11 April 2011
Kyle Busch on Raikkonen, Vegas - and being the "bad boy"
Kyle Busch has been speaking about Kimi Raikkonen's move to NASCAR Trucks, whether he himself will enter the IndyCar $5m Vegas challenge - and what it's like to be NASCAR's "bad boy."
If Dale Earnhardt Jr. is NASCAR's favourite son, then Kyle Busch is the "bad boy" all the fans love to hate. Despite his successes in Sprint Car, Nationwide and Camping World Truck, he's the driver the crowds seem to love to jeer rather than cheer.
But as Kyle explained during a lengthy interview at the weekend on SPEED TV's Wind Tunnel programme at the weekend, he has big plans for both himself and for his self-branded team, which has just signed up Kimi Raikkonen for a series of Camping World Truck Series races this year. Both Kyle and Kimi seem to share a vision that this could be the start of a greater endeavour.
"We really wanted to go two fulltime Truck teams this year and then try to venture into a Nationwide deal next year. I'd really love to have a Nationwide deal next year - we're just trying to find the right opportunity, the right driver, the right sponsor to team up for it." But now NASCAR rules only allow a driver to be nominated to score driver championship points in one of the three series, that driver wouldn't be him as his own sights are firmly set on winning the Sprint Cup series.
So perhaps Kimi Raikkonen is the star name the team has been looking for to spearhead that Nationwide challenge in 2012? Maybe - but Kyle admits that he's not yet sure about Kimi's motivation for coming over to join Kyle Busch Motorsports' Truck operation for a limited number of appearances this season, starting at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 20.
"I never really got that straight answer from him," confessed Kyle. "He just wanted to give it a shot and see what it's like. He's unfamiliar with the United States and with United States racing and with NASCAR in general, but it's another vehicle to him. He came in with no expectations. He knew that it was a vehicle with four rubber tyres and you sit left of the driveshaft - that's about it.
"He did a great job - he jumped right in the truck and was up to pretty good speed right out of the gate ... I got in the truck right after him on the hot tyres and went out there and ran the same lap times as he did. I couldn't go any faster.
"He knows how to drive a race car. We've seen him do it in F1. I'm not quite sure of his success in the rally car stuff. Coming over here and doing the NASCAR thing, just getting his feet wet, getting a taste of it, seeing what he wants to do, seeing if he can have a future here and whether he likes - and hopefully, if he does, he makes a home at Kyle Busch Motorsports."
For Kyle himself, it's the Sprint Cup championship that dominates his ambitions right now. "I certainly would like the opportunity to win a NASCAR championship first. That's why I'm here. This is what I want to do."
But he admits that the championship itself, should he win it, would open doors and opportunities elsewhere: "Once you're a NASCAR champion, you're kind of in another elite division instead of just being a competitor or a race winner ... If I could get that NASCAR championship [I'd be able to] venture out into the IndyCars and drive them a couple of times and see if I'm any good at it, if I can compete at it. Or the F1 stuff - either way. Just kind of see what it's like."
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