While Kyle Busch hails from Las Vegas, Sunday’s AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 500 NASCAR Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth is a home game of sorts for the driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR). That’s because the headquarters for Interstate Batteries, which returns as primary sponsor on the No. 18 Toyota for the final time in 2022, is located just 35 miles from the 1.5-mile Texas oval as the company is celebrating their 70th Anniversary year.
Busch, the two-time 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 Texas wins in Interstate Batteries colors in April 2016 and 2018. He added a fourth Cup Series win there in November 2020.
On top of his four Cup Series wins at Texas, Busch has been a frequent visitor to victory lane there in other NASCAR series. He reeled off a string of five consecutive NASCAR Xfinity Series wins there from April 2008 to April 2010, then scored five more wins in April 2013, November 2014, and April 2016, 2019, and 2021. Add his five NASCAR Camping World Truck Series wins in November 2009, 2010, 2014, 2019 and 2020, and Busch hits town this weekend with 19 NASCAR national series wins in Interstate Batteries’ backyard.
This weekend’s race at Texas marks the opening of the Round of 12 of the 2022 Cup Series playoffs. Unfortunately for Busch, who made the 16-driver elimination-style playoff field for the ninth year in a row, his strong runs Sept. 4 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway and last Saturday night at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway were thwarted by engine issues that led to his early exit from this year’s championship chase. It marks the first time he did not advance beyond the Round of 16 since the current playoff format was instituted in 2014.
With Interstate Batteries on Busch’s No. 18 for the final time this season, and as fall is in full swing with winter quickly approaching, Busch is encouraging race fans to stop by a local Interstate dealer to get their vehicle batteries checked, stressing that the cold weather of winter can adversely affect a car’s battery.
Seven races remain in the 2022 season, and the task at hand during this weekend’s “home game” for Busch and the Interstate Batteries team is their charge toward yet another win in the Lone Star State sporting the Interstate Batteries scheme for the final time in 2022.
What are some of your best memories with Interstate Batteries over the past 15 years?
“Norm (Miller, Chairman) 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 for the second time in 2016 was 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 other wins there since, and then win No. 200 in their colors a few years back.”
What are you expecting at Texas after what you learned in the All-Star Race there earlier this year?
“I don’t know, we obviously were very fast there in the All-Star Race until we had the tire issue. We’d like to think we can go out there and we’re fast and we have good strong racecars. As far as the track and the resin, I’m hoping we can dabble in it a little longer the outside way around, but it does seem to have grip and you can make some runs off the top of the corners and try to make some moves down the straightaway and such. Same old Texas, it looked to me there in the spring, from that standpoint.”
Looking ahead to Texas, did you learn anything from Kansas Speedway that will transfer over to Texas, especially when it comes to restarts?
“Restarts in (turns) one and two are certainly treacherous, just the way the banking is not quite there to hold you like it used to be. The track ends are very different in three and four, different than one and two. We’ve seen some late-race restarts and some problems for some guys in that race a couple of times and, for us, it’s no different. We learned some things I think at Kansas that helped our car and hopefully we can transfer some of that knowledge to Texas, and Homestead as well, with our Interstate Batteries Camry this weekend.”
Is there anything about Texas that particularly suits your style, and that of the other JGR drivers, 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. It’s just been a really good place for me. Hoping we can get into victory lane there this weekend with our Interstate Batteries Camry.”