KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing
Are you going to Richard Childress Racing next season?
“I do not have any new news to share. If I did, I guarantee there would be some sort of big announcement. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been one of those yet Bob (Pockrass, Fox Sports). We’re still working on it behind the scenes trying to put it all together. It’s not done.”
How is your mood as it relates to everything going on behind the scenes?
“I’m in a really bad one right now in case anyone is wondering. Just same as it’s been, just stressful. There’s light at the end of the tunnel and it’s not a train. It is sunshine so that’s a positive thing and trying to keep the train on the tracks right now for a little bit longer.”
Is it fair to say that you know what direction you want to go in next season?
“No. I woke up at six in the morning, that’s probably not too early, but it’s really early for me two days ago and I woke up in the middle of the night and I was worried about Brexton (Busch). What are we going to do with Brexton if this happens or if that happens? If this goes, if that goes or if we do that or if we do this? Now I’ve got him thrown in the whole mix. It’s crazy. A clearer picture is developing during the day. Pixels are being worked on.”
What was it like to see Kyle Busch Motorsports win last night?
“I’m proud of the effort, super proud of John Hunter (Nemechek), Eric Phillips and everybody over there at KBM, everybody that has continued to put forth the effort to make us the winningest truck program in history and continue to excel and elevate those numbers. Super cool to see that. There’s three trucks, all three of our trucks moved on last night to the next round of the Playoffs respectively for their own situation. I like what’s coming up next. First of all, Chandler (Smith) has been super fast there as of late and John Hunter is no slouch there either. He should have won last year as well. Good stuff coming from the KBM bunch.”
Do you feel there may be more clarity with where things are with Kyle Busch Motorsports?
“No, I’m definitely not comfortable with where that’s at yet. Trying to put all the right things in the right places simultaneously was the objective and the goal. It’s not going to happen that way, but we will certainly keep fighting for that to make sure that KBM is at the forefront and we have a place to go race trucks next year.”
Do you feel things are moving in a better direction with safety and the dialogue with NASCAR?
“I believe I have an email from the driver counsel lade, but I have yet to read it so it wouldn’t be fair for me to assess my comments on that right now.”
What has Eric Phillips meant to Kyle Busch Motorsports and how would you evaluate his contribution?
“It’s invaluable. I can’t put it into words really, especially the way I speak on things. I’m not very good. Eric is a huge part of and is what Kyle Busch Motorsports history has been about. First guy I probably got was Greg Passen, a buddy of mine who worked with me at Billy Ballew. But past him was Rick Ren and then Eric Phillips was number two or three if you look at it that way. He’s been a huge inspiration to everything that we’ve done there and he’s a racer’s racer. In the truck series you can do that and be successful at that. You don’t have to have the huge engineering influx of the Cup teams and Xfinity teams and all that stuff. When we did go Xfinity racing, we brought on experienced guys from another team and we weren’t as great as I thought we coulda, shoulda won. Kurt (Busch) won and I finished second like six times that year. Eric then took over the reigns of that the next year and I thought they ran very respectful for what they had to endure and deal with. Then he went on to go do his own things at JGR for a few years and then came back for a two-year stint with John Hunter. That was always kind of the understanding between he and I was the John Hunter piece and not knowing what our driver line-up looks like at all right now, I think he sees a clearer picture right now than I do. He got a really good offer to go somewhere else so I told him that I can’t hold you back, go take it, go do it.”
What would it mean to get a championship for Kyle Busch Motorsports?
“That’s not what we want, we want to win a championship this year sure, but we don’t want to be done. We want to keep fighting and race into next year. That’s the intent and that’s everybody’s intentions that we have and the 50 employees that we have at KBM, I’m fighting every damn day for all that stuff and to make sure that we go forward.”
How would you assess Corey Heim’s performance this season?
“Corey’s (Heim) done a really good job. He won early and was fast and had a lot of good results, better results arguably better than I did in the 51. I would say maybe the last couple not as good as we would have hoped, but I think that him carrying on and being smart and being smooth and just doing the job he needs to do for us with the 51 to keep it eligible all the way to Phoenix. If we have three trucks eligible for the owners championship at Phoenix, I’ll feel a lot like Joe (Gibbs) did in 2019, it’s ours to lose. Looking forward to those guys carrying it on with good momentum.”
How do you feel about racing at the All-Star race at North Wilkesboro?
“I think it’s cool. I think a lot of drivers made note of that or made mention of that, but careful, there’s aliens around there. Space ships come in the middle of the night so don’t be there with the lights off. Overall, I think it’s going to be really fun. I think they saw a packed house there last week and they saw great racing Tuesday night and Wednesday night. Real proud of SMI’s involvement and Dale Jr.’s involvement and all those guys that made that come to life and so I think it’s pretty cool. Looking forward to getting there. I’ve never been there so I guess I need to go test.”
Have you had a lot of people supporting you around this process you’re going through?
“A little bit. Yeah, not anything too crazy I would say. There’s been a lot of support and you know, from a few individuals that maybe I thought wouldn’t reach out. It was nice, but other than that, it’s business as usual. Some people are almost leery to say, ‘Hey man, how is it going today?’ Because they know that it ain’t good. They don’t even bring it up. They’re like, ‘Oh, Kyle’s here.”
How did you even get to the moment to talk to Richard Childress about possibly driving for him after the incident here at Kansas 11 years ago?
“Who’s to say he hasn’t punched me again in any of these conversations. Whenever you go into negotiations, it’s never fun so you’re duking the whole time. I think you grow up and you work through things and you talk it over. Really it was fine the first time I sat down with him and everything was okay. The biggest thing about it was just having an opportunity to kind of put that behind us. It was no different than going on the Dale Jr. Download and talking about 2008 and crashing at Richmond, you know what I mean. You get through it and you talk about it and life moves on.”
Do you know what happened with the engine last week and are you concerned it could happen again?
“The best I know is that the issue that happened at Richmond with the 45 car, the issue that happened with the 20 at Watkins Glen and happened with me in practice at Watkins Glen and I think Denny (Hamlin) had one happen somewhere in practice, I’m not sure. Then mine last weekend, they were all the same issue so they keep seeing it over and over and what’s interesting is that the road course package isn’t necessarily the intermediate package. They didn’t think that would transfer over, but it did so they made some adjustments to some internals and hopefully we don’t see it going forward.”
What has been the biggest change in the industry you’ve seen while going through this free agency portion of your career?
“Drivers ain’t making what they used to anymore. It’s fact. I was fortunate to be in a really, really good spot for a long time and had good leverage there to get paid very well. Anytime you look at other opportunities out there, they can only go so far and they can only do so much. They don’t know you and you haven’t spent the time there, but fast forward 15 years from now, wherever the hell I go, will I have a better chance of negotiating a better deal than my current one or whatnot, then I would agree that’s probably a good assessment.”