NASCAR » 11 April 2011
Kyle Busch on Raikkonen, Vegas - and being the "bad boy"
The focus on the Sprint Cup series means he seemed to rule himself out of the IndyCar season finale event at Las Vegas, which has offered a $5m challenge prize fund for any non-IndyCar driver who can come in and win the race against the series regulars.
"I probably won't be doing it - not this year anyway. I know the invitation is out there and a lot of people are itching for it, but I'll have to pass," he said. "I think I probably would do it after I won a NASCAR championship, so first things first. I want to be as successful as I can be in my realm of motor sports, knowing this is where my bread and butter is and how I put food on the table is being successful here."
SPEED Wind Tunnel host Dave Despain also grilled Kyle on what it was like to be NASCAR's "bad boy" and whether it was by choice or not.
"I relished it for a little while", he admits. "It's fun to be the guy that can be so polarising and have that effect on so many different people. It's funny to watch sometimes. You're walking through a crowd of people or whether you're just out there for driver intros, the amount of reaction you get and the people you're affecting is pretty funny."
But these days he says he'd "rather not be that guy", admitting that "It kind of was put on me ... I had the people around me telling me to be that guy and that it would be good for the sport.
"It's kind of funny," he continued. "You don't really get it from NASCAR that they want you to be the bad guy or the good guy. They'll kind of joke around with you and be like, 'Hey, that was really good this past weekend. You did a great job for us. Ratings were up.' They'll just kind of antagonise you a little bit and kind of get you feeling like you're doing something good for them, so you kind of keep doing it."
Among the fans there seems to still be a grudging resistance to give Kyle his due, to recognise his consistency over any given season. "People haven't really named Kyle Busch as a consistent driver but we've had that this year. Besides an engine failure at Vegas, [we] had a loose wheel [this weekend] at Texas - I feel like we're championship calibre."
He had that in 2008 - a blistering pre-Chase regular season saw him win eight times and head the championship standings by over 200pts, but the minute the points were reset for the Chase (cutting his lead to just 30pts) his season spectacularly fell apart and he never had the chance to go on and compete for the title.
"We were so good at being able to win those [regular season] races that we felt like we were unbeatable. We got to the Chase and knew we needed to start it out right, we weren't having the best car in practice, we made some last-minute changes on race day, the swaybar bolt breaks, and you go half the race without a swaybar and you spin out and all that happens," he recalled. "The next week, [you're thinking that] we've got to rebound, that's the only bad one we can have, so here we go. We're running third at Dover and the motor blows up. Nothing anybody did but just a malfunction. Then I think two weeks later was Talladega ... I'm pretty sure I wrecked. It just all fell apart."
He's never had such a strong season since: he missed out on the Chase entirely in 2009, and in 2010 finished in eighth place while Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick were the ones to take the battle for the championship to the wire with eventual winner Jimmie Johnson. But so far in 2011 Kyle has featured high in the points, winning at Bristol and leading the standings coming into this weekend's race in Texas before a loose lugnut meant a race-wrecking extra pit stop under green flag conditions and an eventual 16th place finish.
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