KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing
How do you speak to Brexton about the shooting that took place at the Mall of America when you were visiting?
“So talking with Brexton about it. Just essentially, it's hard to explain to a seven-year old what really happened and what the severity of it could have been, although thankful that it wasn't more serious than what it was. Just to always be on your toes. He’s to the age right now where in those situations, I don't even think Samantha would let them be on his own until he was 13 or 14 years old anyway. So he's always going to have a parent or guardian or something around him for a long time. So all of us have to be mindful in those situations. As to what the best way to do go through that is, I don't know that we really had the perfect course of it. But you know, we made it through with the best of our information at that point was.”
How do you feel about the last seven races and where are you and the team in preparation for the Playoffs?
“I guess if you look at that dark cloud that’s over me lately, hence the other day, we're in the wrong place at the wrong time a lot of times. To get Nashville back, that was a second place finish I feel like the worst that would have been was the second place finish. Pocono was the second-place finish. The road courses have been a struggle. We haven't been that great there, but we had some promise at the Indy road course. Where we were 10th going into that second-to-last restart and got spun out and went back to 30 or whatever it was got tires for the final restart got back to 11th at least. But just before that second last caution came out. I passed the 2 (Brad Keselowski) car on the race track in racing conditions and he goes on to find his way through all the holes and gets a second. You know, so again, it's just it's a matter of luck and there is absolutely none following the 18 car right now. It's disappointing. I'm sure there's others that don't have luck either. You look at Ty Dillon who just gets blindsided into a corner so he's in the same boat, but it's have to keep going and keep fighting and go into next week. And you know, hopefully this Michigan package will suit our style with the mile-and-a-half style race tracks of speed that we've had as a JGR and Toyota group.”
Did you feel you were in any danger on Thursday at the Mall of America?
“There was definitely a sense of danger. A huge sense because all you were told --Samantha called me, we had no idea Brexton and I were actually in line for a ride. We were the next to go on that ride. And she called me and I answered and we skipped right through, going on the ride and went out straight back out the exit. And then we just stayed on the phone together because she told me, ‘there's an active shooter and shots have been fired in the mall.’ And at that point, active shooter or somebody shooting at another person, whatever shots being fired, you don't know. So that's the scariest part is you have no idea what is happening so I'm asking her, ‘where are you? What store is it coming from? What level are you on?’ All those sorts of things to figure out? Am I walking my way right into it? Or am I walking my way out of it? And so there's chaos. There's people running this way. There's people running that way and you're worried when there's people running at you okay, are they running away from something so am I going right into the line of fire. You just have no idea so your heads on a swivel, your eyes are wide open and again I was on the phone talking with Samantha and hearing where she and the baby were and how they were doing at getting out. And then she stayed on the phone with me to see you know my path and trajectory to be able to get out and help me with the information that she had. And so again, like I said, you're just you're flying blind and you have no idea what the situation really is. But it's scary for sure. And there's many other people that unfortunately, you know, go through that stuff. Apparently on the daily. Samantha has gotten a ton of messages that, oh, this happened to so-and-so that I know at a grocery store. This happened to so-and-so I know wherever, this happened to me. It's just not fun.”
Does it make it more unsettling to be in big crowds after going through this experience?
“All we can do is rely on the people that are here and around us and the security and things like that, that they do their job when we're at the race track. I've had threats of that sort before, here years ago, and I was a little bit sheltered from it. I think I was, I don't know what, I was maybe 22 or something like that when that all went down. But you would think on the daily that you can go do your job and work and have fans and everybody come out and enjoy something and have fun at something and you know, not feel threatened.”
Did the experience change your perspective on your career being life and death after going through something that could have been?
“What's important is spending time with your loved ones, while you're here during the time in which you're here on Earth. So, you know, having that opportunity to do that and obviously doing what I do is not necessarily life or death, but there is a danger and I assume that risk and know that risk and my family does as well too. So you hope you can pray every day that you're able to go to work and do a good job and, you know, come out of the race car and go on to live another day. I've broken my legs. I've broken my foot. I've wrecked pretty hard a lot of times and knock on wood, I've come out unscathed to where I'm able to see another day, but man, you can be driving up and down the road and you know, get hit by somebody texting and driving. They're looking at their phone, they're texting and they swerve over the centerline and if you're not paying attention to get away from it, you know there can be a catastrophe there. So it's everywhere. We've all seen the movies, on scary situations that can be but you try to live life smart and the best you know how and have fun while doing it without having that dread weighing upon you.”
Does it impact how you look at your future in motorsports or change that perspective?
“This is a performance-based business, so it is life or death fear if you've either got a job and you're working and you're making a living or you're at home figuring out what your next steps are. So you know, I've kind of thought about that of like, ‘okay, what are my next steps? What do I do if I don't continue to race? And I have no idea. I have no clue. I'm good at certain things and those certain things revolve around this world that we're in right now.”
How long did it take for you to meet back up with Samantha?
“From her phone call to me in the mall to getting back in touch with her was I'd have to say five minutes, six minutes. It wasn't terribly long, but she was out before Brexton and I were and then we were able to find an exit and get out which fortunately it was close to the exit that we were parked. So we could just get in our car and venture around and go pick her up from the exit that she exited out of which was on the other side.”
Is there anything you learned at Auto Club that you can use this weekend for Michigan?
“I'm not sure. I think Auto Club actually kind of falls a little bit into its own. Where I would like to think that this place is a bit more similar to you know, a Kansas Vegas style mix of those places. So I feel like that's probably what our baseline is built off of and not necessarily a Fontana, which is really flat, really slow. This place is very fast and very momentum driven where you know the loads are significantly different.”