Last year, Kyle Busch started off his season with a bang, winning the Sprint Unlimited after just about wrecking three different times.
“That was really fun. Got the car sideways like three times – didn’t cause that much damage and was able to come back up through to the front at the end,” Busch said of that race. “Pushed Tony Stewart through and then passed him at the line, barely. That was really fun.”
The 2013 edition didn’t go as Busch had planned, though, as he was caught up in an early wreck during the first of three segments. However, he got things back on track by winning the second Budweiser Duel on Thursday afternoon.
Now going into the Daytona 500, Busch will start the race from the fourth position behind Jeff Gordon on the outside lane. Back in early February at the Canadian Motorsports Expo, Busch stated that he would rather be up front than riding in the back.
“Well you’d rather stay up front and lead a bunch of laps,” he said on February 10th. “But right now, it’s unknown with the new Gen 6 car. We saw a little bit there in Daytona testing that it’s hard to pass. We got a couple drafts going, and there was guys not handling and we couldn’t move. I wanted to go up the middle, hold the gas down, but they were sideways through the corners. So anytime you do that, you en up getting caught in a wreck so you got to be careful.”
An example of what Busch is talking about took place in the first Gatorade Duel when Denny Hamlin got loose, triggering a four-car wreck involving Carl Edwards, Trevor Bayne and Regan Smith. However, Busch says being up in the middle of something like that – it’s all about reward over risk.
“When it comes to the race, you got to do what it takes to get up through there, if you’re not already at the front,” he added. “The easiest thing to hang in the front, not way in the back.”
Beyond Daytona, Busch is looking to challenge for the Sprint Cup Series Championship. Despite having over 100 career wins across NASCAR’s top three divisions, he has yet to win a championship.
“We want to win championships – that what we’re here for,” he said. “To do that, you first need to be consistent each and every week. You also have to have a little thing called luck on your side, which I think I missed entirely last year so anybody know where the luck truck is at, I’m going to go buy me one.”
Last year, Busch suffered multiple mechanical failures on his way to missing the Chase, finishing 13th in points.
“So the last time I was up for a contract extension, I missed the Chase,” Busch joked. “I don’t know if those two things go hand in hand, but I think I need to make a lifetime deal so I don’t miss the Chase again.”
A concern going into the season is whether Toyota Racing Development has sorted out all of the issues that they experienced last year, and Busch says you can be certain it was taken care of.
“It was very well addressed,” he said. “I spoke my mind a few times, probably one time that I shouldn’t have, which is who I am. The Toyota guys worked really hard. There’s a whole group of guys in California that work really hard on our engines. Unfortunately, we had some problems last year. I broke three in a row and then I had another problem at Loudon running second. So those guys have worked hard through the off-season making sure those problems don’t arrive again. That’s all they can do.”
He also added that Toyota didn’t have the worse number of blown engines, noting they blew nine or 10 while Hendrick Motorsports blew 14.
However, beyond that, Joe Gibbs Racing added a new driver in form of 2003 Winston Cup Champion Matt Kenseth while Joey Logano moved over to Penske Racing.
“Matt’s a cool dude,” Busch commented. “He’s really funny to be around. I’ve raced with Matt Kenseth since I’ve got into Cup, obviously. We’ve never got into each other. We’ve never had an issue; it’s always been good so we have a lot of respect for one another. I think that’s going to be great with him coming to our team.
“The thing with Kenseth is that he has a championship. Yeah, it was a long time ago and I reminded him of that – he does a championship mindset of what it takes to win races, what it takes to win a championship and being able to put that together. With Matt having that experience, it’ll be great for us as it will make the team stronger.”
Kenseth has already showed his strength, running up front in each of the races so far this season while at the top of the practice charts. Though in looking for that championship, Busch knows that he has some tough competition out there.
“I think anybody you look at the Cup Series, you see so many drivers that are so strong,” he said. “If I had to pick one driver off the top of my head is Jimmie Johnson. He’s got the best record over the past five, six, eight years, whatever it’s been. The guy rarely finishes out of the top five in points. You look at guys that have been around like Jeff Gordon, who have the experience. And Brad Keselowski, the new champ. Obviously he did what he did in a short period of time.”
Beyond his NASCAR racing career, Busch did hint that he may do compete in some other types of racing before hanging up the helmet totally. One of the series that was hinted was the Grand-Am/Rolex Series cars.
“I ran that Daytona Prototype car a couple years ago at Daytona in the summer and as you know, the AC unit in that car broke and you can’t roll down the windows,” Busch said. “That was a tough race right there; it hurt me a little bit. But you never know if the opportunity is there. If I was a NASCAR champion already and somebody from Formula 1 called me, I’d probably go do it so you never know what can happen, that’s for sure. “