Interstate Batteries And Joe Gibbs Racing Celebrate 25 Years At Darlington

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This past weekend at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series celebrated another first-time winner as 24-year old Kyle Larson brought home his maiden Sprint Cup victory.

Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), remembers what it was like to be a first-time winner himself. In fact, the defending Sprint Cup Series champion and winner of 38 career races at NASCAR’s top level was the first driver to Larson’s driver-side window to shake his hand in victory lane at Michigan. Busch knows how difficult wins are to come by, and it certainly brought back memories of his own first win at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California back in 2005.

So as the Sprint Cup series heads to its second annual “Throwback Weekend” at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, Busch and Interstate Batteries will be honoring a first-time victory of their own as JGR and Interstate Batteries celebrate their 25th year together in 2016. The paint scheme Busch will race is a replica of the original design Dale Jarrett raced to victory in the 1993 Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway – the first-ever Sprint Cup win for JGR and for Interstate Batteries.

In addition to appearing on the No. 18 entry for Jarrett’s Daytona 500 victory, the Interstate Batteries scheme was run for the first two years of JGR’s foray into NASCAR’s top series during the 1992 and 1993 seasons.

The story of Jarrett’s historic victory in the 35th Daytona 500 has been told many times throughout the last 24 years. That day – Feb. 14, 1993 – Dale Earnhardt led 107 of 200 laps, but he was passed by Jarrett’s No. 18 Interstate Batteries car on the last lap while Jarrett’s father, Ned, excitedly called the action during the live television broadcast. The “Dale and Dale Show,” as referred to by Ned Jarrett on the telecast, is still considered by many to be one of the best races in NASCAR history. Ironically, as part of the throwback theme at Darlington this weekend, Dale and Ned Jarrett will join legendary play-by-play voice Ken Squier in the NBC broadcast booth to call a portion of Sunday night’s Bojangles’ Southern 500.

Perhaps lesser known, and somewhat humorous, is the mass confusion that took place following the checkered flag of that 1993 Daytona 500. JGR had only competed in NASCAR for one year and had yet to find victory lane, while Jarrett had scored only one previous victory in his career – the August 1991 race at Michigan.

So after Jarrett took the checkered flag at Daytona, a large yet slightly unorganized celebration took place.

 

“We were so naive, we didn’t know what to do after the race, nor did Joe (Gibbs),” said Norm Miller, chairman of Interstate Batteries. “I think we b

arely remembered to get photos taken in victory lane. It was only our second Daytona 500 and we won the thing. It was amazing.”

 

Gibbs, who 18 months earlier had sold Miller on sponsoring his team despite not having a race shop, a driver or any racing experience, couldn’t believe his team had won the biggest NASCAR event of the season.

 

“When we crossed the finish line, reality kind of set in,” Gibbs said. “Norm was obviously excited. We were all very emotional. Pat (Gibbs, wife) was there. She was a crying. I remember when we were heading for the winner’s circle, J.D. (Gibbs, son), Coy (Gibbs, son) and Todd (Meredith, crew member, former vice president of operations) were all kind of wrestling in the infield. It was just a great thrill for us.”

 

Jarrett, who would go on to win two more Daytona 500s, the 1999 NASCAR Cup Series championship and 32 races in NASCAR’s top division, was in the middle of the chaotic victory lane.

 

“I would say it was one of the more interesting victory lane celebrations,” Jarrett said. “Even though I had won at Michigan in the Cup Series, this (Daytona 500) was the biggest race and we were all kind of looking around going, ‘Did this really happen? What do we do now?’ I think we were all kind of looking for some help. I remember looking at Joe and his family, and Norm was there, and we were all kind of looking at each other wondering what we were supposed to be doing. There was just a lot of laughing and hugging and even a few tears, I think.”

 

While this weekend’s scheme pays homage to JGR’s 1993 Daytona 500 win, there were also memories made in the years that followed for JGR and its No. 18 car at the tricky 1.33-mile egg-shaped Darlington oval. Former JGR driver and 2000 Sprint Cup champion Bobby Labonte brought home JGR’s first Southern 500 win back in 2000, the same year he brought JGR and Interstate Batteries its first Sprint Cup title.

 

Busch, the current driver of the Interstate Batteries Toyota, has also conquered Darlington with the No. 18 car, as well, having brought home a big win at “The Track Too Tough To Tame” in May 2008. In fact, his first victory at Darlington earned him the distinction of being the youngest Sprint Cup winner – at 23 years of age – in the storied history of Darlington. Busch also has one Xfinity Series win at Darlington, scoring that one in May 2011.

 

So, as Busch returns to “The Lady in Black” to compete in the traditional Southern 500 on Labor Day, he’ll hope turning back the clock will be just what he and the Interstate Batteries team need in order to rekindle the magic of not only the 1993 Daytona 500 win, but his first Southern 500 win from 2008. Besides, there’s nothing like reaching victory lane for the first time.

KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing: 
What kind of memories of the Interstate Batteries throwback car do you have, and what are your feelings on racing the scheme this weekend?

 

“I remember watching the Interstate Batteries car as a kid growing up. Dale Jarrett and Bobby Labonte made that car famous, so to be able to bring back the scheme that Dale drove to the win the 1993 Daytona 500 is a tremendous honor. It’s a lot of fun what the whole sport is doing with the throwback weekend at Darlington, and I think our fans are really enjoying it, too. We’ve always run well at Darlington, and I would like nothing more than to put that Interstate Batteries scheme back into victory lane. I’m sure it would put a smile on everyone’s face, especially Norm (Chairman, Interstate Batteries), Joe (Gibbs), Dale (Jarrett), and everyone involved in those years when they were getting Joe Gibbs Racing off the ground.”

 

What makes Joe Gibbs Racing so strong at Darlington?

 

“I like going to Darlington – it’s a fun place although it’s bit me a lot of times. I should have won probably twice as many races as I’ve won there, which is frustrating. I was glad to win there in 2008 and get my Southern 500 win – that was pretty cool. Why we’re good there? I don’t know, but it’s a place that a lot of driver comes into play and I feel like all the JGR drivers obviously are really, really good. Of course, our equipment is good, too, and we can run fast there – run well there – and, if you take care of your tires, you might win.”

 

What do drivers mean when they say you have to “race the track” at Darlington?

 

“It’s tough to pass there, for sure. It’s so difficult. So you run your laps until you get to a pit stop and try to get your guys to have a good stop for you so you can jump a couple of guys. Pit stops become really important there, as is track position and trying to stay up front.”

 

What makes Darlington a track that is too tough to tame?

 

“It’s a very narrow and challenging racetrack, especially for the speeds that we carry around there, now. We’re looking forward to the challenge with our throwback Interstate Batteries Camry this weekend. You’ve really got to be able to get as close as you can to the wall in order to carry your momentum through the corners because you’ve got to make the straightaways as long as you can. The track is very narrow on entries and exits, so you’re always trying to round the place as much as you can. It’s very one-groovish. You can’t really run side-by-side there. Any time you get alongside somebody, you basically have to let them go. It’s a very big give-and-take-type track. It’s a lot harder to pass now, with the fresh asphalt, than it used to be. It’s really aero-sensitive now, to where it used to be more about mechanical grip and getting your car to handle well and handle over the bumps well and keep the tires on it. Now you’re restricted off the car in front of you and are trying to find some air, basically.”

 

Can you describe the “Darlington Stripe” and what it’s like to get one?

 

“A Darlington Stripe is pretty easy to receive. Running at Darlington is so tough and we are carrying so much speed there nowadays that you have to run right up there against the wall in order to get your car pointed correctly for the next corner, the next apex you have to make. So, running next to the wall in (turn) one and (turn) two and turning down coming off of two and carrying big momentum and big speed down the backstretch in order to set yourself up for turn three is important. Running high in three and four all the way through the corner, trying to keep the momentum going, because it’s such a tighter corner that the radius difference between each end of the track, you try to spread that radius as wide as you can and that’s right up against the wall. So, at any moment that car can slip and, during a run when the tires fall off, you have to be aware of one to two seconds of tire fall-off and your car is slowing down and at any moment you might slip a little bit and tag that wall. It can be very easy to do.”

Interstate Batteries Racing

Round 25 of 36 – Bojangles’ Southern 500 – Darlington

Car No.: 18 – Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry

 

Teammates:  Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Sport ClipsToyota Camry; Carl Edwards – No. 19 Arris Toyota Camry; Matt Kenseth – No. 20 Tide PODS Toyota Camry.

 

At-Track PR Contact: Bill Janitz, True Speed Communication (704-875-3388 ext. 803 or Bill.Janitz@TrueSpeedCommunication.com).

Primary Team Members:

Driver: Kyle Busch

Hometown: Las Vegas

 

Crew Chief: Adam Stevens

Hometown: Portsmouth, Ohio

 

Car Chief: Nate Bellows

Hometown: Fairfax, Vermont

 

Team Engineer: Ben Beshore

Hometown: Hometown York, Pennsylvania

 

Engine Specialist: Mike Johnson

Hometown: Bozeman, Montana

 

Spotter: Tony Hirschman

Hometown: Northampton, Pennsylvania

Over-The-Wall Crew Members:

Gas Man: Tom Lampe

Hometown: Beatrice, Nebraska

 

Front Tire Changer: Josh Leslie

Hometown: Mount Clemens, Michigan

 

Jackman: TJ Ford

Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina

 

Front Tire Carrier: Brad Donaghy

Hometown: Orange County, Virginia

 

Rear Tire Carrier: Kenny Barber

Hometown: Hoosick Falls, New York

 

Rear Tire Changer: Jake Seminara

Hometown: Steubenville, Ohio

 

Pit Support: Marcus Bonicelli

Hometown: Colorado Springs, Colorado

 

Pit Support: Jeff Koons

Hometown: Greenfield, Indiana

Road Crew Members:

Truck Drivers: Brendan Greene and Jamie Price

Hometowns: Midland, North Carolina, and Choteau, Montana, respectively

 

Tire Specialist: Gregory Katzke

Hometown: Wausau, Wisconsin

 

Interior Mechanic: Wesley Lape

Hometown: Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania

 

Team Engineer: Gene Watchtel

Hometown: Clearwater, Florida

 

Ride and Handling Engineer: Chris Chase

Hometown: Nichols, New York

 

Rear End Mechanic: Chris Jones

Hometown: Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia

 

Mechanic: Todd Foster

Hometown: Birmingham, Alabama

 

Front End Mechanic: Brandon Griffeth

Hometown: Pittsfield, Illinois

Notes of Interest:
  • The Bojangles’ Southern 500 will mark Kyle Busch’s 415th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start and his 12th Sprint Cup start at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.
  • Busch has career totals of 38 wins, 19 poles, 141 top-fives, 209 top-10s and 11,964 laps led in 414 career Sprint Cup races. His most recent Sprint Cup win came five races ago at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, when he brought home his second consecutive win at the historic 2.5-mile oval. Busch’s win came from the pole position, his most recent pole and the 19th of his career.
  • Busch has one win, two top-five finishes and seven top-10s and has led a total of 591 laps in 11 career Sprint Cup starts at Darlington. His average Darlington finish is 13.0.
  • Feels Like the First Time: Interstate Batteries is bringing back the paint scheme from its very first win this weekend at Darlington. Former Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) driver Dale Jarrett made a last-lap pass of Dale Earnhardt to win the 1993 Daytona 500 and bring JGR and Interstate Batteries their first victory together in the team’s second season.
  • No. 18 a Two-Time Darlington Winner: The No. 18 car for JGR has two all-time Southern 500 victories. The first came in 2000, when former JGR driver Bobby Labonte brought home the win for the Interstate Batteries car the same year he brought home the team’s and founding sponsor’s first Cup Series championship. Eight years later, Busch scored a victory of his own at Darlington, leading a race-high 169 laps.
  • 38 Career Sprint Cup Wins: With his Sprint Cup win at Indianapolis, the 38th of his career, Busch is tied for 19th on the all-time Sprint Cup win list with JGR teammate Matt Kenseth.
  • Trimming the List: With Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and Kansas Speedway in Kansas City wins added to the list this season, Busch has won Sprint Cup races at 21 of the 23 tracks at which the series competes. The only two tracks he has yet to conquer in the Sprint Cup series are Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway and Pocono (Pa) Raceway. During his 2015 Sprint Cup championship season, Busch checked off Indianapolis and Homestead-Miami Speedway. Four of Busch’s last six Sprint Cup wins have been his first at each track in NASCAR’s top series (Indianapolis, Homestead, Martinsville and Kansas). Of the 21 different tracks where Busch has won, he has multiple wins at 11 of them.
  • All-Time JGR Wins Leader: With his recent Brickyard 400 win, Busch passed three-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart for most all-time Sprint Cup wins for JGR. Busch now has 34 wins for JGR to Stewart’s 33.\
  • 166 and Counting: Busch enters Darlington with 166 career wins among NASCAR’s top three divisions – Sprint Cup (38), Xfinity (83) and Truck (45) – after sweeping both the Xfinity Series and Sprint Cup races at Indianapolis last month.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

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