‘White-Hot’ and Heading West
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (March 22, 2011) – Following his weekend sweep of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide Series races at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, there’s no driver more “white-hot” than Kyle Busch.
As the Sprint Cup Series heads back to the West Coast for round five of the season, Busch, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), looks to keep his hot streak going in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
The talented 25-year-old will debut the Sprint Cup version of Interstate Batteries’ new “white hot” paint scheme to help celebrate the company’s 20-year partnership with JGR.
While Sunday’s race will be the first of six Sprint Cup races in 2011 for Dallas-based Interstate Batteries, the scheme has already visited victory lane after a dominating performance by Busch in the Nationwide Series Bashas’ Supermarkets 200 at Phoenix International Raceway last month. The No. 18 Toyota Camry is primarily white with green and black accents, including a distinctive lightning bolt design on the sides. But, perhaps the most talked-about aspect of the new livery is the front of the Camry, which features a stunning illustration of an “Outrageously Dependable” green-top Interstate Battery seemingly bursting out of the hood.
After leading all 200 laps en route to the Nationwide win at Phoenix, Busch dubbed his Interstate ride a “Hybrid” Camry, in reference to the battery emblazoned on the hood of his No. 18 Toyota. It’s a bold look to celebrate the anniversary of what was essentially a bold move 20 years ago by Interstate Batteries chairman Norm Miller.
In the summer of 1991, Joe Gibbs met with Miller in Dallas and pitched him on having Interstate Batteries be the first-ever sponsor for JGR, despite the fact he had no racecars, engines, employees or even a building. Miller was sold on the idea immediately and a highly successful relationship was born. Twenty years later, Interstate Batteries-sponsored JGR cars have now won the 1993 Daytona 500 (Dale Jarrett), the 2000 Brickyard 400 (Bobby Labonte), the 2000 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship (Labonte) and 24 Sprint Cup races (21 by Labonte, two by Jarrett, one by Busch).
Busch, of course, is determined to add to the Interstate Batteries’ 20-year legacy with his No. 18 JGR team, and it’s quite clear his sights are focused more than ever on adding another Sprint Cup title to JGR’s already impressive resume. It all continues this weekend in Southern California as Busch and his No. 18 teammates look to remain “white-hot.”
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
With a Sprint Cup win at Bristol last weekend under your belt, and with the season-long championship your primary goal, are you more concerned about points or wins as you go forward?
“I think that racing to your potential on most days will get you a win, so you don’t really have to worry about that. It seems like we’re a lot better at a couple of racetracks than maybe some others that we’re working on and getting better at, and one of those coming up is California this weekend. We’re always like a fifth- to ninth-place car. Hopefully, we can get a little bit better than that at California. Michigan is another one. Some of those places where we struggle at a little bit, we’d like to get better, particularly a couple of racetracks in the Chase. Every time we unload, we’re racing for the win. If we can gather the wins up, the points will take care of themselves. If we can finish consistently, points will take care of themselves. It’s a matter of keeping track of your bad days. Our only bad day so far has been due to an engine failure. I have the utmost respect for Mark (Cronquist, JGR head engine builder) and what his guys are doing, what those guys are doing in the engine shop. Vegas is hopefully behind us, now, and we can continue on our good run of strong finishes.”
Do you enjoy racing at California?
“I like California. It’s fun. It’s really wide and it’s kind of flatter than Michigan, so it’s a little harder to kind of get a hold of, but you can really spread out. We’ve been seeing a lot of guys all the way down at the white line. We saw guys all the way up at the wall. It always seems to be a really good race, there. It’s a really fun racetrack. It’s widened out and it’s become where you can race all over it and, with the race being as long as it is, you need to take a lot of time working through traffic and being able to have a good car and all that. It’s the same thing every week. California is just another one of those racetracks that seems to suit Jimmie (Johnson) really, really well. He’s been in contention to win the past seven races there, I think, and he’s probably won four of them. That’s another place we know he’ll be fast. Again, we just hope for a solid day and that our efforts will put us in a good enough position. And if they don’t, then we weren’t good enough.”
Do you think the key for your championship run this year is racing with a little more savvy, like we’ve seen you do at the first four races this year?
“I guess so. We need to keep it going all year long. That’s the most important thing. When it gets hot and slick in the summertime, you get more frustrated that you’re not going forward or you’re kind of stuck running 15th somewhere. Those are the days that savvy really needs to show versus the days you’re running up front, top-five. It’s a little easier. We just keep working on the things that we can do, what we can do better to improve our program and to make it to where we can run competitive top-fives week in and week out. Be a championship contender in order to bring home not only the hardware but the points that will get us into the Chase, then the final stretch to Homestead.”
Are you looking forward to running the Interstate Batteries ‘Hybrid’ Camry scheme this weekend at California?
“I’d say it was pretty good luck out in Phoenix for the Nationwide race, so I hope that continues this weekend. I was calling it my ‘Hybrid’ Camry with the Interstate battery coming out of the hood. It’s always great to have Interstate Batteries a part of our program. Just the relationship with Norm (Miller, Interstate Chairman) means a lot to myself, Samantha (wife), the Gibbs family, and everyone at JGR. We’ve come close to getting them a win at California, so I’m hoping this is the weekend for it.”
How has Auto Club Speedway changed over the last few years, going from a new track to a place that has a lot more character and racing grooves?
“That place is tough. It’s really a hard racetrack to get ahold of, now, especially when it’s hot and the sun is out. There are two completely different types of racing when you run the top versus the bottom groove. You can run from the top to the bottom, but when you run the bottom, you really feel like you’re puttering around the racetrack. You feel like you aren’t making up any time on the bottom. But when you are running the top groove, you feel like you’re getting the job done. The guys who run the bottom have a little bit more patience and handle it better than the guys who are on the gas on top.”