It will be the 26th and final race of the NASCAR Cup Series regular season when Kyle Busch and the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota team for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) head to Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway for Saturday night’s Coke Zero Sugar 400.
Busch, currently 13th on the playoff grid, has already secured a spot in the 2022 playoffs that begin next weekend at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. He and his team look to put themselves in the best possible position in the 16-driver playoff field 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 the 2018 season, 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. Starting in 1998, the event was moved to the first Saturday night in July after lights were added to 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. Saturday night’s race marks Daytona’s third regular-season finale.
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 leverages its NASCAR program, reminding consumers to have their batteries checked during the hot summer months at a local Interstate Batteries 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 the Florida heat. He has five top-five finishes in his 18 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 paint scheme to victory lane Saturday night. With one final primer before the 2022 Cup Series playoffs begin, Busch and his Interstate Batteries team will not only look to beat the Florida heat, but finally recharge their batteries and get back to his favorite place – victory lane.
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.”
Do you feel the Daytona race runs differently than it used to because it’s now a cutoff race for the playoffs, or is it the same as other Daytona races?
“No, it’s still about going 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 speedway races, so that just heightens the anxiety level for everybody. We are going to try to be there, too, so would love to get our Interstate Batteries Camry to victory lane this year.”
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.”
Since the debut of the NextGen car at this year’s Daytona 500, what has changed since February, if anything, when it comes to the car as you head back there this weekend?
“I don’t really anticipate it being much different. I feel that everyone has gotten used to these cars. We did have a lot of tire blowouts early in the year because I think a lot of teams were really aggressive on setups with their left-rear camber and things like that. That has seemed to have gone away, so that’s been good. I think that Daytona race earlier this year, we had a decent car and we had a legitimate shot to race for the win and it was just circumstances at these places, so you just have to be in the running when it comes down to the last few laps.”
When you look at guys who have won superspeedway races the last few years, it seems there are those who win more often than not. Why are they winning more at the two superspeedways?
“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.”