Kyle Busch Motorsports season preview

KYLE BUSCH & TAYLER MALSAM Looking for a 'Heluva Good! ®' Start for Kyle Busch Motorsports MOORSEVILLE, N.C. (Feb. 9, 2010) -- No matter how big or successful the organization, each team involved in NASCAR had to have a first race. Petty ...

KYLE BUSCH & TAYLER MALSAM

Looking for a 'Heluva Good! ®' Start for Kyle Busch Motorsports

MOORSEVILLE, N.C. (Feb. 9, 2010) -- No matter how big or successful the organization, each team involved in NASCAR had to have a first race. Petty Enterprises, the Wood Brothers, Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing all started somewhere with a debut event.

Friday night's NextEra Energy Resources 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway will be the world premiere for Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM), the start-up organization owned by 24-year-old Kyle Busch, who has more than 60 wins in NASCAR's top three divisions.

KBM will field two entries during the 2010 Camping World Truck Series season with Busch piloting the No. 18 Heluva Good!® Toyota Tundra whenever the Truck Series runs in companion with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, while Brian Ickler (pronounced "IKE-ler") will drive in the non-companion events.

Tayler Malsam will drive the No. 56 Toyota Tundra for KBM full-time.

While KBM is new to NASCAR, the accomplishments of the people assembled show that, despite being a start-up team, it could well be a force to be reckoned with in 2010.

To say that KBM has assembled an all-star cast for its inaugural season might be a bit of an understatement when you consider that Busch, No. 18 crew chief Eric Phillips and KBM director of competition Rick Ren combined to win 16 of the 25 Truck Series races in 2009, when they were with other teams. Busch found victory lane seven times as a driver, Phillips was on top of the pit box for three wins with driver Mike Skinner, and Ren served as crew chief for Ron Hornaday's six victories and his 2009 Truck Series championship.

The 2009 season also saw Busch, Ickler, Malsam, Ren, Phillips and Dan Stillman, crew chief for the No. 56 Tundra, combine for two championships, 34 wins, 140 top-10 finishes and 23 poles in their respective efforts in NASCAR's top-three divisions and ARCA competition. In addition to Ren's Truck Series championship, Busch won the 2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series title driving for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Many years from now, Busch will look back on Feb. 12, 2010, as the day his journey as a NASCAR owner began. And while no one knows what the future holds, judging by the people involved, it appears that future is very bright.

Kyle Busch: Owner, Kyle Busch Motorsports &Driver, No. 18 Heluva Good! NASCAR Camping World Series Toyota Tundra

What's the birth date of Kyle Busch Motorsports?

"The company, itself, came into existence in 2003, 2004. The Trucks Series part just came to be this year, probably around November 2009. When I hired Rick Ren, that's when it started. That's when everything just kind of got going and things started falling into place."

Was it over time or was it more of a spur-of-the-moment decision to start a race team?

"It was more over time. We actually had ideas and had thoughts of how to get it done in order to start back in 2008 to get ready for the 2009 Truck season. Things didn't materialize in the right way and it seemed too fast and too quick. I wasn't able to get the right people that I needed in order to make the thing a success. I feel like we've hit a home run with Rick and with Emmett Byrd (director of operations) and the guys here. We've hired from all over the place, so a lot of good talent has come in here to work."

Are there any other owners that you look up to as a role model?

"I've sort of watched what Kevin Harvick has done the past few years, running the Truck deal, starting it as his own kind-of-have-fun thing, which is what I've done with my Late Model team. I started it back in 2007, just something to have fun with, go race on some weekends. The more I got into it, the bigger it became. Now, we race almost 30 times a year in the Late Models. I only run about 10. We have other kids driving a few. From there, getting into the Truck program, I'm just kind of learning from what Kevin did and learning from what Tony (Stewart) did last year with his Cup program. Those are kind of the aspects that I looked into."

Talk about Tayler Malsam and Brian Ickler.

"We're going to have Tayler driving the No. 56 Toyota Tundra for the full season, while Brian and I are going to split the No. 18 Truck in order to go after the owner's championship. Brian -- he's got a lot of talent. He's been out on the West Coast, racing in the Camping World Series West, and then he moved out here to the Camping World Series East. He's been successful in the races that he's done. He raced for my Super Late Model team a few times, and he's won a couple of times, too. He's got a lot to live up to. He's done a good job in my stuff. Tayler -- I saw a lot of potential out of him last year. It was his first year ever on pavement in the Truck Series. He used to race dirt and Sprint Cars on the West Coast in Seattle. We're looking for a lot of things out of Tayler this year. Hopefully, hiring (crew chiefs) Dan Stillman and Eric Phillips means we have the guys that we need to help us do that."

Talk about crew chiefs Dan Stillman and Eric Phillips.

"There were a lot of good crew chiefs who came knocking on the door, that we called, that sent in resumes. We had our pick of the litter. The guys we ended up with, I feel, were the cream of the crop. With Eric Phillips being able to have the success that he has had over at Morgan-Dollar, I worked with him years ago back in 2003 at NEMCO Motorsports with Brian Pattie. I really like Eric. I feel like he's got a lot to offer the team. Dan Stillman -- I know nothing about Dan, but bringing him on board had a lot to do with Rick Ren. The accomplishments that he's had over at Dale Earnhardt Inc., and Roush Fenway Racing, being able to work with Carl Edwards and help Carl win something like six or seven races in the last two seasons in the Nationwide Series -- that was attractive."

Why did you bring Rick Ren on board?

"Rick Ren was sort of the masterpiece of this whole project. If I could get that guy, then it was definitely going to be, this team would be, what it needs to be. I don't feel like there was anybody else but Rick who I could've thrown into this situation and handled it so well. He's done it so many times before. He built Kevin Harvick Inc., into one of the best teams in the Truck Series garage, and Addington Racing back when the No. 60 Cat Rental Truck was in the series. So, I really like Rick. I've talked to him the past few seasons and became friends with him a little bit. We were just messing around one day and I was like, 'Hey, why don't you come work for me, sometime? It's closer to your house.' I guess he thought about it, and it became a reality. It's cool to have Rick on board. He's done a lot in a short amount of time."

What's been the biggest challenge and the most rewarding part of this process, so far?

"The biggest challenge was just trying to get all the people put together -- I mean, the right people. The greatest challenge was just hiring the right people, getting all the right people in place. Rick and I battled for a couple of months on who to pick for crew chiefs. There were a couple of guys I really wanted and there were a couple of guys he really wanted. We weighed out the pros and cons of all of those, how they would work together. I think the next-biggest challenge for Rick has just been trying to get the personnel working together and leading them in the right direction and, of course, being able to get all the trucks and equipment done the way we need it to be done. For myself, the biggest reward, it hasn't happened yet. The first biggest reward we will have is just getting to Daytona and being competitive. The second-biggest reward is when we get our first win."

How has Kevin Harvick influenced you with his success in such a short period of time as a Truck Series team owner?

"Just seeing what Kevin has done in the time he has been over there and has been able to work at building his organization into something that is pretty successful. He's got one of the cars in the Nationwide Series that can win every week, and he has one of the trucks that does win every week in the Truck Series. He's got a lot going on over there. With the help of his manufacturer and all the sponsors that he has, that's what makes it possible in this sport. We're looking to get the sponsors on board for us so we can showcase some good names on our pieces. Toyota has been a lot of a help to us. They've just been so supportive in everything. They have given us all the resources that we can use. It's just been a rewarding process with all of that."

Do you hope that KBM will give undiscovered drivers an opportunity?

"I feel like this is an opportunity to give up-and-coming drivers and up-and-coming work people a chance to stand out. There were a lot of good people who were out of work, and we've got about 35 to 40 employees here who were unemployed. We didn't really have to go out and hire or steal people. I stole Rick Ren, I guess. Eric Phillips came on rather willingly, and a lot of other guys, too. We wouldn't have the people we have if we didn't do it the right way. I'm really proud of the way we did all that. I'd love to have the young drivers be successful here. This is a program that I want to be successful. We know that I can win a race. Well, we hope I can win a race. Our next-biggest challenge is to get Tayler Malsam to win a race, or a few, and to get Brian Ickler to win a race, or a few, and to get those guys' careers jump-started."

What's the long-term goal of KBM?

"I think the long-term goal of the company is to build a successful organization in the Truck Series. From there, whether we open up into a Nationwide team or a Cup team, eventually, down the road, remains to be seen. That's something that certainly could be a possibility. It all comes down to sponsorships. We all know how tough that is now, in the economic times we're in. We're looking to try to make this into something that is prosperous and that can go on for a long time."

What are the short-term goals of KBM?

"I think our short-term goals for this year are to just go out and try to win a race. I want to win a race, of course, but to go out and win multiple races would be a success. To win a race for Brian Ickler and to win a race for Tayler Malsam -- we at least need three wins out of the shop this year -- one for all three drivers -- in order for it to be a success, in my book."

Can you talk about Heluva Good! sponsoring the No. 18 Toyota for Daytona?

"You only get one first race. We plan on having Kyle Busch Motorsports involved in NASCAR for a long time and, no matter what we do, Heluva Good! will always be the sponsor on our truck for the first race. Obviously, it's huge for them to come on board for Daytona, and we're going to do all we can to put them in victory lane and show them a 'Heluva Good' time."

Tayler Malsam: Driver, No. 56 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Toyota Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports

What are your thoughts on the 2010 season and driving the No. 56 Tundra?

"I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be a lot of fun running for Kyle and having a mentor, someone to look up to as a teammate this year. I'll also have Brian (Ickler) as a teammate. We're both kind of new, so we'll probably ask a lot of the same questions. It should be a lot of fun."

What has your impression been, thus far, of how KBM has come together?

"It's been pretty crazy. I kind of went through the same thing last year at Randy Moss Motorsports, starting a team late. They did a heck of a job there, and Kyle is doing an amazing job here, too, of getting all our people in position and getting our trucks built. It's definitely a first-class operation."

What are your goals for the 2010 season?

"I think, definitely, to run top-five in points and to run top-five every weekend in the track and try to win races. To be consistent every weekend has got to be our main goal. I want to learn as much as possible. Yes, I have one year under my belt, but that doesn't really mean a whole lot. One year is nothing compared to a lot of the guys in the Truck Series garage, who seem to have thousands of years under their belts. I just want to learn as much as I can and run consistently."

What can you learn from driving for Kyle Busch?

"I think the sky's the limit of what I can learn from that guy. He's done everything there is to do in NASCAR, and anything I ask, I'm sure he's got an answer for it. I definitely will be using up my questionnaires with him in trying to figure out everything he knows about racing to help myself out. There's no end to the questions that he can help me with."

Kyle mentioned that you actually came to him a lot last year during the second half of the season and asked questions. How was he a help to you?

"It was cool having (Mike) Skinner to help, but Kyle's a little younger and he drives more the same style as me. He likes the truck to be loose, like I do, so it was a lot easier to talk to him about it. He could put it in a different perspective than a lot of people can, and that helps."

What are your overall thoughts about racing a truck at Daytona?

"It's pretty crazy. People think it's a lot easier than it is. It's not really a physically demanding track, but it is, mentally. The trucks move around so much there. It takes a good-handling truck to win that race. I think we will have some of the best trucks out there, but it just sort of comes down to luck of the draw as to how you finish at that place."

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Brian Ickler: Driver, No. 18 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Toyota Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports

What has Kyle Busch meant to your career?

"Kyle has really meant everything to my career. Last year, we worked together in the Truck Series and I was able to do some ARCA racing. He lets me drive his Late Models, and the opportunity this year with driving his trucks. Pretty much everything that I've got going on, progressing and moving forward in NASCAR, Kyle has had something to do with it."

What are your thoughts on the 2010 season and sharing the No. 18 truck with Kyle?

"I'm excited because I know it is going to be great equipment. I'm excited to work with Toyota again, and Kyle. I'm excited about being in good equipment and having great support from Kyle and being able to learn more throughout the year from him. Everybody in Nationwide, Sprint Cup, everyone really is trying to beat Kyle Busch right now. He's on top of his game, and having him as an ally and having him tell you everything that he does when he gets to a racetrack, I think, is a huge advantage for both Tayler (Malsam) and I moving forward."

What has your impression been thus far of how KBM has come together?

"It's great. All the different people who have been hired at KBM, and all the different teams that these people have worked with, and how they've all pulled together has been great. It's amazing what has come together in this past month -- just from people, the equipment and how everybody is working together. It's just amazing. We had a test at New Smyrna (Fla.). Everyone was just clicking, there was no drama, everybody was just working, and it went really smooth. I'm looking forward to going down to Daytona and seeing how everything works out. I think it's going to be good, and I'm really excited about the year."

What are your goals for the 2010 season?

"When I'm driving, obviously, I want to be competitive, and we want to contend for our first win. I don't think that is unrealistic. To be competitive and keep up with the learning curve when I'm on track. I think the first win is the biggest thing that we are pushing for."

Your first race will be at Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway. What will your role be with the team in Daytona and leading into Nashville?

"That's a good question. As things progress, there are more things for me to do in the shop. Like today, we're chassis dynoing every truck, and I'm doing that. I think the biggest thing is to see how everybody, both teams, are communicating and working together. The time that I can spend at the track, not necessarily driving but by listening how Kyle is communicating with the crew chief and all the engineers, and kind of learn how that gets done. It will make it that much easier of a transition when I do get in the truck."

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Rick Ren: Director of Competition, Kyle Busch Motorsports

You had a ton of success at Kevin Harvick Inc. (KHI) and won two Camping World Truck Series championships. What made you decide to leave KHI and come to KBM?

"It had a lot to do with my personal life. For five years of my life, I have been on the road driving quite a few miles back and forth to work every day (KHI is in Kernersville, N.C., 68 miles from Ren's residence in Mooresville, N.C.). It was starting to take its toll on me, personally. It's amazing just how much better I feel, getting extra hours of sleep every day. If you take being in Mooresville, starting up a program for Kyle and improving my personal life, it pretty much made sense."

What is the difference in how people may perceive Kyle Busch and how you really know him?

"I think what people see on TV is not any different than Kevin Harvick or Tony Stewart. Those guys -- they just want to win, no matter what the cost. Kyle's the same way. Kyle has set very high personal goals for himself, and a lot of people probably don't know what those goals are. So, every time he finishes second, that is not on his goal list for him, personally, so it makes him a very sore loser. I'd rather work for someone who wants to win that badly versus someone who will say, 'Man, we had a great day, we ran second.' So, the side of Kyle that I have a personal relationship with is not any different than, say, the Ron Hornaday who I worked with. The person in their normal life is not the same person you see with that microphone in their face as soon as they climb out of the racecar."

How seriously did you take Kyle Busch when he talked about building a team in the Truck Series?

"When he first said something to me about it, I wasn't sure he was being for real. I thought maybe he was just joking or tire-kicking. Then, I realized after a couple times of chatting with him, that he really was serious. He and I have had a relationship for the last few years, just kind of friends at the racetrack, talking to each other about setups and things like that. What started out as just basically 'BS-ing' turned into a reality. I was really kind of surprised that he really wanted to do this at his age."

How did Kyle Busch approach you about this?

"We were just sitting on the wall at the racetrack, just talking, just like we had done a lot of times before. Finally, one day he goes, 'I'm serious about this. I'm thinking about starting a race team. I want to know if you want to run it for me.' That's kind of how it actually went down. I've had contracts with other teams before that were written on a napkin. It just happens to be wherever you are at the time, I guess, when the time arises."

What are your duties at KBM?

"Right now, it's actually to run the whole race team and that makes it multi-faceted. Part of being the director of competition, I'm also trying to make sure the racetrucks are right and I take care of the office stuff. Basically, when you're starting a brand new program, you have to look at everything. It's from maintenance of vehicles to hiring your accountant and doing a chart of accounts and where your banking is being done and who's taking care of the sponsors. There's a lot to it, but it's a good learning experience."

Has it been exciting or stressful?

"It's both. I will say this, if I had not been involved in doing start-ups before, it would be easy for a guy to blow a gasket. You'd just be stressed out, couldn't handle it. I've done this before, so it makes it a little bit easier."

Why do you think he entrusted you with this job?

"Well, I really don't know. I've asked myself that. There are a lot of people in racing, and why he picked me I do not know. I don't know if it's just because we had had a good relationship or a little bird told him to hire me. I really don't know. I've never asked."

What makes working for Kyle attractive for employees to come to KBM?

"There are a lot of people in racing who have never been to victory lane. No matter if you work on a team that runs in the back or a team that runs in the middle of the pack, you work lots and lots of hours. Everybody who works on racecars would like to at least win a race. I think anybody, at least in this modern era, knows if they can attach themselves to Kyle, then you've got a pretty good shot of getting to victory lane. I think that's why. You know, the economy's bad, there are a lot of people unemployed, so there are a lot of people who just want a job or need a job. But there were a lot of people whose desire it was to come to KBM to work, not that they needed a job. It's right here in your heart. If you don't have it right here, you're not going to win."

Where do you want to head at the beginning of the season? Are there any small goals to start out with?

"I think the first thing is making sure both teams mesh. They have to mesh as a company. If we get everybody in this building to think the same way, then we will build a championship organization."

What's it going to take for you guys to be successful at Daytona?

"Working together. It's the same at any speedway with any organization. We know Kyle knows how to do it. It's teaching Tayler how to do it. It's like last year at Talladega, when Kyle and Aric Almirola teamed up, they won the race. It's going to take the same thing here. We just have a new guy who we've got to teach."

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Eric Phillips: Crew Chief, No. 18 Heluva Good! NASCAR Camping World Series Toyota Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports

How were you contacted about joining KBM?

"I've known Kyle from my days with Joe Nemechek's team (NEMCO). The first Nationwide races Kyle did, he did there. I just kind of talked to him over the summer. He contacted me a couple of months ago."

What's been the best part of joining this team?

"The best thing about joining KBM has been all the information and people they have assembled. We've got a really good, strong group of guys with Rick (Ren) and Dan (Stillman) and Kyle and all the guys in the shop."

Is there any moment about Kyle that stands out to you?

"Probably the biggest thing that sticks out about Kyle in my mind is when I worked with him at Nemechek's. The first ARCA race I saw him drive at Charlotte (N.C.), he had to start in the back because qualifying had been rained out. It was like he had passed half the field by the start-finish line, and he was leading by lap five at Charlotte. I mean, that's just Kyle. I think that's just the way he drives everything."

You've done it several times in the past, but is it odd to work with two different drivers alternating throughout the year?

"Two drivers, to me, is not that big of a deal. I think I've worked with seven in one year, so just having two drivers, I will be more than happy with that. I think the biggest thing for me is just learning the two drivers as the year goes along. Once I figure that out a little bit, I don't think the two drivers will be that big of a deal. I think their styles are fairly similar. Kyle knows a little bit more what he wants than Brian (Ickler) because Brian is so young, still. I don't see a big challenge in that."

What does it take to be successful at Daytona?

"I think the biggest thing is just having a good truck in the draft, a truck that drives really well in the draft. It doesn't seem like the fastest truck always wins at Daytona. It's a little different than Talladega (Ala.). I think you have to have a really good truck, a truck that drives really well in the draft in the race, so you can be up front at the end."

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Dan Stillman: Crew Chief, No. 56 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Toyota Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports

How were you contacted about joining KBM?

"I knew Rick Ren. He and I worked at Kevin Harvick Inc., together back in 2007. So we knew each other from that. When I knew that Rick was going to help start this deal, we talked and it kind of snowballed from there. I figured this would be a good opportunity."

What has been the best part, so far, about joining this venture?

"To me, the best part has been being able to be involved in hiring all the people. A lot of times, you work at a race team and you don't get to do that -- being able to pick the guys. You know, there are a lot of guys out there right now looking for work. We were able to pick the best who we thought would fit exactly what we needed. That's one thing. Obviously, working with Kyle is going to be pretty nice, and Rick Ren, also. I've got a lot of respect for both of those guys, so I think it's going to be good."

Are you excited to work with Tayler Malsam?

"Yes I am. We went to a test in New Smyrna in the middle of January, and I got to work with him a little bit. I was pretty impressed. I felt pretty good about what I saw and how he drove, so I'm looking forward to that."

What's the hardest part about joining a new team?

"All the things I've been talking about -- getting people for the team, building the trucks, trying to get everything organized. That's really the hardest part. Getting to know all your guys, the drivers and everybody. That's the hardest part."

D you have any particular goals for 2010?

"Our goals are we would like to win a race, and we would like to run in the top-10 every week. That's how we want to build Kyle Busch Motorsports. With the people we have and the support from Toyota and the experience of Kyle and Rick (Ren) and everybody here, that seems to be a pretty realistic goal, I feel."

You have worked in every level of NASCAR except the Camping World Truck Series. Do you have any apprehension about working with a truck rather than a car?

"I think, chassis-wise, it's the same as what I've worked with. Aero-wise and body-wise, it's a little bit different, so I'm going to have to pick up on that a little bit. But, chassis-wise, it's the same stuff."

When did you first meet Kyle and what made you want to come to work for him? You saw a lot of Kyle in 2009, chasing him for the Nationwide Series title while you were crew chief for Carl Edwards. Can you talk about that a little bit?

"I guess that I really first met Kyle when I started here, but we raced against each other all last year. I was with Carl Edwards and we chased him quite a bit. That's pretty much what made me want to come here. Knowing how hard he races and what a competitor he is really made it an easy decision."

-source: kbm

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Tony Stewart , Kevin Harvick , Joe Nemechek , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Carl Edwards , Aric Almirola , Tayler Malsam , Brian Ickler , Kyle Busch
Teams Hendrick Motorsports , Roush Fenway Racing , Joe Gibbs Racing , Kyle Busch Motorsports