Kyle Busch spoke to the media at Martinsville Speedway following the announcement of his deal to run Kimi Raikkonen in a limited schedule this year in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Q. How did the deal with Kyle Busch Motorsports and Kimi Raikkonen come together?
Kyle Busch: Agents... that's how it came about. I have yet to speak to Kimi myself. Apparently there's an interest in him that he wants to run in NASCAR. He's shopped it around to quite a few teams and apparently we won the war.
It's exciting for us at Kyle Busch Motorsports. Kimi, from what I understand, was real adamant about trying to work with me and our teams and being able to put a deal together to go out there and try to get him success in NASCAR. With our trucks, the way we've been running this year, he felt like that was a good place for him to come.
Q. Will this shine a spotlight on Kyle Busch Motorsports?
KB: That's not a reason that we do this stuff. We do this stuff because we enjoy racing - we love it and we want to do it. Certainly that is part of it and that would essentially happen, but that's not one of our first thoughts that we looked at. I think it does lend some worldwide exposure. I think with a guy being as talented and as good as he's been in the realms of motorsports that he's competed in - certainly I would like to expect that he runs well here in NASCAR as well. Maybe this could lend to a longer relationship than just a few races.
Q. Is Kimi Raikkonen bringing sponsorship?
KB: Essentially, yes. I don't know where the money is coming from - my contract is with Kimi himself. However, the funds - he's responsible. I do know that there's three sponsors involved. I'll wait for their press releases to see if they announce who they are. There is money backing him.
Q. How many races does he plan to run with Kyle Busch Motorsports?
KB: I would say we're talking three to five. Right now it's only Charlotte - we'll see how he feels about Charlotte. He did express interest in running up to three or maybe up to five. We'll just see how it plays out. Right now it's only one.
Q. Why was Charlotte chosen for his first race?
KB: It comes down to his schedule, as I said yesterday. It's just a matter of logistics for him to come over here. Obviously, he lives overseas and does most of his business overseas with the rally stuff. It's a big deal for him to be able to fit it in when he can. They picked Charlotte for whatever reason. They were adamant about running that race. I don't know if he feels that he wants a challenge right off the bat, but I think it will be good for him.
Q. Do you consider Charlotte a tough track to start in NASCAR?
KB: Definitely. With a Nationwide car or with a Cup car, yes - with a Truck, you're close to wide open around there. Throughout the run, you're going to have to work on some throttle modulation and some lines - bottom, top and stuff like that. It will be good for him to get his feet wet and I would say if he can run top 20, top 15 in his first Truck race, that will be a success. We'll try to help him through practice – as much as I can anyway.
Q. Will you have a testing plan set up for him?
KB: Not much testing, no. We're just going to Gresham [on Monday] - that's it right now.
Q. Do you feel that he has any idea what he is in store for in NASCAR?
KB: I don't know. You hear from race fans sometimes that they're like, 'Oh yeah, we can get out there and we can do it.' I have a little bit more belief in Kimi Raikkonen that he's got the talent to do it. I've seen him race Formula 1 - he was obviously a world champion over there. He's done real well in the rally stuff. I can't see why he wouldn't be successful in our equipment.
Q. Do you think his experience in rally cars will make his transition easier?
KB: I think it will help him because he's gone from something that's been the ultimate amount of downforce and grip to something that is essentially no downforce and no grip. You're in the air sometimes. I think that he's had the best of both worlds. NASCAR is the best of both worlds. We do have a lot of downforce, but yet we are still slipping and sliding all over the place. You've got to figure out how to handle all of that.
Q. How long did it take to get the deal put together?
KB: It came together relatively quick actually. Trying to think of when he first contacted me - probably March 15 or something like that. About 15 days.
Q. Will Kimi Raikkonen drive a second truck or the No. 18 truck?
KB: The first race will be a second truck - I'll be in the No. 18 NOS Energy Drink truck at Charlotte. Then he'll drive our second entry. We don't know what other places he's looking at yet so there could be an opportunity - obviously, not all races are sold with the No. 18 and I'm not driving every one of them. There is a chance he could be in the No. 18, yes.
Q. Kimi Raikkonen is sponsored by Red Bull. Are they linked to his move?
KB: Red Bull is not a name that has been mentioned.
Q. Would there have been any reason not to do the deal with Kimi Raikkonen?
KB: Essentially, all our partners had to sign off on it. We've gone to all our people - Dollar General, Flexico, Mars, NOS - we've asked them all to give us their input and what they thought about it. They're all fine with it. If any one of them had issues then we'd certainly look at not taking the opportunity and we would work through those.
Q. Is Foster Gillett is involved in this deal?
KB: There has not been one Foster Gillett mention in any of our talks. There is not one Foster Gillett mention in the contracts or nothing. We have no dealings with him.
Q. Do you have a second team put together for Kimi Raikkonen?
KB: Essentially the plan for right now is that the No. 18 team will run Kimi in the second truck. Then Rick Ren [general manager, Kyle Busch Motorsports] and I and some volunteer guys will handle my truck.