In the Hot Seat with Kyle Busch

Altogether, Kyle Busch possesses that old school driver's mentality in today's NASCAR. (Photo: Joe Gibbs Racing)

Altogether, Kyle Busch possesses that old school driver’s mentality in today’s NASCAR. (Photo: Joe Gibbs Racing)

All things considered, Kyle Busch epitomizes the old school driver’s mentality in today’s world of NASCAR. By all means, Busch exudes authentic confidence and a passion for excellence.

For the most part, Busch possesses a raw, uncanny candor uncommon with many drivers across the NASCAR ranks. At times, his honesty proves a bit biting, but he stands by his thoughts while remaining true to himself.

In particular, Kyle Busch echoes another NASCAR great in Darrell Waltrip, a three time Cup series champion. Markedly, Waltrip enjoyed the thrills of victory and spoke honestly in defeat.

From time to time, some fans and critics perceived Waltrip’s demeanor as cocky. However, Waltrip connected with many fans who stood by him throughout his Hall of Fame career.

Without delay, Kyle Busch is competitive, driven and unapologetic about his ways when he’s in racer’s mode. Ultimately, the 36-year-old Las Vegas, Nev. is relentless and refreshing. He says what we likely think but may not say out loud.

Presently, the two time Cup series champion shows no signs of slowing down on the track. Moreover, Busch continually turns the tide with fans as a favorite around the stock car circles.

Beyond his similarities with Waltrip, Busch has that killer instinct of Formula 1 champions Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen. Simply put, Busch’s dedication and devotion toward excellence proves similar to NFL greats Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.

Recently, I caught up with the man known as “Rowdy” for the first time here on The Podium Finish. Without further ado, let’s all get “In the Hot Seat with Kyle Busch!”

Rob Tiongson : You scored your first win of the year at Kansas becoming the 10th different winner this season. How encouraged are you about your No. 18 team’s progress with crew chief Ben Beshore working with you for the first time for a full season?

In the long run, Kyle Busch and crew chief Ben Beshore seem like a winning combination. (Photo: Joe Gibbs Racing)

In the long run, Kyle Busch and crew chief Ben Beshore seem like a winning combination. (Photo: Joe Gibbs Racing)

Kyle Busch : I think things are going well. We’re talking a lot – Ben and myself and the group. We’re clicking a little bit. And we’re trying to get everybody on the same page about what I like to feel in the car, how I drive the car, that sort of stuff. We’ll keep working on it each week. And I think, the more races we get under our belt, the better we’ll be.

We are starting to have our setups closer to what we need right off the truck early in the race. And that’s very encouraging because we can stay up there and get more stage points and not have to work all race to get the car where we need it to be.

Tiongson : The new, Next Gen version of the Toyota Camry was recently unveiled to the public. What are your initial thoughts with this new car? And how about the possibilities it has with connecting with old and new fans and car enthusiasts?

Busch : Certainly, manufacturers are a huge part of our sport and the identity of the cars to try and win on Sunday and sell on Monday. We look forward to the opportunity to help Toyota do that with the Next Gen Toyota TRD Camry next year.

I haven’t driven the Next Gen car yet and don’t know a whole lot about it. But I’m sure we’ll get that opportunity here at some point soon. The biggest thing I know about it is that the tire is wider and taller with less sidewall. And the car has bigger brakes.

I’ve heard from a few of the drivers who have tested it that they’ve really enjoyed it at the road course. And it’s a good road course car. We’ll be working on a lot of setup things to make it more comfortable to drive on the ovals.

Tiongson : As a competitive, passionate racer engaging with fans throughout your NASCAR career, some understand your approach. And some do not.

How have you remained true to yourself not only as a racer but as Kyle Busch, the family man? How do you turn that switch off from being a racer away from the track?

Generally speaking, Kyle Busch proves refreshing as a star racer and athlete with a genuine personality. (Photo: Joe Gibbs Racing)

Generally speaking, Kyle Busch proves refreshing as a star racer and athlete with a genuine personality. (Photo: Joe Gibbs Racing)

Busch : I have not always done things in the best of ways at times. So, you learn from those things over the years. You learn you aren’t going to make everyone happy. So, I just go out there and do what I think I need to do to be successful. And it’s worked well over the years.

I’ve been able to embrace and appreciate my fans even more over the years. There’s always going to be the doubters. But, I also have a lot of people who are my fans and appreciate everyone in Rowdy Nation who pull for me and anyone that comes out or watches our sport on TV, no matter who they pull for.

Tiongson : Your brother Kurt mentioned how you “went from a star to a superstar in this sport” after your 2015 win at Sonoma. What’s it like to hear his praises and strengthen your relationship with him through racing with him in NASCAR?

Busch : It’s obviously nice to hear. Over the last year or so, we’ve been traveling together a lot more and spending more time together with the schedules changing the way that they have. He’s accomplished a lot in the sport as well. And it’s pretty neat for my parents to have two sons who have had the success that we’ve had over the years.

Tiongson : Much like other famed brotherly rivalries in NASCAR, you’ve both had some amazing duels. There’s the ones at Bristol and Kentucky in 2019. With both of you in different points of your careers, do these moments become sentimental and special to you?

Busch : It’s probably something that we’ll think about and talk about years from now when we aren’t racing anymore. Certainly, I enjoy it when I can be the guy on the winning end, which I’ve been able to do a few times and Kurt ended up there at Kentucky a few years ago. It’s something we’ll probably talk about more down the road.

Tiongson : Your son Brexton is starting his racing career. He’s sporting a similar paint scheme and firesuit like your No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry. How special is it for you and your wife Samantha to be there and support him in his motorsports journey?

Busch : That’s been a little bit of a positive coming from the pandemic and the changes in schedules the last couple of seasons. It’s having the time to start getting Brexton into racing and being able to be there. Maybe not all of them, but most of the racing he’s doing.

Brexton’s favorite color is green. So we just sort of tossed that out there and lo and behold, some companies wanted to jump on board and sponsors him with SERVPRO and Far Out Toys. It’s certainly very, very special to have him show interest in racing and go out there and watch him learn and get better. We’ll see where it takes us.

Tiongson : During the pandemic, the Bundle of Joy Foundation has supported many different families. Given your personal experiences, how has it been for you and your family to give back to those in similar situations and offer your support?

Busch : We’ve obviously had a lot of ups and downs over the last few years. But we’ve also been pretty open about our struggles and also thankful to be able to have Brexton and what he brings to our lives.

I think the biggest thing is being able to help other couples who are going through some of the same things who might not have the financial means to do so. We are coming up on almost a million dollars raised, with 37 babies born and I think seven on the way now. So we are happy to be able to help other couples out and hopefully give them their own bundle of joy.

Tiongson : No matter if it’s fans or those who rooting for another driver, you continually deliver on the track. From your perspective, what do you feel motorsports has given back to you and your family that you’ll forever cherish?

Busch : I will probably reflect more on that when I’m done in my career, which is much further down the line. Certainly, it’s been great to accomplish what I have. And hopefully, we are getting back to our winning ways here a bit more, but that’s probably something I’ll look back on years from now more than I do now. I still have plenty of work to do.

Tiongson : While you’ve been in the Cup Series since 2005 and grown up, what advice would you give your younger self, say the one racing in the Las Vegas bullring, about the experiences you’ve had in this series?

On the whole, Kyle Busch's advice to his younger self is relatable to all of us. (Photo: Joe Gibbs Racing)

On the whole, Kyle Busch’s advice to his younger self is relatable to all of us. (Photo: Joe Gibbs Racing)

Busch : There’s a lot of things. I was always worried about not making it. So I always put way too much pressure on myself to run good, to win races and all that. And when that wouldn’t happen, I would be hard on myself.

I still do that sometimes. To me, this is my job on the line. So I’ve certainly not always done things the best way when I’m frustrated. But I’d tell myself, “If you’ve made it here, you’ve made it here for a reason. If you can compete with the best of them consistently and win a little bit and do the right things, you’re going to be here a long time.”

Tiongson : You’ve won the championship in 2015 and ‘19. Give fans three reasons why you and your No. 18 team are the ones to beat for this year’s championship.

On the whole, Kyle Busch has faith in his No. 18 team's ability to gel as this year progresses. (Photo: Joe Gibbs Racing)

On the whole, Kyle Busch has faith in his No. 18 team’s ability to gel as this year progresses. (Photo: Joe Gibbs Racing)

Busch : I’m not so sure I’m ready to convince anyone of that at this point in the season.  I will say that we’ve made a lot of progress as a team. And I feel good about our team gelling and getting better each week. But that’s going to take some time.

We went from probably a fifth-10th place car and we’ve been able to show some top-five speed the last couple of weeks. The next step is to get up there and lead some more laps and get ourselves in position to win more often. And we can get to that championship level.

We just need to leads some more laps, get some more stage points. We’ve come off the truck a lot closer the last several weeks. And that’s going to help us do that.

When you do all of those things, you have a shot to get stage points and wins and put yourself in position to get yourself to Phoenix and have a shot in the final race.

Editor’s Notes

Special thanks to Kyle Busch for taking the time for this latest “In the Hot Seat” interview series on The Podium Finish. Also, thanks to Bill Janitz and Joe Gibbs Racing for making this interview possible. You can keep track of Kyle Busch on his Facebook and Twitter accounts, his official website and here on TPF!

If you’d like to donate to the Bundle of Joy Foundation, visit their website at https://bundleofjoyfund.org/.

Lastly, this interview is dedicated to my longtime best friends Ashley Hobbs and Nena Glass, two ardent Kyle Busch fans.

Rob Tiongson

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes.

From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat.

Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Communications at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's just as happy to be a Texan.

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