checkered flags in the Chase.”
How important to you is it to race and win in the NNS? “I think the Nationwide Series is a huge importance this sport in general, but also to the betterment of drivers and being able to raise them up and get them ready for the Cup Series. But, also it’s a series where I like to go and enjoy my time also racing on the race track. It’s free to us all to compete as long as you’re out there to compete with a sponsor, a car and all the rest of the stuff -- you get my point.
To the event, you’re right I’ve been dominant in the Nationwide Series – I’ve won a ton of races, I don’t why it is, but I haven’t won here (Las Vegas) yet in the Nationwide. I’ve come close a couple times on the flatter surface and I came close here on the first race here against Jeff Burton, but there’s been times where it’s also been stupid fast and stupid silly things have bit me -- blown tires and parts breaking and me spinning out and wrecking. All kinds of different things. This place has got one on me, for sure.”
If you are able to lock into the Chase with a win will the team start experimenting? “We haven’t really discussed any of that stuff, I think it will kind of play out once you get to that point I presume -- I could be wrong. For us, I don’t know that we’ve ever not tried to go in and win a race anyways throughout a season. Sometimes we’ve had experimental things bite us and give us DNFs too. You always want to finish races, I think that’s a big thing. As far as all that goes, it’s way too early for us. We haven’t even discussed any of that stuff so we’re just working with what we’ve got right now and we’re experimenting everyday because we don’t necessarily know exactly what this rule package entails and what’s going to make these cars go fast with no ride height rules and everything else. As far as experimentation, that’s going on every day.”
What advice can you give a young driver like Dylan Kwasniewski? “The biggest thing is just trying to make a name for yourself while doing it smoothly. You don’t want to go out there and be stupid and wreck a ton of guys and make enemies right off the bat. There’s been a few that have done that and it still lingers in their reputation today. As far as Dylan (Kwasniewski) goes, I’ve heard nothing but good things about him. He’s come up a pretty good way and he’s won races in about everything he’s participated in, which is good. He’s won the K&N West championship, the East championship and now he’s got an opportunity in Nationwide. I think he’s got nothing but opportunity there and hopefully the talent precedes the name and he can continue on.”
Do you expect the racing to be different on Sunday compared to previous intermediate races? “I don’t expect it to be a whole lot different at all really. I think we’ve seen some changes in the cars over the last couple of years trying to help all of that and to help passing and everything. Air is at such a premium -- we’re running through the corners faster than ever. The faster you go, the more air you want. I don’t know if that’s going to make it any easier to pass guys just going through the corner faster. The thing that keeps us all alive is the thing that makes auto racing the hardest thing to make competitive in my opinion.
There are other forms of racing too that I’ve watched that don’t have aerodynamics whatsoever -- motocross, snow cross and all that kind of stuff where you see the leader get the lead and they check out and are gone. People enjoy that stuff, they love watching that and I think it’s maybe just because the guys are jumping and catching air and whatever and the thrill and excitement of all that is different than watching cars go around in circles 500 miles at a time. It’s all in what you are, who you want to follow, what you want to follow and what you find exciting about racing.
To me, when I was growing up watching racing I wasn’t just watching cars going in circles, I was studying what they were doing. I was studying what the drivers were doing, what they were saying and what the crews were doing and how the pit stops have evolved from when I started in ’92 and ’93 watching racing with the Sprint Cup stuff to today -- so many things have changed and it’s amazing to watch what the sport does. To see where or what it’s going to be in five more years, I don’t think anybody has any idea. That’s why I watched racing. It wasn’t necessarily just to watch cars go in circles.”
What does it feel like when you are ‘in the zone’ during a race? “When it becomes easy? Because it’s never easy. I don’t know, essentially sometimes when you’re in that zone you’re honestly thinking, ‘Well, what’s going to go wrong?’ You’ve seen so many things over the years that have cost you wins or what have you and you’re wondering which one is it going to be now. All in all, when you’re feeling good about things and communication is good and the car is good and you’re just out there leading laps -- that’s the best thing going for you. It’s essentially about just trying not to screw up and trying to keep going and keep doing what you’re doing.
You’re feeling everything in the car, making sure that you’re taking care of your tires, you’re trying to save as much fuel as you can -- the most remembrance of that feeling last for me was probably California last year. Just out front leading a ton of laps, running by myself and leading the race, but what’s tricky about that is it depends on where you’re at. If you’re running the bottom then you have to hit your line to run the bottom. If you’re running the top right next to the wall then you have to hit your line and not slip and get into the wall. A lot of things go on into riding out front, but it’s not always easy.”