HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. – Don’t call it a comeback. We’ve been here for years.
Interstate Batteries, founding partner for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), has been here for years – more than 25 years to be exact. This weekend, the brand will kick off its 26th season with JGR as part of Saturday night’s Advanced Auto Parts Clash at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. It will be the first time in 12 years that the brand will be part of the event that serves as the unofficial season opener to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
And the company is doing it in a big way, serving as the primary sponsor of the No. 20 JGR Toyota Camry entry and driver Matt Kenseth.
As the “Official Battery of JGR,” Interstate Batteries has been powering the championship-winning organization since 1992. The brand has been a sponsor on the No. 18 JGR Toyota with driver Kyle Busch for select Cup Series races during the last nine NASCAR seasons but has not made a start in the annual Clash at Daytona since 2005. Prior to that, the brand had appeared on the No. 18 JGR entry with 2000 Cup Series champ Bobby Labonte, who made 10 straight starts in the Clash from 1994 to 2005 as the driver of the Interstate Batteries car.
While Interstate Batteries is making its return to the Clash this weekend, Kenseth is aiming to improve upon an already impressive resume at the “World Center of Racing.”
The winner of the 2015 edition of the Clash, Kenseth will make his 11th start in the non-points event Saturday night when he jumps behind the wheel of the No. 20 Interstate Batteries Toyota. When the 2003 Cup Series Champ scored the victory in the Clash two years ago, he did so in fairly convincing fashion, leading 21 of the 75 laps run after starting 16th. In addition to the win, Kenseth’s stats in the Clash feature three top-five finishes and six top-10s with 53 laps led and an average finish of 9.5.
And while he only has one win in the Clash, Kenseth is no stranger to victory lane at Daytona.
He is a two-time winner of the iconic Daytona 500, winning the 2009 and 2012 editions of the Great American Race. In 34 career starts during points-paying races at the superspeedway, the Wisconsin-native has led at least one lap in 19 different races for a total of 362 laps led. In addition to the two Daytona 500 wins, Kenseth’s record at Daytona includes six top-fives and 14 top-10 finishes.
The 2017 season is Kenseth’s 18th as a full-time driver in NASCAR’s elite series. Like Interstate Batteries, he’s been here for years and his goals are the same – to score wins and be in the hunt for a Cup Series championship when the season ends in November. That effort begins in earnest this weekend at Daytona.
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine