HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina (April 3, 2018) – While everyone throughout the NASCAR world knows that Kyle Busch hails from Las Vegas, his No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) will be enjoying a homecoming of its own this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.
Based approximately 35 miles down the road from the 1.5-mile Texas oval is Dallas-based Interstate Batteries, the official battery and founding sponsor of JGR.
Back in 1991, then-Washington Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs found himself in those very same Dallas headquarters, visiting with Interstate Batteries Chairman Norm Miller.
Gibbs was there to make his pitch to have Miller’s company sponsor the three-time Super Bowl-winning head coach’s first foray into what is now called the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. The only problem was that Gibbs had no race shop, no employees, not even a driver to drive his cars. What he was selling to Miller that day was nothing more than a dream.
During his entire business career, Miller was never shy about taking chances. And while Interstate Batteries had sponsored a few races with a little-known team with Stanley Smith as the driver, Miller and Interstate Batteries agreed to sponsor Gibbs’ team following that meeting, and JGR was formed. Fast forward to 2018 and the JGR organization that started from humble beginnings before the commitment of Interstate Batteries is widely recognized as one of the premiere teams in all of NASCAR.
Busch, the 2015 Cup Series champion, first drove the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota for JGR to victory lane at Texas in April 2013, giving the brand its first win at its home track. The win ended a streak of 19 Cup Series races in which Interstate had competed at Texas without a coveted victory. Busch followed it up with a win in the April 2016 Cup Series race at Texas, and will aim for a third Texas win during Sunday’s 500-mile race.
On top of his two Cup Series wins there, Busch is no stranger to victory lane at Texas in other NASCAR series. He reeled off an incredible string of five consecutive Xfinity Series wins there from April 2008 to April 2010, then scored three more wins in April 2013, November 2014, and April 2016. Add his three Camping World Truck Series wins in November 2009, 2010, and 2014 and Busch enters the upcoming Texas race weekend with a total of 13 NASCAR national series wins at the 1.5-mile oval.
As for 2018, Busch has come agonizingly close to a Cup Series win during the first six races of the Cup Series season on numerous occasions, already. He has notched four top-five finishes and five top-10s thus far, which includes three runner-up finishes. The strong start to the season has vaulted him into the points lead heading to Texas.
So as the Cup Series comes off its first off weekend of the season, it’s safe to say that Busch and the Interstate Batteries team are recharged and aiming to bring home their first win of the season, but also hoping to bring home a third win for hometown sponsor Interstate Batteries in the Lone Star State.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What are your thoughts heading into the Texas race next weekend?
“Texas is still a bit of an unknown for us since this is the third race on the new pavement. I know they’ve been working on the track, but you are still trying to put rubber down. With a newer surface, it’s hard to understand what you’re feeling with your car because you can think you’re tight, you’ve got all the grip in the world, you’re going around the corner and then, ‘Boom,’ it just busts loose right out from under you with no warning. That’s why the older racetracks, the more aged racetracks – the Atlantas, the Californias – you’re sliding the whole time, so you’re already against the slide. You don’t have maximum grip. You’re already playing with it and trying to get the most out of yourself and the car that you possibly can. At Texas, you’re not just locked down, you’re locked in solid, then it can jump out from under you in a hurry. We ran a bit better there last year than at some of the other recently repaved tracks. We’ve had good cars this year, so hoping we can qualify well and stay up front and get our Interstate Batteries Toyota back to victory lane there.”
How special has the partnership between JGR and Interstate Batteries been for you?
“It’s crazy, if you think about it. If it weren’t for Norm (Miller, Interstate Batteries Chairman), JGR wouldn’t even exist today. Personally, Norm and everyone at Interstate Batteries treats me and my family like we are a part of their family. We won the race at Daytona back in 2008 and that was the first time Interstate Batteries had been to victory lane in a long time, and we’ve been able to add more for them over the years. Winning at Texas was special in 2016, too. Any win is special. But, I’ll never forget how excited Norm was back in 2013 when we won the Cup race there even though 2016 was cool, too. Norm had been trying for so many years and he really soaked it up the entire night in 2013. He and Joe (Gibbs) came up to the Speedway Club and told some stories about how long they had been trying to win there. So I was very proud to be able to do that for Norm.”
What has Norm Miller meant to Joe Gibbs Racing over the years?
“Norm Miller (chairman of Interstate Batteries) and Joe Gibbs (team owner) are obviously both instrumental in Joe Gibbs Racing and what it’s become and where it started so, without Norm Miller and the Interstate Batteries folks back in the beginning, there would be no Joe Gibbs Racing. I think that was on the NASCAR side, as well as the NHRA side when they did some drag racing stuff back in the day, so Norm’s been a passionate guy for us to work with and be around for the last 27 years – for me, it’s been the last 11 years – and we’ve had a lot of fun together both on and off the racetrack.”
Does your mind ever take a mental break from racing, like during the recent off weekend? Do you get recharged in any way?
“Yeah, I think you’ve kind of got to. We were able to head to the Bahamas with Samantha and Brexton and friends and recharge and have a good time. You know, there are times when you run these seasons out for as long as they are, and it’s like, ‘Man, can it just get over, can we just go home?’ And finally you get home and you finally have a couple of weeks or a month or whatever it might be away from the car, then you’re kind of like, ‘Oh, I’m ready to go back, now,’ and you’re itching to get back in the racecar. As you get older with more years and things like that, they’re going to feel some of the same ways that we do and want to see a little bit more of a break or whatever. But we know the season is February to November, and that’s what we sign up for, and that’s what the challenge of our business is, to make sure that you can continue that longevity and make sure that you’re ready for 38 weekends.”
Notes of Interest:
- The O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 will mark Kyle Busch’s 469th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start and his 25th NASCAR Cup Series start at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.
- Busch has career totals of 43 wins, 28 poles, 165 top-five finishes, 246 top-10s and 14,614 laps led in 468 career Cup Series races. His most recent Cup Series win came in October at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. Busch’s most recent pole, the 28th of his career, came Feb. 25 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
- Busch has two wins, 11 top-five finishes and 12 top-10s and has led a total of 748 laps in 24 career Cup Series starts at Texas. Busch’s average Texas finish is 12.0.