BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH KYLE BUSCH, NO. 5 KELLOGG'S MONTE CARLO SS: ON THE UPCOMING 10 RACES "We want to go out there and make sure we run the best we can. We feel like we've got a great shot at seven of the 10 races to at least run...
BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH KYLE BUSCH, NO. 5 KELLOGG'S MONTE CARLO SS:
ON THE UPCOMING 10 RACES "We want to go out there and make sure we run the best we can. We feel like we've got a great shot at seven of the 10 races to at least run up front and get top five and top 10-finishes and at a couple of those, definitely some wins. But the two that we have to look out for is Texas and Atlanta. We somehow struggle at those two places. We can run 10th to 20th at Texas and then Atlanta we can run up front half-way or two-thirds of the race and take the lead or whatever and right after that last pit stop for some reason we just don't have the car handling right and we fall back a little bit and we end up about 12th. That's been three times, 12th place finishes.
"Going into Talladega though, that's the other crap shoot for everybody. Hopefully we don't have to use a Mulligan race. If we do, everybody else has to. But that's the one that we're kind of looking toward. But we feel like our restrictor plate program is really picked up this year. We had a great car at Daytona earlier in the year before we got our NASCAR penalty. At Talladega we were running 12th and I think we got wrecked on lap eight. And then we finished second in July at Daytona.
"So we're excited about it. I'm looking forward to it and there are a lot of good chances for us to be successful."
YOUR BROTHER, KURT BUSCH, WON AT NHIS IN JULY '04 AND THEN WENT ON TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP. AND THEN TONY STEWART DID THE SAME IN '05. AND NOW YOU'VE WON HERE IN JULY. WHAT'S YOUR TAKE ON THAT? "Yeah, as far as the past two championship coming out of the July Loudon race, that's pretty neat. Obviously we have the opportunity to do that this year. But we'll see how it works out. If it's three for three, there might be something to that. Actually I had the same thing at IRP where I ran for the Busch Series championship in 2004. The previous two years, the winner had come from IRP and I won IRP and we didn't win the championship. Maybe we can change that around this year."
AT HMS, IT USED TO BE ALL FOCUS WAS ON JEFF GORDON. THEN IT WAS ON JIMMIE JOHNSON. NOW IT'S ON KYLE BUSCH BECAUSE YOU'RE IN THE CHASE TOO. WHAT IS THE ATTENTION LIKE NOW AT HMS? "I don't think it's changed any little bit since the beginning part of this year. We're all four working very well together. It's just that the three of us have been able to be put in the right situations this year and we've had good cars to put us in the Chase. Fridays and Saturdays we're all working together. The engineers get together. The crew chiefs get together. The drivers all talk on how our cars are handling and different things and about how to make the better and what changes they have made and how the cars reacted and all that. Once it comes down to Sunday, you just pretty much get busy and worry about yourself and see what you can do in order to get the best finish possible."
ARE YOU LIKE THE YOUNG KID AROUND THERE OR ARE YOU BEING TAKEN SERIOUSLY? "I don't know. Honestly, I haven't heard any rumblings around Hendrick or anything like that. As far as my take with my team, they know that the No. 24 and the No. 48 are looking at us as definitely being championship caliber. They work with them every day and every week, so we're not going to go in there and try to flounder. We're going to go in there and try to win the thing."
YOUR ARE VERY YOUNG COMPARED TO GUYS LIKE MARK MARTIN AND JEFF GORDON. DOES IT BLOW YOU AWAY TO THINK ABOUT WHERE YOU ARE AT THIS EARLY STAGE? DOES IT INTIMIDATE YOU TO RUN AGAINST THESE GUYS WHO ARE 15 - 20 YEARS OLDER? "Oh, it's neat. It's a great opportunity to be put in this predicament and this situation. But I'm looking forward to being able to race those guys and have the opportunity to race against them and go after a championship. It's only my second year out and for as young as I am, there is definitely something to be said for that. But Denny Hamlin is in there. He's a rookie and he hasn't had much experience in these stock cars yet. He's done an awesome job this year. I'm sure he's done better than what I did last year. For myself, again, it's exciting to have this opportunity just to be able to go out there and compete with them."
DO THEY INTIMATE YOU? "No, if I was intimidated, I wouldn't be where I am today. You go out there and just do what you need to do on the race track every weekend."
TELL US ABOUT THE MOCK-CHASE THAT YOUR TEAM DID LAST YEAR "We kind of sat ourselves down and talked about things. We knew we wanted to be Chase contenders this year so we kind of put ourselves in that predicament last year. We put ourselves in 10th - just barely making it in. And we went through the final 10 races as if we were Chase contenders. There were a couple of run-ins that kind of took us out a little bit you know. A blown tire at Charlotte; we knocked the wall down, and then I wrecked myself at Homestead. And then at Talladega we got caught up in a crash and some other places I don't think we did what we needed to do there. But we did win at Phoenix and we ran real well here and a couple of other places. So I think we ended up seventh according to our calculations, which wasn't excellent. But we needed to see how everybody raced and how we needed to race and what kind of things we needed to watch out for."
WHAT DID YOU LEARN? "The biggest thing we learned was how everybody kind of raced out there and what the Chase contenders were doing around each other and what they were doing racing with each other and how they guys who weren't in the Chase were racing with the guys who were in the Chase. Other things were strategies. (crew chief) Alan (Gustafson) paid more attention to the Chase crew chiefs and what their strategies were. I guess probably how we won that race at Phoenix; some guys stayed out or pitted a stop later than we did, or something. But we got track position over them and we ended up winning the race due to that. So, it was a pretty big day for us that day."
SOMETIMES YOU SEE A YOUNGER SIBLING FOLLOW AN OLDER SIBLING BECAUSE THE OLDER ONE IS DOING IS. WHEN OR HOW DID IT BECOME THAT YOU WANTED TO RACE NOT BECAUSE YOUR BROTHER KURT WAS DOING IT, BUT BECAUSE YOU WANTED TO DO IT? "I was in sixth or seventh grade in junior high school watching my dad and my brother and how much fun they were having on the race track. I was having fun working on the cars and fixing them and rebuilding things and just trying to make them better and things like that and making sure parts wouldn't fall off of them every weekend and stuff like that. I saw Kurt and how good he was in the beginning and I figured I might as well try to give this a shot. My dad had to search around for five or six months to try to find a place for me to race because I wasn't old enough to race in Las Vegas. So we found Salt Lake City and we found Lake Havasu. Those were my first two races. We were able to go out there and to well. Finally I was able to get out to Vegas and we ran well there. It took me about 10 to 12 races to get up to Kurt's caliber and then I started racing with Kurt there and pretty much decided I was good enough to do it since he was having success at it and I kind of stuck with it from there on out. I had to quit Little League baseball and stuff like that."
JEFF BURTON MADE REFERENCE ABOUT RESPECT IN THE GARAGE LAST WEEK. IS THAT TRUE FOR THE YOUNGER SET TOO WHERE IF A VETERAN ISN'T RUNNING WELL ARE YOU LESS LIKELY TO TAKE WHAT HE SAYS SERIOUSLY OR TO LISTEN TO HIM OR TO RESPECT HIM? "I don't think so, no. I know so, no. I would go up to anybody and ask anybody or take any advice that anybody wanted to give me. Mark Martin has been around here so long and has been through so many different experiences that he knows a lot more than I do. Jeff Burton, Bobby Labonte, Dale Jarrett - any of those guys. If they're in a slump, it's not because it's them. It's maybe because of equipment or maybe just not having the right geometry or whatever it is. The whole RCR stable you've seen them turn around these past two seasons and now they're clicking it off and running up front and winning races. Harvick's got three wins this year on flat tracks whereas last year you wouldn't see him in the top 10. It's not because it's the driver. It think it's more the equipment."
THE LAST TWO YEARS OF THE CHASE, THE NEW HAMPSHIRE RACE HAS BEEN THE WILDEST. IS THERE ANYTHING ABOUT THIS TRACK THAT LENDS ITSELF TO THAT, OR IS IT EMOTIONS GOING INTO THE OPENER? "I think the biggest thing about this place is there's no banking here, so when you go off into the corner, there's nothing to put your car against. You're just sliding around on asphalt like you're in a parking lot. The biggest deal is to try to get a car handling well enough. We've had that. It's been nice to have that and run up front and just have kind of a solid, easy day. But you see most of that stuff going on around the back of the pack. There was that occasion that the Ryan Newman / Tony Stewart deal at the beginning of the year. But overall, it's just such a tough place to pass. You slide into the corner underneath somebody and try not to hit him. And the drive off is so hard to get on the bottom side because the guy is carrying the momentum and the speed around the outside. So it's definitely a tricky place. There are some guys that maybe get a little impatient trying to pass somebody and try to rough 'em up and get by them."
THE SECOND HALF OF THE SEASON, YOU'VE REALLY PICKED UP YOUR PERFORMANCE. IS IT BECAUSE YOU'VE MATURED AS A DRIVER OR IS IT SOMETHING IN THE CARS? WHAT IS THE REASON? "It think it's both of that. I think a lot of it has to do with the team and them getting a lot more comfortable with me. The cars have been getting better every week. I went through a pretty big change there after the Charlotte weekend. There is no reason of not pinpointing that weekend. But I had a sit down with Mr. H (Hendrick) and Mr. Helton and was able to talk about things and you know, life and fishing and everything in general you know - nothing really just pinpointing anything. But a lot of fun was discussed in there and just to go out and enjoy life. And it's not all about trying to lead every lap and win every race. You've got to have more friends out here than you do enemies in order to be successful. That's the biggest thing I've learned. In order to be where we're at today, it's definitely come a long way."
HAS KURT BUSCH TALKED TO YOU ABOUT BEING IN THE CHASE? "No, not yet. I was going to try to catch up with him this week, but I wanted to make sure I was in first before I caught up with him. But he was off testing in Milwaukee so I haven't been able to get a hold of him and he's not here yet this morning because he's flying in. So as soon as he gets here I'm going to try to catch up with him in the garage area and talk to him a little bit."
ON THE CHANGE FROM TALKING ABOUT MAKING THE CHASE TO ACTUALLY BEING IN IT AND REALIZING HE HAS AN OPPORTUNITY TO WIN THE WHOLE THING "Well, the mindset going into the season was just trying to position ourselves to have the opportunity to make it into the Chase. Once you're in, then you can king of reset your goals, I think. That's probably per se for a lot of drivers. But now we're going to redo our goals and our goals are to try and win this deal. There has only been one previous incident that a rookie has won Rookie of the Year and then in the consecutive season has won the championship and that's been Dale Earnhardt. So we're going to go out there and try to tie that record as well as go out there and try to beat Jeff Gordon's youngest champion record. That's what our goals are this season. So if we can do that, it would be awesome for myself and the team and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports. Rick really wants to go to New York, but he doesn't want to go to New York and not sit at the head table on stage and so that's what we want to do."
WHAT INFLUENCE HAS RICK HENDRICK HAD ON YOUR CAREER? "He's had a big influence on my career. It's been pretty awesome to be able to work with such a guy who has been willing to take you under his wing and talk to you as a son and treat you as a son. It was a tragedy years ago when that plane went down. But when it did, it brought me a lot closer to Rick than what I thought I probably could have ever been. I was really close to Ricky and hanging out with him and with him being my car owner on the Busch side, I could talk to him about anything. And with him being close to me in age, I'd give him more of a hard time than I'd ever call his dad for. So, now I've got a better relationship with Rick. A lot has been going on here and I'm just trying to bring myself up not only as a better person, but also a better person in general and being able to be more accepted in this sport than just to be here."
CAN YOU EXPAND ON THAT AND TELL US EXACTLY WHAT HE SAID? "The biggest thing was just talking about life in general and the kind of person you need to be and what kind of attitude you need to have coming into this deal and how to be successful. The biggest things are like what I said before; to go out there and race with friends, not race with enemies. You'd rather have allies out there than enemies. The biggest thing is just to enjoy racing again and not think of it as a job every weekend and to go out there and have fun and try to be successful."
GOING INTO SUNDAY'S RACE, DO YOU HAVE A LOT OF EMOTIONS? WHAT DO YOU FEEL LIKE? "Right now, for me, it's just another race. I'm excited about being back here at Loudon. It's a place I love coming to. I run well here for some reason. I used to run really well there at Chicago Speedway in Cicero with the Truck Series. I almost won my second race. But it's a place that's real similar to this. For some reason, I like these flat mile race tracks and I'm excited about getting back out there. Hopefully we have a good race car like we had here in the spring and if we do, I'll be even more excited about getting into it in Sunday. Otherwise, maybe I won't be. But I'm pretty accurate in saying that hopefully we'll be pretty good."
HOW HAVE YOU CHANGED OVER THE LAST TWO YEARS? "Well, two years puts me at 19. I'm only 21 still. The biggest thing is I've never been around the college crowd, or going to schools, or going to parties, or getting into trouble with the law and stuff like that. So I'm being honest with you. I probably would have rather have done that in order to take some life experiences away from that and then come into here later than just jump into it at 21 years old. But it's what I chose to do. It's what I wanted to do. So, I'm excited about being here and having the opportunity. But a lot has changed over just this past six months. What has changed? Probably just the time. I'm still the same person I was then. But I'm just trying to grow up a little bit more and try to realize life for more of it's experiences than just trying to set new records and everything else. That's probably what I was doing in the beginning years. Last year at the beginning of the year I was out there driving too hard over my head trying to lead laps and win races and set records and this and that and everything else. But you settle down and try to be your own driver and be your own person and run your own race and you'll do that over time."
-credit: gm racing