The New Green Machine

HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina (Feb. 26, 2020) – When Kyle Busch takes to the track at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California this weekend, Interstate Batteries will debut a sharp new “green machine’ paint scheme as the founding sponsor of Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) starts its 29th season riding along with one of the top teams in NASCAR.

While there are many paint schemes created throughout the years, rarely does a driver and the chairman of a sponsor’s company collaborate on a scheme, and even more rare is a 34-year-old collaborating with someone from the Greatest Generation. However, that is exactly what happened with the new Interstate Batteries scheme debuting this weekend in the NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400.

Starting late last season, Interstate Batteries chairman Norm Miller teamed up with Busch on the new design. The end result is a powerful new green scheme that Busch will run this weekend in Southern California and during the remaining Interstate-sponsored races in 2020.

Busch, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota for JGR, would like nothing more than to repeat his Auto Club 400 victory from last March, which happened to be his 200th career victory in NASCAR’s top three series and 54th in the Cup Series. He’s since lifted those totals to 209 overall and 57 in the Cup Series.

This weekend, Busch and his Interstate Batteries team will be shooting for his fifth career Cup Series win at the track located approximately 50 miles east of Los Angeles.

In addition to his four Cup Series wins, Busch’s overall stats are quite strong at Fontana. He is near the top of several categories there behind only seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson. Busch’s average finish of 9.3 is second to Johnson’s 7.5. Busch’s 807 laps led ranks second to Johnson’s 880. Busch’s 3,779 laps spent running in the top-15 at Fontana is also second only to Johnson’s 4,156. Busch’s 1,005 quality passes at Fontana tops Johnson’s 972.

Before last year’s milestone victory, Busch and Interstate Batteries also brought home back-to-back wins at Fontana in 2013 and 2014 – both in dramatic fashion. He is looking to add another win to his impressive record at the track, having scored his maiden victory there in September 2005 and rattling off 10 top-five finishes and 15 top-10s during his career. The two-time and defending Cup Series champion also has six NASCAR Xfinity Series wins at Fontana – October 2008 and 2010, February 2009 and 2010, March 2011 and 2013 – which included a weekend Cup-Xfinity sweep in 2013.

So as Busch and the No. 18 Toyota team head back to Fontana, they will look to bring home back-to-back Cup Series wins at Fontana as they hope the new-look “green machine” can pull off another victory in Southern California’s Inland Empire. If they can make it to victory lane, both Busch and Miller know they had a hand in how the victory lane photos turn out. 

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

You have a new scheme this weekend with your longtime friends and partners at Interstate Batteries. How did that new scheme come about? Talk about your relationship with Interstate Batteries?

“Interstate Batteries is not only important to me, but really everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing. Norm (Miller, Chairman) was very involved in how the scheme was developed. It was really amazing to work with Norm on this design. Both of us had a big part in how it turned out and we both think it looks great. I think it’s something Norm and I both are excited to run and would like to get it to victory lane sooner rather than later. I was proud to get those guys the win last year, being my 200th, and I know those guys were excited. JGR wouldn’t be what it is today without Norm and everyone at Interstate Batteries believing that Joe could build a team. And look at us today – we still appreciate their support as there are not many sponsors that have been around with the same team like they have. They’re great sponsors and also great friends. We’ll do our best to get another win at Fontana for them this weekend. We would love to get the new scheme to victory lane.”

With so many crew chiefs coming and going these days, what does it say about you having Adam Stevens working with you this long, especially going in as the defending champion? 

“It’s weird because you look at it and him and I haven’t really been together all that long, I think five seasons, and I think we’re the second-longest pair besides (Kevin) Harvick and (Rodney) Childers. You’re used to talking about Chad (Knaus) and Jimmie (Johnson) being together for 15, 16 years, whatever it was, and Paul (Wolfe) and Brad (Keselowski) were obviously together a very long time. So it’s quite interesting now how the dynamic of crew chiefs has kind of changed, switching teams around and such like that. But I’m glad I’ve kind of found that connection with Adam, and the relationship that he and I have developed and the success that we’ve had over the last few years has been really, really great. And he and I both having a little bit of a fiery drive together, we kind of elevate one anotherto be able to perform, and he’s very good at responding to my criticisms as well as me to his. So it works well.”

What’s next after your 200-win achievement one year ago?

“I don’t know – 250, I guess – the race to 250. Certainly as I get older here, it’s going to start slowing down, and with the restrictions that I’m under, it already has slowed down. I would have been to 200 a hell of a long time ago if I could have run as many races as I wanted to in Truck and Xfinity and what-not. It’s about being able to win on Sundays and I feel like I’ve won a bunch of races on Sundays – I’ve got 56 of them and the race there is going to be the race to 100 on that side. I think that’s kind of what the next goal will be – to try to get 100 Cup wins.” 

How has Auto Club Speedway changed over the last several years, going from a relatively new track to a place that has a lot more character and racing grooves?

“That place is tough. It’s really a hard racetrack to get ahold of, now, especially when it’s hot and the sun is out. There are two completely different types of racing when you run the top versus the bottom groove. You can run from the top to the bottom but, when you run the bottom, you really feel like you’re puttering around the racetrack. You feel like you aren’t making up any time on the bottom. But when you are running the top groove, you feel like you’re getting the job done. The guys who run the bottom have a little bit more patience and handle it better than the guys who are on the gas on top.”

What do you remember about that night in 2005 when you captured your first Cup Series win at Fontana?

“We ran in the top-five all day long but we really didn’t think we had a winning car. When we got the lead a few times throughout the race, we just pulled away and led by quite a bit. It was really cool to have a really dominant racecar. I remember having to drive the car really loose. That was the loosest I think I’ve ever driven a racecar that was still moving forward. It was crazy because I came over the radio and told the guys I couldn’t believe how loose I have to drive the car. But it was fast. All of my wins there have been a little different, but memorable at the same time.”

Notes of Interest:

  • The Auto Club 400 will mark Kyle Busch’s 537th career NASCAR Cup Series start and his 22nd NASCAR Cup Series start at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.
  • Busch has career totals of 56 wins, 32 poles, 200 top-five finishes, 296 top-10s and 17,446 laps led in 536 career Cup Series racesHis most recent Cup Series win came in November at Homestead-Miami Speedway, resulting in his second Cup Series championship. Busch’s most recent pole, the 32nd of his career, came in November at Phoenix Raceway.
  • Busch has four wins, 10 top-five finishes and 15 top-10s and has led a total of 807 laps in 21 career Cup Series starts at Fontana. Busch’s average Fontana finish is 10.0.