Many families across the United States use the summer months to take a road trip and make memories along the way.
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), his wife Samantha and 6-year-old son Brexton decided they were going to take a summer road trip of their own as they toured the Midwest so Brexton could try out multiple tracks during his budding racing career.
The “Midwest Road Trip,” as the Busch family called it, has included stops in Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin, with stopovers in New York for the NASCAR Cup Series race at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International and Indianapolis for the inaugural Cup Series road-course race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Their voyage has included a few trips in the family moterhome, as well as a few airplane rides. While the Busch family returned home this week to the Charlotte, North Carolina, area, they have one more Midwest stop on the docket as NASCAR’s top series makes its way to Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn for Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 for the annual late-summer visit to the Irish Hills that means fall is on the horizon.
With Interstate Batteries returning to the No. 18 car this weekend while continuing to celebrate their 30th anniversary together in 2021, Busch is encouraging fans to stop by a local Interstate dealer to get their vehicle batteries checked before taking off on their late-summer vacation, much like they did before their own Midwest racing tour. Hot weather has a far greater effect on batteries than the cold, so this weekend’s race at a popular summer tourist destination like the Great Lakes State is the perfect setting to remind fans to have their batteries checked.
The Michigan race signifies not only the end of summer, but the winding down of the Cup Series regular season. Busch has been consistent during this year’s summer stretch. In the last nine races on the schedule, starting with the June event at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway through last weekend’s race on the Indianapolis road course, Busch has a win at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway highlighting an impressive six top-five finishes.
In the Irish Hills of Michigan this weekend, Busch will look to keep running up front at a place where he initially struggled following the 2012 repave of the 2-mile oval. The Las Vegas native has scored eight consecutive top-10s and no finish worse than sixth in his last six starts there.
Busch’s lone career Cup Series win at Michigan came on Aug. 21, 2011, when he found himself outdueling seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson in a late-race shootout.
So, as Busch and the Interstate Batteries team head back to the Midwest this weekend with an “Outrageously Dependable” Interstate Battery under the hood, the confidence built from a summer spent running up front will do them well this weekend. But Busch also knows chances are he’ll need to outduel several others in order to capture his second career Cup Series victory in the Irish Hills, which would be a perfect way to cap off an enjoyable family road trip around the Midwest.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What are you expecting at Michigan this weekend?
“Michigan has been a hit-or-miss place for us. I remember winning there on the final race of the old pavement and that was super cool. Ever since the repave, it’s been stuck up there in lane number two and where everyone wants to run. Last year, we got to put on more side-by-side racing and I ended up third. Looking forward to coming back there with a fast Interstate Batteries Camry. Our 550-horsepower race package has been pretty good for us this year, so hope it bodes well for us there this weekend. (Kevin) Harvick and (Joey) Logano and, really, the Ford’s in general have been really quick over the last few years there. It seems like they either have their engine or aero packages squared away there a little bit more than us. This year, it’s been more about the Hendrick guys, so they are probably the group you have to race to win there, as opposed to what it’s been at Michigan the last few years.”
What is it about Michigan that separates it from other tracks?
“Michigan just being a 2-mile speedway, it’s not like a Daytona and Talladega, where it has the banking like those tracks do, but it is medium banking, so it’s all about speed. You just have to be fast and willing to go through the corner fast. The faster you can get through the corner, the better you are going to be down the straightaways. That’s just a product that we all understand. A couple of years ago, we tried to get better straightaway speed and it made us not as good in the corners, so we re-did our philosophy a bit for both getting off the corner and down the straightaway.”
What is the atmosphere like at Michigan as opposed to other tracks?
“The camping and the infield there always seems really full. They put on a good event weekend. They have concerts and they have some late-night fireworks, and hopefully they will be doing stuff for all the campers who will be there all weekend. We just come there on Sunday this year, and we run our race and we go back out. We just want to put on a good show for the fans and hopefully get our Interstate Batteries Camry up front during our 30th year with JGR and Interstate as great partners.”
As you close in on the playoffs, what is the most important goal in your mind?
“Winning – no different than any other part of the year. You want to win. You want to pick up those bonus points and get yourself a little bit better situated for the playoff run. I feel like we are a little bit behind on that. We are not terrible. We are way ahead of where we were last year, but it would certainly be nice to have one or two more wins and collect more stage points. I think we would be good with that.”
How do you feel going into Michigan and what does that track mean for you on the schedule?
“We just try to figure out what we can continue to do to evolve and get better there. The setup there equates nothing to anything that we race throughout the playoffs, so really it’s just a track that we have to go to and do the best we can. But, beyond that, you never want to give away any opportunities to go out there and win a race, or to excel, or to take momentum away from what you’re doing with our Interstate Batteries Camry. We’ve put a focus on that track for the last three, four years and we’ve gained. We’ve certainly made improvements. I think we’ve run well there but our finishes may not have shown it, as far as the win column goes. We just need to be able to not have to race at 100 percent at Michigan all the time to finish third. We need to be able to run 90 percent to win, and that would allow us to then make up time if certain situations happen to us if we have a loose wheel, a bad pit stop, whatever. You can make time and pass people, things like that.”
● Event: FireKeepers Casino 400 (Round 25 of 36)
● Time/Date: 3 p.m. EDT on Sunday, Aug. 22
● Location: Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn
● Layout: 2-mile oval
● Laps/Miles: 200 laps/400 miles
● Stage Lengths: Stage 1: 60 laps / Stage 2: 60 laps / Final Stage: 80 laps
● TV/Radio: NBCSN / MRN / SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Meet the No. 18 Interstate Batteries / Joe Gibbs Racing Team
Primary Team Members:
Driver: Kyle Busch
Hometown: Las Vegas
Crew Chief: Ben Beshore
Hometown: York, Pennsylvania
Car Chief: Nate Bellows
Hometown: Fairfax, Vermont
Spotter: Tony Hirschman
Hometown: Northampton, Pennsylvania
Over-The-Wall Crew Members:
Gas Man: Matt Tyrrell
Hometown: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Front Tire Changer: Blake Houston
Hometown: Enochville, North Carolina
Jackman: T.J. Ford
Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina
Tire Carrier: Joe Crossen
Hometown: Salisbury, North Carolina
Rear Tire Changer: Jeff Cordero
Hometown: Salem, Connecticut
Road Crew Members:
Race Engineer: Seth Chavka
Hometown: Soldotna, Alaska
Truck Driver: Chris Miko
Hometown: Bronx, New York
Truck Driver: Tom McCrimmon
Hometown: Spicer, Minnesota
Mechanic/Tire Specialist: Justin Peiffer
Hometown: Lebanon, Pennsylvania
Mechanic: Scott Eldridge
Hometown: Warsaw, Indiana
Notes of Interest:
● 30th Anniversary Celebration: This season, JGR and Interstate Batteries are celebrating quite the milestone in their 30th year together in NASCAR’s top series. No other sponsor has been with the same team for as long of a run as this strong partnership. In fact, Interstate Batteries has brought home 32 all-time Cup Series wins as a primary sponsor and countless others as associate sponsor on JGR cars. Interstate Batteries and JGR brought home their first win together in the 1993 Daytona 500 with Dale Jarrett behind the wheel. Jarrett won twice in Interstate Batteries colors, Kyle Busch nine times, and Bobby Labonte leads the way for the Dallas-based company with 21 all-time Cup Series wins in its colors.
● 30-Year Giveaway: In celebration of the 30-year partnership with JGR, Interstate Batteries is hosting a Twitter giveaway on the 30th day of each month. Fans can follow Interstate on Twitter (@interstatebatts), Facebook (@interstatebatteries), Instagram (@interstatebatteries), and YouTube (@interstatebatteries) for giveaways, how-to tips, NASCAR updates, and even more car-related content most people never knew they needed.
● Green Machine: In addition to Busch’s nine victories in Interstate Batteries colors over the years for JGR, Busch brought home two Xfinity Series victories for Interstate Batteries. Both came at Phoenix Raceway, in 2008 and 2011.
● Michigan Stats: Busch has one win, nine top-five finishes and 14 top-10s and has led a total of 266 laps in 32 career Cup Series starts at Michigan. Busch’s average Michigan finish is 16.7.
● Playoff Points: Busch has accumulated 14 important playoff points he can take with him through each round. Busch also currently sits third in the point standings with 11 top-five finishes and 15 top-10s with just two regular-season races remaining before the playoffs begin.
● Alone in Ninth: With his win in June at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, Busch sits at 59 career wins in NASCAR’s top series as he moved past Kevin Harvick into sole possession of ninth on the all-time win list. Next up on the win list is Dale Earnhardt, the seven-time Cup Series champion and NASCAR Hall of Famer who won 76 races during his storied career.
● 222 and Counting: Busch will be aiming to add to his record 222 overall wins among NASCAR’s top three series this weekend at Michigan. In addition to his 59 Cup Series wins and 102 in the Xfinity Series, Busch has 61 wins in the Camping World Truck Series.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!