Interstate Batteries – the founding sponsor of Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) – has been in a celebratory mood all season during the company’s impressive 30-year partnership with JGR. And nothing would be more perfect for the Dallas-based company than to cap off the 30-year celebration in victory lane after Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500, just up the road from the company’s headquarters, at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.
Likewise, it’s no surprise that Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota for JGR, would like nothing more than to bring home his fifth Texas Cup Series win this weekend, not only for another chance to celebrate with his longtime partner, but to automatically lock himself into the Championship 4 Nov. 7 at Phoenix Raceway. Needless to say, there’s a lot on the line as Busch and his fellow Cup Series competitors head to the 1.5-mile Texas oval.
Sunday’s race at Texas serves as the first race of the Round of 8 of this year’s Cup Series playoffs. Busch advanced with his fourth-place run in the Round of 12 finale last Sunday on the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Roval. The two-time Cup Series champion is the defending Texas race winner.
Busch brings plenty of optimism, along with 23 important playoff points, to the Round of 8. With the unknowns of Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway and the Charlotte Roval now in the rearview mirror, Busch can focus on the next three tracks ahead of him in the Round of 8 – Texas, Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, and Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. Busch has a combined eight wins at those three tracks, including victories at both Texas and Kansas within the last calendar year.
With Interstate Batteries finishing off its six primary sponsorships of Busch’s No. 18 Toyota in 2021, JGR’s founding partner hopes to put an exclamation mark on an important milestone as the team celebrates its 30th anniversary of Interstate Batteries being along for the ride every step of the way. Busch has brought home nine victories sporting the colors of Interstate Batteries. Add Bobby Labonte’s 21 wins and Dale Jarrett’s two, and Interstate has made a combined 32 visits to victory lane in the Cup Series over the years. Labonte scored his last win for Interstate Batteries at the 2003 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and five years later it was Busch who brought Interstate back to victory lane during his first season at JGR, when he bested Carl Edwards to win the July 2008 race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
As fall is in full swing and winter is quickly approaching, Busch is encouraging race fans to stop by a local Interstate dealer to get their vehicle batteries checked, as cold weather of winter can adversely affect a car’s battery.
So as NASCAR’s top series heads to Texas for the start of the Round of 8 on Sunday, Busch and the Interstate Batteries team are charging toward back-to-back fall wins in the Lone Star State. As Busch sports the colors of the official battery and founding sponsor of JGR for the final time this season, he hopes there’s one more celebration for its 30th anniversary season, back in a familiar spot – Texas victory lane.
|KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:|
| Given your success at Texas, including being the defending fall winner, is this an ideal track for you to get off to a good start and gain momentum in the round? “For sure. Both the first two tracks to start the Round of 8 are places we’ve won at within the last calendar year, so I look forward to getting to Texas and starting the next round. All the tracks are good places for us, so hoping we can get some solid finishes and maybe even a win, hopefully the sooner the better, and can get us to the Championship 4 at Phoenix with a win in our Interstate Batteries Camry.” |
You are the defending fall race winner at Texas. Does that mean something as you head there this weekend? “Yes and no. You look at last year, we did what we needed to do to save fuel and win the race, so not sure it really translates from that one race. But, we’ve won at Texas four times and feel like it’s a really good place for us. The biggest part of a lot of Texas races is having Interstate Batteries on board for a least one race a year there, and we’ve gotten them a few wins at their home track over the years. Would be a really big deal to get them a win as we celebrate 30 years with them and JGR, and then also advance us to Phoenix, as well.”
Is there anything about Texas that particularly suits your style (or JGR), outside of being a 1.5-mile layout given your dominance there in all three NASCAR national series divisions? “It’s always been a really good place for me, whether that was before the repave or after the repave. A lot of credit goes to Joe Gibbs Racing and the cars they bring there for me. We’ve had a lot of success at Texas over the years, whether that is in the Xfinity Series, winning five in a row as we did there, winning in the Trucks, and now we have four Cup wins there, too, after the win last fall. It’s just been a really good place for me, and our team has been better with the 550 (horsepower) package this year, and hoping we can get into victory lane there this weekend with our Interstate Batteries Camry and punch our ticket to Phoenix early.”
How do you think the round lays out for you, given your success at all three tracks – four wins at Texas and two each at Kansas and Martinsville, along with a lot of top-five efforts?“This round lays out very well for us. We have three tracks where we have had a lot of success over the years. Like I said earlier, we won at both Texas and Kansas within the last year, so I feel like that’s a good omen for us. The mile-and-a-half program has been really strong for us. We did not run so well at Texas in the All-Star Race, but that was different, just everything with the package tweaks they had for that race. We should have a pretty good starting spot for us and we need to stay up front and hopefully keep our track position. Looking forward to this weekend.”