Toyota Racing – Kyle Busch
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Kansas Speedway – October 20, 2017
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch was made available to the media at Kansas Speedway:
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Halloween Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What’s going on this week with your Halloween helmet scheme?
“Yeah, sure. It’s a one of a kind piece. There’s only going to be one made. It’s designed by Jason Beam and myself. Sort of the Halloween theme. A little bit of Frankenstein action going on with obviously Frankenstein there, kind of has my dress up for Halloween, who I would be this year. That’s it. A lot of fine details, lot of cool stuff going on there. Moon up front. Witch across the moon. Sort of the castle theme up on the hill, graveyard underneath. Really cool things we implemented into this helmet. Threw a little color in there with the orange, the windows, the jack o lanterns, stuff like that. Obviously I want to thank M&M’s for giving me the opportunity to have a paint out of my helmet, for instance. What’s actually really, really cool about this is I’ll be wearing it this weekend in Kansas with the Halloween car, I’ll be wearing it next weekend in Martinsville with the Halloween car, and we’ll also be doing a raffle to win this one of a kind helmet for the Kyle Busch Foundation. We’ll have the raffle up live. Should be now. There’s links to it on my website, KyleBusch.com. Tickets will be $18. We’re going to cap the tickets at 2000 so everybody knows what their odds are in winning and being able to have a piece of history here. Really, really cool piece of art from Jason Beam. Appreciate him doing that and getting it to us here for this weekend and M&M’s for allowing me to wear it.”
With three champions on the bubble of advancing into next round and potential weather changes over the weekend, talk about your situation in terms of what you need to do in the race.
“Challenging aspects all through the weekend. That’s what makes it intense and a bit unpredictable, if you will. Hopefully the speed that we’ve shown so far this weekend in our M&M’s Camry has been pretty good. I would love to make sure we’re one of the guys that’s moving on, one of the top eight to the next round of the Playoffs. We’ve done our job all this year to build our points up and do the best possible job we know how to do because you always know you’re supposed to build that point cushion for Talladega. As crazy as it is in this world, we all plan for one race to knock us out of the Playoffs. That seems to be the race that will knock us out again. We’ll have to fight through it this weekend in Kansas and try to do it to get enough points so we can out do the two guys in front of us if nobody else has trouble and go from there.”
With the institution of stage points this year, did you anticipate it would give drivers more opportunity to advance than in previous years where you would have had to have won this race?
“Yeah, no doubt. I reiterate the fact that it sucks that you work all year long in order to build your point cushion and your stage points and your race wins and everything for Talladega, because everybody knows for Talladega we’re all building that. Then I have Charlotte happen. Unfortunately, it’s my fault that we had Charlotte happen. If we would have finished eighth, let’s say, at Charlotte, we wouldn’t be talking about it. We would have used up our point cushion that we had at Talladega like we built it for. What’s crazy is you can’t have a mistake on your own. I made a mistake at Charlotte. We can’t have that mistake on your own. You have mistakes brought to you in part by others at Talladega that wreck the entire field, and that’s your championship. We still have a chance, we’re still open, we’re still viable. We can still come through here and win or finish second in every round and hopefully advance. We’ll see. We just got to race it out.”
Years ago when you were still trying to figure out this track, how uncomfortable would it be to come here knowing you needed a good performance to advance? Also, I think it was in ’14 when you rebuilt the car and basically restarted from scratch. Talk about that process.
“I mean, the fact of the matter is, we come here now off of a few strong runs, having the opportunity to continue that. We’ve won a race here the last couple, we finished fourth here I think in the spring or something like that. We’ve been able to kind of turn our Kansas fortunes around. We’d love to be able to keep that going. Who knows. So far this weekend, car has really good speed, it’s really fast. Doesn’t quite feel great, but we’ll work on that more tomorrow. It’s just all about getting one lap today in qualifying and starting up front. As far as building our cars, redoing all that stuff, it’s a process that goes on for months, sometimes years at a time. Our guys did a phenomenal job of being able to do that. We’re still doing that. We’re still evolving. I think this sport is just kind of like that. I heard it this morning on the F1 broadcast, it’s amazing how much evolution goes into their cars throughout a season. Seems like that’s kind of what’s going on with us.”
Do you have any thoughts on how many stage points you would need to make you possibly feel good?
“No, no. As far as I look at it, I guess I look at it as out finishing the 48 and the 21 by three, four spots each stage, each round, in order to make up enough points to pass them both. Whether that’s doable or not, we’ll see. We’ll certainly try. We’ll fight hard, hopefully run up front all day long. We’ve done that this year. We did that here in the spring. We just need to back it up and do it again when it’s crunch time.”
You’re more calm and collected than in years past, do you feel you’re in a better position to get through this round than you may have been in the past?
“I feel like I wouldn’t be worried about this if I didn’t have Charlotte or Talladega happen. But that’s not the situation we’re in. We’ve just got to do a good job. This is our first Homestead of this year. We’ve got to come through this race. It’s not a must win, but it is a must perform. We’ve got to do everything right in order to go out there and be the top guy all day out of the four legitimate candidates that are fighting for the two spots available. We’ve just got to concentrate on that and make sure we can get it done.”
How do you balance winning this race so there’s no doubt as opposed to making sure you’re ahead of two or three other guys?
“First and foremost, we come to each and every weekend wanting to win. The reality of that, my percentage of winning in this sport is nine and a half or 10 or 11, something like that. It’s not very good. So we’ve got to go out there and just perform and know that we need a win. A win would make everything easy. From there, you have to focus on what other things you need to do throughout the day. Those other things are to out perform the 20 (Matt Kenseth), the 21 (Ryan Blaney), as well as the 48 (Jimmie Johnson). If you’re ahead of those three guys, more importantly you’ll have the chance to move on.”
Does the stage point structure significantly impact drivers Playoff runs?
“Yes. Short answer, yes. I think the points scenario we have helps the situation of the 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) car he had last year, as strong as he was, blowing up. Helps William Byron for as strong as he was in the Truck Series, blowing up in Phoenix, eliminating him one race. That’s what this points structure has been for. I think it’s helpful, it’s fair. We just had two bad races in a row. That’s the shortcoming of it.”
Johnny Sauter put some laps on the spec engine last week at Talladega, tested the spec engine. How do you feel about that, being a truck owner?
“It’s the route they’re going, so it’s coming. As far as right now, I’m a true proponent in having identity within the series, being it with engines as well as bodies, with Toyota, Chevy and Ford. Obviously the Ford brigade has gotten thinner over the last few years. Brad (Keselowski) is what was keeping it what it was. Now that’s gone. They’re trying to make it more affordable for all the owners. I guess I appreciate that. So if it comes to where it’s a necessity that we have to run it, we have to make that decision at a later time. Right now we’re sticking with our guns, what we’ve been able to do, and that is to maintain our identity with a Toyota body and a Toyota engine.”
Talk about your impression of William Byron and his progression through NASCAR.
“I think it’s really impressive just for the fact of how short of a career he’s had so far in racing. Reminds me a lot of myself. I started 13. Thirteen was my first year to race competitively on the racetrack. I drove go karts and stuff like that before that, but never raced. Being able to do that, legends cars, late models, modifieds, trucks, everything else, William is just like me. It seems as though he works really hard at it. You have to give credit where credit’s due. He works hard for it, he wants it. He’s done a really good job of making the most of his opportunities that he’s been given because he’s smart, been in good stuff all the way up through the ladder. He has a great following behind him that’s been able to push him that way with his dad and Liberty University. It takes sponsors like that to help good drivers like that, to elevate them, move them to the next level. I think what’s probably most impressive isn’t William Byron’s success, it’s that he has had a sponsor since the beginning in a sport that in this day and age sponsors are hard to find. I think that’s what’s most intriguing.”