HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. – As a winner of 29 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, which are included in his 162 top-five finishes and 197 top-10s, as well as the leader of 10,084 laps in 346 career starts, safe to say 29-year-old Kyle Busch has earned his stripes in his 10th full season competing in NASCAR’s top circuit.
So it’s only fitting that the driver of the No. 18 Interstate All Battery Center Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) will don a unique green-and-white-striped livery for Saturday night’s traditional midsummer Coke Zero 400 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
It will be a different look for Busch & Company, which rolls into Daytona with support from Interstate Batteries and its Interstate All Battery Center retail stores as the company continues its franchise expansion throughout the United States, Canada and Latin America. Interstate All Battery Centers, which provide “Every Battery for Every Need” with more than 16,000 portal power solutions for all household needs, are recognized as a top-50 franchisor by Franchise Business Review.
Interstate Batteries’ colors are already in the win column in 2014 via Busch’s victory in March at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Busch and the No. 18 team look to add another victory Saturday night at Daytona, where they head with a little momentum on their side as they are coming off a strong second-place run last weekend at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta. It’s been a much-needed step in the right direction as the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship gets closer by the week.
Busch is certainly no stranger to victory lane in the Coke Zero 400, having won the July 2008 race behind the wheel of – yes – the Interstate Batteries Toyota. The Las Vegas native has fared much better in his summer races at Daytona during his career as the track is much more slick thanks to Florida’s July heat. He has four top-five finishes in his nine July starts at Daytona and is coming off his first career pole position at a restrictor-plate track there last July.
With all of that on his side, Busch hopes sporting the unique color scheme helps his cause in this restrictor-plate style of racing, where a driver not only has to be good, but must have good fortune to go along with it. He would like nothing more than to start July in the best way possible – by bringing the Interstate All Battery Center green-and-white-striped paint scheme to victory lane Saturday night. Even though Busch has earned his stripes, already, it doesn’t mean he isn’t as hungry as ever for another victory.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 Interstate All Battery Center Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
Is Daytona still a special racetrack for you?
“Daytona is cool – a lot more in February than in the summer just because it is the Daytona 500 versus the Coke Zero 400. For us, you still want to win everywhere you go, every single week. To win at Daytona is always cool. It’s definitely special. It’s the birthplace of NASCAR – the superspeedway aspect of it. I definitely love going there. It’s hot, it’s slick, and you can make the most out of yourself as a driver and what you’ve got in the car. We won there in 2008 and I’m hoping we can get a win with our Interstate All Battery Center Camry this weekend.”
As you head to the third restrictor-plate race of the year this weekend, how do you assess your performances on those tracks?
“On the plus side, we’ve qualified better on the plate tracks the last couple of years, and that’s because of a lot of hard work by everyone at JGR and for TRD (Toyota Racing Development) on getting us the stuff we need to do better in qualifying at plate tracks. Qualifying is different now, so we will work on improving how we all work together for qualifying at Daytona from what we learned with the new format at Talladega. Our plate stuff in the draft has always been good, and we’ve had good cars both races this year. We got caught up in someone else’s mess at Daytona in February and at Talladega in May, but that’s just part of restrictor-plate racing. There is so much that you just aren’t in control of and you have to find good fortune somehow. These cars are so sensitive to contact on the straightaway – much different than our last car – so you try and not make those same mistakes again if you can.”
It’s taken a number of years to earn your stripes. How have you changed entering your 10th season in NASCAR?
“It doesn’t feel like 10 years at all. Yet, when you look back at life outside of racing you think, ‘Okay, I was 18 when I came in here – holy crap a lot of things have gone on and changed over 10 years.’ It certainly seems like a whole different world, not only for me in it, but just a whole different world in general. I don’t think we had Facebook or Twitter 10 years ago. You could actually go out and not have somebody Tweet about it. It’s interesting, there are certainly a lot of things I have yet to accomplish that I’m disappointed about not having accomplished, yet. Some big wins of the marquis events, as well as being able to become a Sprint Cup Series champion. The Nationwide Series championship is great, but ultimately what all of us drivers look toward is a Sprint Cup championship. So we’re working hard toward that goal again this year.”
After having several rough outings in a row, how important was it to run up front and getting a second-place finish last weekend at Kentucky?
“One race doesn’t fix everything, but it was a huge step in the right direction. We were not where we wanted to be after practice on Friday afternoon, but I’ll give Dave (Rogers, crew chief) and the guys a lot of credit – they tore that thing apart and gave me a great racecar last weekend and we were able to put up a good result. It felt good to run up front and lead some laps. Obviously, at Daytona and in restrictor-plate racing in general, it’s a completely different animal and really anything could happen there. How we run there isn’t a huge indication of where our program is overall, but going to places like New Hampshire the following week and Indy after the off week, we’ll get to see if we’re making more progress at those places where handling matters and not as much luck is involved.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine