Where do things stand with a new contract for you?
“No new update. Is that fair. There isn’t, sorry.”
Have you been told yet that you may or may not return to the No. 18 in 2023?
“I feel like that would be an update. That has not been told to me, not yet.”
Have you made any arrangements to speak with Kimi Raikkonen while he’s in Watkins Glen this weekend?
“Unfortunately I guess we never really did a phone number swap and I never really talked to him when he was here. Honestly, it was always through the agency and stuff like that. I’ve been paying attention to him and all the stuff he’s done and all that with the F1 stuff over the last few years. It would be kind of nice to see him, say hey, what’s up and welcome back. This is his first taste in the Cup Series stuff and real proud of the efforts of Justin (Marks) and those guys over there on the Project 91 thing. I think it’s really a unique deal to allow others from other disciplines to come in here and give it a shot. That’s what it’s all about and I hope it all works out for every party and that it’s a successful piece.”
Will you look at Kimi’s data at all or is there anything you might be able to learn from how he might drive a road course?
“I don’t think so. I guarantee you that if you take the whole 40-car field and dissect all the data, I think you’ll find about 10 percent discrepancy between everybody, there’s not much. I don’t think he’s going to be a vast amount different. There’s only so many things you can do with these cars. He’s not going to be able to brake at 200 versus the rest of us at 400, that’s just car capable. Not driver capable. I don’t think there’s going to be much difference there, but I’ll look. If (Kyle) Larson’s going to look, I might as well look.”
Has there been more work done at Joe Gibbs Racing to try to improve at road courses specific for this weekend?
“For sure. I know there’s a lot of work going on and a lot of work behind the scenes to help with what we’ve got going on. It’s a lot of aero talk, a lot of mechanical talk and a lot of brake talk. Essentially, the better off you are slowing down and turning and accelerating, the better you’re going to be and we don’t have any of those so if we can at least help one of those areas then I would think that we’ll have a better program this weekend. I wouldn’t say we’ll jump to the front coming here to Watkins Glen, but I bet we’re better.”
Do you feel the team has made any more progress since the tire test with Martin Truex Jr. at Watkins Glen?
“I would like to think so, just exact same answer as I gave before. I know that we had those struggles and when Martin was here, it looked better and the sim stuff looked better. I don’t know if the sim stuff is 100 percent real to what you can really do on the race track. Seeing Martin’s data here when he tested here, which was before some of the last road courses. We have definitely improved so I feel like Martin’s test isn’t necessarily indicative of what we’ll see here this weekend.”
How much do you talk to your drivers at Kyle Busch Motorsports about your contract negotiations and how that team could be impacted?
“All of them are kind of shopping themselves anyways to higher series to get other opportunities anyway. I feel like the Truck Series is always the last to be put together. You can go into December and figure out your truck line-up versus being a free agent, top star in the Cup Series, you would think that you could have things figured out by you know, August, July, somewhere in there. Obviously, we’re getting late in the timeframe for me, but getting into the nitty gritty of what needs to happen.”
Have you ever looked back at the finish in Watkins Glen 10 years ago and thought it was cool to be part of that moment?
“No. No it wasn’t. Got kicked to the curb pretty early and then it was a show after that and I wasn’t really part of the show. It just looked like I didn’t know what the hell I was doing because I was running off course and running off line, slipping all over the place. Nobody know until after the fact, well after the fact that there was oil on the track and we were all trying to dodge it. I don’t know if I was seeing it first and just trying to miss it and those other guys just didn’t care and were running normal lines and was just slipping around, but I think they finally figured it out going up through the back stretch that you know, other areas than the asphalt were going to be just fine grip-wise because there was oil down. I wish I was certainly on the winning end of that. Then I would have said, ‘Yes, I’ve watched it over and over again and it’s amazing.’ But no, trust me, I’ve seen the highlight reels.”
Could this race be a sneak preview of the Chicago street race?
“No way. No way. I say that because those corners are going to be 20 or 30 mph corners. These corners here, at least down into turn one is a 45 or 50 mph corner. Even turn six is a 60 mph corner. Not even close, it’s going to be slow.”
Are you participating in the organizational test at Martinsville and what do you hope they accomplish at the test session?
“I did the test a little while back and I think it was a tire test. We didn’t really get anywhere with tires that made a difference and then we tried the Bristol dirt pan and that was a plus. I have no idea what the objective is for next week. I’m not participating and no idea what’s happening.”
What do you lean on to get you through the challenges this season? Can you give us a sense of what this spring and summer have been like?
“It’s easy to summarize, but probably tough for some to understand. Let’s be frank about it, I’m an athlete. I make a lot of money, people aren't going to feel or shouldn't feel sorry for me. I've made a good living. And so that's not the premise of this answer, but it's been hard as hell. It's been a lot of sleepless nights figuring out what your future is, and all that sort of stuff. And, you know, everybody's like, ‘Oh, well, you've made plenty of money. You're fine. You don't have anything to worry about.’ And I'm like, ‘Yeah, that's true.’ But you still want to do what you love to do, right? Like it's no different than Jeff (Gluck, The Athletic), you went through it, right? Having questions about what you're doing with your job and your lifestyle and what you can do to move forward. So I'm in the same boat. I'm a racer and only ever known how to race, nothing else, trying to do other business projects and things like that, but none of them have really blown up and taken off. So it has been hard and figuring out all of that is certainly tough. And the first time I went through this was 15 years ago and it was a learning experience. It was hard then too, but it was nothing like now. Then it was just me, myself and I. I didn't have Samantha, I didn't have a son. I didn't have a daughter. All I had was an agent that was helping me and now I'm kind of all on my own doing it along with Samantha and family, but, you know, going through many of the same things, but it's way, way harder because now you have Kyle Busch Motorsports that you've got to think about, you've got a building that you've got to pay on, you know, you've got a building note and all that sort of stuff. So there's a lot a lot a lot of pieces and that's why it's not so simple. If you look at each aspect of everything of my life, which some of you may not know or may not fully know, is there's just a lot. So trying to take care of all those pieces and make sure everything goes as it was or as it has been the last few years would certainly be nice.”
Are the sleepless nights due to wanting to be competitive or the other balls in the air with your life that you have to juggle?
“That’s certainly top of the list. You want to be able to go somewhere that you feel like you have a legit shot to race to win. You know, trust me, I don't feel like it's fair to me or my family or anything else if we're going to have to spend less time together moving forward because we are going to have to change our lifestyle, no questions. There's a big change coming. And so, is it worth it to go run around and not have an opportunity to win right away versus building something versus jumping in something that can win. All those questions are certainly being weighed out. And so, again, that's also why it's not so simple and so easy. So, thankfully there are opportunities out there. There are Cup jobs available. But again, it will not look the same as what it has for the last 15 years.”
Are you focused on being able to win where you go moving forward?
“I think that kind of is the same question just a little different, but the answer is the same. Where can you go somewhere else and get into stuff that can win right away? And if you can go somewhere else and get in stuff that wins right away. I feel like if you're winning, your’re a championship contender, you're capable because again, win and you're in right. So if you can win races and get yourself into the Playoffs, then the Playoffs are a completely different game. So for as bad as our year’s seemed and for the last eight weeks or as bad as it's looked for the 18 car, we still have a legitimate shot to go out here and race for a championship. We need to just find the luck truck and go buy some and then we'll be fine. You know, everybody's going to be pretty close on points. And a couple guys obviously have a head start which there's always a couple guys that have a head start and those guys have a better shot at making it to the to the Final Four, but there's going to be a team or to that point their way into that as well. So I've done that every single time. I think I've only won my way into the final for one year. Otherwise, I've always pointed my way and so it's nothing that scares me.”
Is there any scenario where Rowdy Energy could sponsor you?
“No, no, it makes decent money, but the problem is that the expenses that you have in which to build this business to build this company and all that sort of stuff. We're not black yet. We're still in the red. So that, no, you can't default on a loan in order to pay yourself sponsorship. That's not going to happen. So you know, the idea behind this, the premise behind this was I had another 10 year runway to go and keep going and with M&M’s and Mars and everything else. We never thought this position would be here. And so I was going to have that chance to build that and get it going and get it off its feet and we would find out in seven or eight years whether or not it would be something that would be sustainable for this opportunity that's here now early to then have that supportive, right or support Brexton or whatever going forward, but it's way too early for that. So unfortunately, that doesn't exist.”