Daytona

Playoff Primer

HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina (Aug. 24, 2021) – As the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway for Saturday night’s Coke Zero Sugar 400, the race marks the 26th and final race of the regular season for NASCAR’s top series.

Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), has already secured his spot in the 2021 playoffs, currently sitting third in the driver standings with an eye on putting himself in the best possible position on the 16-driver playoff grid with a strong performance in Saturday night’s playoff primer at Daytona.

From the time the 2.5-mile Daytona oval opened in 1959 through 2018, the NASCAR Cup Series has competed on its high banks every Fourth of July weekend. From 1959 to 1997, the series competed on the morning of July 4, no matter what day of the week the holiday fell on. Starting in 1998, the event was moved to the first Saturday night in July after lights made their debut at the World Center of Racing that season. But when NASCAR’s July 4 Cup Series race moved to Indianapolis for a one-time run in 2020, Daytona moved its summer oval race to the regular-season finale in late August, and this year’s regular-season finale returns to Daytona for the second time this weekend.

Whether this race is in July or August, Busch – the two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion – knows he will not only need to beat his fellow competitors, but also the Florida summer heat at Daytona. This part of the season is annually the hottest for Cup Series competitors, with select race venues seeing record temperatures this year, and also for those who are heading out on their late-summer road trips. Whether on the highway or the racetrack, the summer months can be taxing on both man and machine. Caring for the latter is one of the ways JGR founding partner Interstate Batteries – with whom JGR is celebrating its 30th anniversary together – leverages its NASCAR program, reminding consumers to have their batteries checked during the hot summer months at a local dealer prior to their summer road trips.

Busch is certainly no stranger to victory lane in the Coke Zero Sugar 400, having won the July 2008 race behind the wheel of – yes – the Interstate Batteries Toyota. The Las Vegas native has fared much better in his summer races at Daytona during his career, when the track is much more slick thanks to Florida’s summer heat. He has five top-five finishes in his 16 summertime starts at the track.

With all of that on his side, Busch hopes to have a strong car and track position in pack-style racing, where a driver not only has to be good, but must have good fortune to go along with it. He would like nothing more than to head into the playoffs in the best way possible – by bringing the Interstate Batteries green lightning paint scheme to victory lane Saturday night. With one final primer before the 2021 Cup Series playoffs begin, Busch and his Interstate Batteries team will not only look to beat the Florida heat, but finally recharge the batteries and get back to his favorite place – victory lane.

KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing: 

 Is Daytona still a special racetrack for you?

“Daytona is cool – a lot more in February than in the summer just because it is the Daytona 500 versus the August race. For us, you still want to win everywhere you go, every single week. To win at Daytona is always cool. It’s definitely special. It’s the birthplace of NASCAR – the superspeedway aspect of it. I definitely love going there. It’s hot, it’s slick, and you can make the most out of yourself as a driver and what you’ve got in the car. We won there in 2008 and I’m hoping we can get a win with our Interstate Batteries Camry this weekend. Interstate Batteries has quite the legacy with JGR with 30 years together and counting. I’m always proud to represent those guys, so we hope to get a win for Norm (Miller, Interstate Chairman).”

Are there still things you and your team need to work on heading into the playoffs?

“There are always things you have to work on heading into the playoffs or heading into any race. With the way the Hendrick cars are, obviously the dominant force that’s been talked about over the year – we’ve had that, we had that in ’16, ’17, ’18, whatever it was where the Toyotas were the fast guys with the 78 or the 18 back then. We feel as though we’re working on things to catch back up and get where we need to be in order to be true contenders.”

Do you feel the Daytona cutoff race runs differently, or is it the same as other Daytona races?

“No, it’s going to all out for anybody who’s top-30 in points. Anybody who’s top-30 in points can win that race. We’ve seen Front Row Motorsports win. We’ve seen Spire win. We’ve seen teams that don’t normally win races be able to score victories in the restrictor-plate races, so that just leads to the anxiety level of everybody. We are going to try to be there, too, so would love to get our Interstate Batteries Camry to victory lane this year. It would be a great way to celebrate the 30th anniversary of JGR and Interstate’s relationship.”

What do you do to prep for the night race at Daytona? 

“It’s going to be a hot one. Right now, it’s all about getting your fluids back in you throughout the entire week. You’re not going to get them all back in one or two nights. It’s going to take the entirety of a week. You’ll start over again after that race. It’s Daytona. A lot of different planning goes into that.”

When you look at guys who have won superspeedway races in the last several years, it seems there are those who win more often than not. Why do you think that's the case?

“You’ve got to be good, but there’s still a lot of luck involved. You’ve got to be out front. When your cars are fast, you need to do a good job, you know how to lead it, get yourself through traffic, you’ll be out front a lot of the time. So hard to hold those fast cars back, if you will. They do a good job of being able to predict the lines and how they build the inertia and everything behind them.”

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