|“The 101st has no history, but it has a rendezvous with destiny.”
That was the order as read aloud by Maj. Gen. William C. Lee. And when the pathfinders of the United States Army’s 101st Airborne Division touched down along the beaches of Normandy, France in the wee morning hours of June 6, 1944, it launched a mission of notoriety that provided the foundation for a tradition of providing the country with unmatched expeditionary air assault capabilities. The 101st is considered the most potent and tactically mobile of the U.S. Army’s divisions.
It’s that indomitable spirit to which Interstate Batteries will pay tribute this weekend at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, where driver Daniel Suarez and his racecar will sport an honorary design for Friday night’s Daytona Firecracker 250 presented by Coca-Cola NASCAR XFINITY Series race.
For just the second time in 2017, Suarez will pilot the colors of Joe Gibbs Racing’s founding partner when he straps into the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota.
Interstate Batteries has been powering the championship-winning organization for more than 25 years and is the “Official Battery of Joe Gibbs Racing.” The iconic brand is in the midst of celebrating its 65th anniversary and has featured special branding to reflect the milestone during its 2017 campaign. This weekend at Daytona, however, Interstate Batteries will pay tribute to Fort Campbell, which is located astride the border between Hopkinsville, Kentucky and Clarksville, Tennessee, home to the 101st Airborne Division that is in the midst of celebrating 75 years of service.
As part of the homage to the famed “Screaming Eagles,” members of the 101st Airborne Division will attend the Firecracker 250 as guests of Interstate Batteries – two of which will appear during prerace ceremonies in full military dress with one reflecting the uniform of the 1942 era and the other in fatigues representative of the modern-day uniform. It’s all part of the NASCAR salute to the military taking place during the Fourth of July weekend.
For his part, Suarez will attempt to return the Interstate Batteries-branded XFINITY Series car to victory lane. Dating back to last spring at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, Suarez has made three starts in XFINITY Series competition when the Dallas-based company has been on the hood of his Toyota. He’s gone one for three in those races – scoring a win in dominating fashion last fall at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.
When it comes to XFINITY Series competition at Daytona, Suarez is looking for a little luck to go his way. He’s made five XFINITY starts at the World Center of Racing, three of which ended prematurely as the result of accidents. The reigning XFINITY Series champ earned his best finish at Daytona during the series’ season-opening race in 2016, when he finished in eighth place after starting second. Prior to 2016, Suarez earned the top starting spot in just his second outing at the 2.5-mile superspeedway in July 2015.
While Suarez is now a regular in the NASCAR Cup Series, he’s been doing double duty, also competing in a majority of the 2017 XFINITY Series races. In nine XFINITY Series starts this year, Suarez has scored four top-five finishes and five top-10s.
Much like it has been for the 101st Airborne Division for 75 years, the goal this weekend is victory. Suarez and Interstate Batteries hope to combine as a means for obtaining that goal.