It's Easy Being Green
HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina (March 26, 2019) – “Bein’ Green” (also known as “It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green”) was a song originally performed by Jim Henson as Kermit the Frog on both Sesame Street and The Muppet Show. It was later covered by Frank Sinatra and other performers. In the Muppet version, Kermit begins by saying he feels like green “blends in with so many ordinary things” and wishing to be some other color. But by the end of the song, Kermit says that the color green isn’t so bad and decides to embrace it.
For Kyle Busch and his green-and-white-striped No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), it’s been very easy to be green of late. In fact, two weekends ago, Busch’s Interstate Batteries green looked awfully good throughout the 200-lap race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, on his way to a dominating win that also happened to be his 52nd career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory and his 200th overall NASCAR national series win.
As Busch and the Cup Series head to Texas Motor Speedway for Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500, just 35 miles from Interstate’s Dallas-based headquarters, his green Interstate Batteries scheme happens to be that of the defending winner of the event as he drove to his third career Texas Cup Series victory last April.
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 the 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 2019 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 with his third win coming in the aforementioned race last April, he’ll now aim for his fourth 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 NASCSAR 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 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series wins in November 2009, 2010, and 2014 and Busch hits town this weekend with 14 NASCAR national series wins at the 1.5-mile oval and is poised for more as he is entered in all three national series races during the weekend.
Busch will look to continue his and the No. 18 team’s impressive start to the season as he is the only driver to notch top-10 finishes in all six races contested thus far. In addition to the top-10 streak, Busch currently has two wins, five top finishes and sits atop the point standings as the series heads to Interstate Batteries’ backyard.
So as the hot start to the season has continued, Busch and the Interstate Batteries team are charging toward yet another win in the Lone Star State as Busch has proven that the colors of the official battery and founding sponsor of JGR have made it very easy to be green.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What are your thoughts heading into Texas this weekend?
“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 again in 2016 and last year were special, 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. It’s also been nice to add another win there since, and then win 200 in their colors.”
Are you expecting teams to be more competitive at Texas, and not just Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske that have led the way so far this season?
“I think everybody is doing a fantastic job. I don’t know that anybody needs to get any better. The fields are pretty competitive each and every week. You never know who’s going to qualify where. You’ve got the RCR guys up front and in the race things kind of happen that way, too, so I’m OK (laughs). I would expect everybody to continue to put improvements in their car and get better. It’s just the amount, the size, of the improvements and what they gain out of what they’re able to change and how much improvement they get, and whether or not you kind of jump ahead or whether you just get back equal, and then the guys who are fast get another upgrade and then they’re back ahead a little bit. You play this see-saw moment all life long in this sport. We even see it on the engine side, as well. They’re like, ‘Oh man, we made some gains on them and then they go and stretch it back out,’ and you’re like, ‘Oh, that just kind of defeats everything that you just worked for,’ but you’ve got to keep working.”
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.”
Notes of Interest:
- The O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 will mark Kyle Busch’s 505th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start and his 27th NASCAR Cup Series start at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth..
- Busch has career totals of 53 wins, 31 poles, 188 top-five finishes, 275 top-10s and 16,211 laps led in 503 career Cup Series races. His most recent Cup Series win came two races ago at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, his second consecutive Cup Series victory. Busch’s most recent pole, the 30th of his career, came in October at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
- Busch has three wins, 12 top-five finishes and 13 top-10s and has led a total of 864 laps in 26 career Cup Series starts at Texas. Busch’s average Texas finish is 11.8.
- 53 Career Cup Series Wins: With his Cup Series win at Auto Club two weekends ago, the 53rd points-paying win of his career, Busch sits 11th all-time in Cup Series wins and is one win away from tying NASCAR Hall of Famer Lee Petty’s 54 wins in NASCAR’s top series. With his 40th Cup Series victory at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway in August 2017, Busch became the fourth-youngest driver to reach 40 Cup Series wins at 32 years, 109 days, behind only Richard Petty, Jeff Gordon and Herb Thomas.
- 15 and 5 Club: Busch’s wins at ISM Raceway near Phoenix and Auto Club the earlier this season means he has won at least one Cup Series race for 15 consecutive seasons. The wins also mean Busch has won back-to-back races for the fifth consecutive season.
- Six-for-Six: Busch has notched six top-10 finishes in the six races contested so far this season in NASCAR’s top series. Five of those were top-fives, the lone “blemish” being his sixth-place finish the second week of the season at Atlanta Motor Speedway.