KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 Pedigree Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing
What was it like watching your life unfold on the big screen last night and people cheering you on in the theater?
“Yes, it was a unique experience for sure. You know, a really exciting opportunity to have this chance to showcase my career and everything and what it has been from the very beginning until, I guess until 2019, so that was good. Great welcome. The positive feedback from a lot of people and most who came to see me at the after party who would say they’ve never been to a NASCAR race but just seeing this, you know , makes them want to see what NASCAR is all about. And, you know, they thought it was a good show to describe what my career has been like so far.
How important would it be for you to win the regular season championship?
“I think it would be important. I mean, obviously the bonus points that come with it. It’s the number one priority there. So you want to win races, you want to get those bonus points, you want to win stages, get those bonus points, all to allow yourself an easier time, say through the Playoffs. So, you know, having that goal right there, you know, we have to be careful with that because you can’t outrun yourself trying to run for a win – Gateway and get run over and not get any points. We’re so close and I feel like you’re watching COTA, a big missed opportunity coming in third on the last lap, finishing 33rd. You know, Sonoma, we all completely missed it, but we ran horribly without getting a lot of points that day. So there’s definitely more opportunities than that too, that we wasted that I wish I’d had in return and we’d be the much closer leader.
How was the Martinsville test earlier this week?
“So the dirt, the Bristol Dirt aero kit, let’s call it, the bottom zone. I felt like a net positive. We were able to get into a traffic situation where we started a race and kinda ran into each other. Car 2 was a bit better than us at that time. So he was able to pass me but when I could follow him, I followed him like he was on my bumper following me. I climbed on his bumper following him. He left just because he was a bit better than us at that point in the test, but I felt like that was a net positive. I don’t feel like any of the tires were better. There were a couple, there was a softer set of lifts and a softer set of rights that were a better, grippier tire that you could go faster on. But there is no downfall. There was no wear. And so with the control tire that we had we would have a few drops but you could kind of recoup your drop if you took it easy for a few laps and let it cool and then reattacked and we went that way they fall out more from heat than from wear, so I think we missed the tire selection we had there. We didn’t win anything on the tyre.
What can you take away from last year’s race for this weekend?
“I feel like last year’s race will lend itself a bit to this year. I’m saying this because the track has widened really well and this car doesn’t like to follow another car and follow so you’ll need options you’ll need different groups you can go racing in so with last year’s race really widening the track. Hopefully the same will happen this time around.
Did you feel like you mastered the track well last year?
“Yeah and no. You know, with this car and with the mile and a half that we’ve done this year, the guys at Gibbs, us, we’ve been quick and we’ve shown good speed. But on some of the tougher tracks short and flatter we didn’t show great speed but I’d say on top of that Gateway was a good offset for us so it kind of depends on what that place ends up running to – a mile and – half or short track We’ll find out in about an hour.
Do you expect a good crowd for this race like we did last year?
“Yeah, I mean, as far as the crowd counts, I hope. You know, I’d like to think that having a race at a market once a year is the best time for people to go out and enjoy your race and have a great weekend. Campgrounds, from what I saw while driving, look decent. So I’d like to think they all turned out and if they do, great. I think that just proves that you know a lot of these places only need one date, that they can make it a success.
How much do you follow the Xfinity series now that you no longer race in it?
“I’m zero, no idea what’s going on there. Besides Ty Gibbs. I guess that’s it.
How did Joe Gibbs Racing struggle in Sonoma after being decent at COTA?
“Yeah, I mean we also struggled in COTA to be honest with the raw speed and be able to be good there. You know, at the start of the race I think we were eighth, we were fainting, I got kicked out by Chase Elliott who was running 12th, you know what I mean? So we weren’t great at COTA either, but we managed to get through some of the restarts and get positions on the guys to put us in front. Christopher (Bell), I think was third or fourth. I was right with him on the last lap there. And so you know, I felt like with everything that happened on the last lap, we would have had a chance to race in the top two or three, for sure. But I would say that the two road events so far this year were not our strong point. Why did we miss it? I do not know. If I could answer that, we wouldn’t have a hard time, we wouldn’t have been bad. But talking to Martin Truex (Jr.), who tested for us at the Glen, certainly isn’t looking forward to going to the Glen either. They weren’t very fast there.
Is missing it as an organization on one track and hitting it on others just a function of this new Next Gen race car?
“A little. I would say the Penske guys weren’t good in Kansas. But like you said, they were super strong on the flattest tracks. They’re very fast in Martinsville, Phoenix. They have been good. They were good at Gateway too. too. They’ve qualified really well so far, it seems like those teams or organizations have kind of been good at those particular tracks. And so I think if we all continue to learn and grow, good teams will be good teams everywhere. But you know, it’s a bit uneven, right now, with just an understanding built around this car.
Is it hard to recover at Road America if you miss a turn?
“Big corners right away are important yeah like you know miss turn three I think it’s called then go down through there. That’s important. That’s a big deal. Obviously the last corner I think it’s 13 or 14 coming right away. So those can be detrimental to the lap time for sure. Because you’re just wasting time by the distance it takes to reach the speed, so you really want to be strong in those corners.
Atlanta being one of the first tracks to come back to with this car, do you expect to be stronger there next month?
“I felt like we were one of the strongest cars there earlier this year. We just couldn’t show it. You know, we got behind Austin Dillon at the start of the race. It broke loose and spun and we were wrecked. So, you know, we had a little problem at the start of the race, just too loose of balance, but I felt like we would have been able to work on that as the day went on and got better so you know a couple of our teammates were up there towards the end of the race Christopher (Bell) got penalized for finishing second. I think Bubba (Wallace) was very tight very close to having a winning shot, crashed on the last lap. So I mean, it’s a speedway race that’s going to happen, but you would like to be in position at least until the end.
Do you focus on certain tracks for testing with the upcoming Playoffs or just to get track time with this car?
“Wherever there is an opportunity to test, you want to work on your car to improve it, like I was selected to do Martinsville. I hope we learned that something has improved a little. I felt like day one we were a bit behind car 2 and day two we were tied in car 2 which is positive you know I felt like we we made some gains there. And then yeah it’s the penultimate race of the year and of course Gateway you’d like to think okay we were better at Gateway which hopefully will show we’re better at Phoenix when we we’ll go there. But I think another test will be Loudon. And so you know, we’re still, you’re working from the end of the season. Obviously, you know, the most important race being the last one and trying to figure out what it takes to get to that championship race and still be eligible is very important.
Were you at North Wilkesboro Speedway for the shooting of the Toyota “Aliens” commercial?
“It wasn’t photoshopped. It was real. There is a real alien abduction. No, I have never been inside the race track before this was my first time inside. I was never really motivated by that. So it was the first time I got into it. He obviously has a certain age, you know, a bunch of equipment and everything is pretty run down. They are quite proud of the fact that the elevator is still working. Victory Lane lift, which is cool. But you know, give this thing a facelift to get it back in working order. And it can succeed and it can turn into something nice. So I’m looking forward to it. If they put something in it. I think that would be nice. I know from my understanding either way, I know that Dale (Earnhardt Jr.) is looking forward to running a late model stock race if he can. And so, you know, it would be nice to see this place come back to life and whether it’s an All-Star race or a truck race or Xfinity, whatever you know, I think we can shake things up there- down for sure. ”