KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing
The lowest seed to come out of the Playoffs and win a championship is seventh, can you and your team do it from the 11th position this season?
“I would say so, yeah. Points are really tight. There’s no real clear runaway, Chase (Elliott) has got a bit of a lead, but the rest of us are all pretty close, especially fourth on back. I would like to think this year is going to be different for a lot of reasons. I think the car is obviously a huge piece of that with the parody.”
TRD’s David Wilson mentioned this morning that a decision on your future is expected possibly within the next seven to 10 days, is that accurate?
“I was hoping yesterday. Needs to be. Again, I’m not going to put a timeline on it, but time is ticking and there are a lot of other options and a lot of other dominoes that need to fall. Just talking amongst others, I’m the first one that needs to go.”
Is returning to Joe Gibbs Racing an option for you?
How are not cracking through all of this?
“Do it at home. Trust me, my gut doesn’t feel good and that’s not just for decisions being made, but more so decisions being weighed and perception and how you come across to all of those that you’re going to disappoint. There’s going to be one winner and the rest are not winners if you look at it in that regard. Good for me, but I definitely don’t want to come across as a lead on or a liar so that’s why it’s been touch and go and trying to tread lightly.”
Is it tough to go through this and still be the persona in the uniform or the person everyone expects you to be?
“Sure, it is tough. I think I said it at Watkins Glen that this is one of the toughest things I’ve had to do and either dwell on or look forward to, one or the other, for the last 15 years. You don’t want to have to do this again. I’m getting too old for this. A lot more gray hair this week or this year.”
Is there more than one option for you right now or more than one team?
“More than one that has paper in front of me, yes.”
Does this decision weigh on you during Sunday’s race?
“It weighs on you every time, every day of the week. The best thing I have for me is experience in being able to go race on Sunday. I’m a racer, that’s all I know so when I get to the race track every weekend, I put my helmet on and that’s what I focus on is just being by myself. I do my best work inside that car and I don’t have to think about anything other than making that car go fast. During the week, I probably have way more things going on than I would like to be able to focus on making that car go fast on Sunday. Hopefully soon, as you said, seven to 10 days be put to rest.”
Can you win a championship this season?
“Sure. We’re a top-five, top-six team right now with myself, Ben (Beshore, crew chief) and my team and where we’re at, we just need to clean up some of our mistakes. Speeding on pit road, that’s on me, running over the air hose or whatever, things. But some of the things we’ve had happen to us, we can’t really clean up because it’s not of our doing and it’s just getting caught up in wrecks and stuff like that. I do feel like we’re a top-five, top-six team and I don’t think that the ones that are all in front of us are going to be perfect when it comes to making the Round of 8. We can surprise, I wouldn’t say we would surprise ourselves, but we could put ourselves in the top four.”
Do people think you’re ruthless both on and off the race track?
“You have to be on the race track, but you are a human and you are still a person when it comes down to during the week and through all of this talk. You still want to come out of it with meeting all of these people and talking to all of these people that you’re human and you have to make a decision that’s best for you and your family and what that looks like going forward.”
Your two previous Cup Series championships have come during some stressful situations for you in 2015 and 2019, is there a correlation between going through these things that could lead to a third championship?
“Boy, that would be nice. I think (Kevin) Harvick said it a few years ago, didn’t he say that the lifespan of a driver was going to be much shorter now with this format? Just with all the stress of it and all that it takes. The stress of the last two or three months is like going through the Round of 8 so I’m already living it. I’m already there. These bozos haven’t been there yet. They’re only going to feel it for three weeks, I’ve dealt with it for three months, bring it on.”
Does the alignment you have with Toyota in Kyle Busch Motorsports weigh on your decision when it comes to your potential decisions for next season?
“I would say that the Truck Series option with Kyle Busch Motorsports has probably made this situation 80 to 85 percent harder than if it was just me. I would have been done by now if it was just me.”
Are other manufacturers as receptive to the Truck Series program as Toyota has been?
Is there a peace that you get from being behind the wheel of the race car?
“Trust me, it’s not peaceful in that race car. But I understand where you’re going. That’s the aspect that I’m getting at is just being ability to get in the car and perform and do what you feel like you know how to do. Whether that’s what I was born to do or not, that’s what my career has been made of is being able to get out there and perform on Sundays.”
Do you feel like your personality has impacted the ability for sponsorship to be sold around you?
“I can go a lot of different ways with this answer, but I’ll state the obvious that obviously the perception is that it’s probably tougher being who I am to sell a sponsor, but I’m going to argue that fact too. Name me the last big five to 10 million dollar sponsor that’s come in our sport lately. Give me one (to media). So is that a Kyle problem or a sport problem?”
Do you feel you may have to change moving forward with a new corporate sponsor or partner?
“I would agree with that. I feel like having the freedom of being able to act or react to certain situations the way that I could through the support of M&M’s allowed me to be as successful as I was on Sunday, 1000 percent. So will that have to change? Most likely. How much? 10 percent, 15 percent, I don’t know. Maybe it’s 18 percent that you have to change, but I don’t know what that is or what that looks like. So obviously, that’s still to be determined.”
Do you focus more or dig in more when you’re faced with chaos as you were around your 2015 and 2019 championships?
“I mean, you have to, but you don’t really change a whole lot from what you’ve done a majority of the season you just have to have things go more your way. Do you have less run-ins with other drivers because everyone is taking it a little easier because Playoffs are on the line? Maybe, but I think you’re going to have some of those guys that get into desperation type situations like (Kevin) Harvick at Martinsville when he spun me out trying to make it. You might have some of those things that pop in there, but you hope it’s not affecting you and you’re able to make it through how you need to make it through.”
Are you more forgiving when other drivers like Kevin Harvick do things like that due to desperation?
“Yes. Is he still owed? Yeah. Do you give some benefit of the doubt to the situation? Yeah, I think I was already out by then so I wasn’t racing for anything and he was. Maybe I let that one slide, but there’s maybe a 12 percent chance I let that slide. If I’m going for one point, one spot and Kevin is that guy and he’s still in it then he might get it, I don’t know.”
What are your thoughts on the discussion around the safety of the Next Gen car and NASCAR stating that it has to do with the speeds and the angles these cars are hitting?
“I don’t believe that, no way. We have had 30 years with that design of that older car, 40 year, whatever it is and how many crashes have there been recorded or whatever else and now you’re telling me about different speeds at different angles? No way, no way. The crash that I was in, which was that same crash (Daytona), I got up on the wall and then was brushing it basically and then I hit the car in front of me and got hit by another car, I felt it way more than I would have in the old car. You can see that because the car crinkled or crushes a little bit and people are like, ‘oh, he can continue on, it’s not that bad.’ In a Gen 6 crash, I would have been done for the day. The radiator would have been knocked out of it, the rear bumper cover would have been knocked off of it. The wrecks just don’t look as bad because the drivers are carrying the brunt of it.”
What is the process now if you all are feeling these wrecks more as previously you would work within your own race team to make changes? Do you now tell NASCAR?
“We talk to those that are involved in the driver’s council and let them relay the messages.”
Do you feel NASCAR is receptive to the changes being requested?
“I’m not bringing issues to NASCAR, I’m bringing them to the driver’s council so I don’t know who to ask on that.”
Is there a frustration that nothing has been done to this point and we’re 26 races into the season?
“You don’t really learn these things until you put them in race situations. Could they have done more crash testing, probably, but you’re not going to learn, they didn’t have the pieces to do it so they had to get it all out there to get it on the race track to get going. Now we’re learning more about it as we’re in the line of fire if you will. It’s going to be a learn as you go, but the only problem with that is that all the parts and pieces and components are all built and bought and designed and everything else. Now if we’re making changes, what does that go back on? It goes back on the owners. It makes it more expensive for them to buy stuff that gets redesigned to make crashing easier.”
Is there anything you do in this race car to prepare for an impact differently than you did with the previous car?
“I didn’t in this past weekend’s situation and it hurt a little more than I expected it to. I laid up against the wall and thought I was just going to kind of run into the car in front of me and that it was going to be okay, but I slammed against the seat belts and everything else. I thought, ‘that hurt more than I expected it to.’ I didn’t think I needed to brace for what I saw happening versus a couple years ago the finish of a Daytona race, I can’t remember if it was February or July, but (Brad) Keselowski wrecked coming off of (turn) three and I just KO’d him and I braced for that one. I got ready for it because there was nowhere for me to go. And that one hurt too, but it would have been worse with this car than it was with that last car. I’ll admit that.”