A Battery for Every Need? How About a Driver for Every Track?
Interstate All Battery Center stores promise to have “Every Battery for Every Need” with the expertise to solve any battery-related problem.
So it’s only appropriate that this weekend’s new metallic and reflective green-and-gold scheme on the No. 18 Interstate All Battery Center Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) will be driven by Kyle Busch, a driver who has proven he can win at every type of track.
As the talented 26-year-old will be gunning for his 22nd career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win in Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, Busch brings an incredibly versatile resume that features 21 wins in NASCAR’s top series that have occurred on racetracks of all shapes and sizes.
Need a short track ace? Well, Busch is your driver with 12 wins on tracks of a mile or less. Those include Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, Dover (Del.) International Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, and Phoenix International Raceway.
If short tracks aren’t your cup of tea, Busch is pretty good on the intermediate ovals, as well, with five total wins on the 1.5-mile and 2-mile tracks. Those include Atlanta Motor Speedway, Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., and Busch’s hometown track, Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Need a driver who can get it done during the two road-course stops on the schedule? No problem there, either, as Busch has one win apiece at both Sprint Cup road-course venues – Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., and Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International.
And, last but not least, you need a driver to navigate the two restrictor-plate venues on the circuit? Busch has won twice on the 2.5-mile high-banked ovals at Daytona and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. This Saturday night, Busch will look to back up his win at the historic 2.5-mile Daytona oval from July 2008, which also came in Interstate Batteries colors.
But Busch and his fellow competitors will find a new challenge ahead of them that didn’t exist during his last win at Daytona in 2008. A completely new style of restrictor-plate racing introduced itself at this year’s season-opening Daytona 500. As the new front bumper replaced what was an important but fragile front splitter on Sprint Cup Series cars this year, the front-end design change brought about a whole new phenomenon of racing at the restrictor-plate tracks.
Until this year, the typical race at Daytona and Talladega would feature lengthy lines of cars that would bunch together, mere inches apart. But the new look to restrictor-plate racing, as seen at Daytona and Talladega already this season, involves cars running in pairs, almost as if the rear of the lead car is connected to the front bumper of the car following.
So, as Busch has proven over the years that he’s every driver for every track, he’ll want to also prove he can adapt to every style of racing in order to bring the Interstate All Battery Centers green-and-gold paint scheme to victory lane on Saturday night at Daytona.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 Interstate All Battery Center Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
Do you feel like finding someone to team up with during superspeedway races is like trying to find a date for the prom?
“I never had to do that because I never went (to prom). I don’t know. I’d imagine that is probably what it’s like. It’s probably the best analogy anybody else can come up with. As far as trying to pick somebody to go with or draft with or anything, in a perfect world, you’d come off pit road with either a teammate or somebody you’ve worked with already throughout the day. I was working pretty well in the Daytona 500 with Denny (Hamlin), so he was about two rows back of me. And Trevor (Bayne) wanted to work with me, and then Carl (Edwards) wanted to work with me. I’m hoping we can find the right drafting partner and we can get a win for all the Interstate All Battery Center franchisees, along with Norm Miller (Interstate Batteries chairman) and everyone at Interstate Batteries.”
What is it like to have drivers ask you to work with them?
“I think, this week, I’ll just leave it to first come, first served. So, whoever gets on my radio first and asks me, then they’ll be the guy I’ll work with. Other than that, you hate to say no to somebody because you might have made them mad. But, you have to realize and understand that there are 43 guys out there who all want to work with somebody, so you’re not going to be the first guy all the time.”
What is it like, visually, being the second car in a two-car draft?
“You can’t see a whole lot. You can’t really see through the rear glass of a guy’s car because, the way the sun and the lights hit it, even if it’s a cloudy day, you might not be able to see all the way through it. The spoilers are so high that your limited vision is so small that you’re really not going to make out a whole lot if you even could see through it with the spoiler. You tend to try to look over the roof of a guy’s car through the corner and try to see what’s going to happen down the next straightaway. That’s when you rely on either the guy in front of you to talk to you through going around guys or passing guys, or you rely on your spotter. If you have that guy in your radio and you’re pushing that guy, he should be the one on the radio, ‘Okay, low, low, middle, middle, high, high,’ – he kind of talks you through where you’re going so you can stay on him and not take a chance of spinning a guy out.”
Who is your favorite drafting partner at Daytona and Talladega?
“I don’t know, since things were so different at Daytona and Talladega the first time around. I’ve drafted well with a lot of people in the past, but I would say (Juan Pablo) Montoya helped me win the race I won at Talladega a couple of years ago. Jimmie (Johnson) is always pretty good to draft with. My brother (Kurt Busch), as well, but many more than that. It just all depends on which other cars end up working well with your car. Aside from our teammates, we had about another 10 guys who we thought would work with us in our radio at Daytona and Talladega, so I’ll expect we will figure out what other cars work well with our car during practice and during the first part of the race, like we did during the first two restrictor-plate races this year.”
Are superspeedways more mentally draining than other racetracks?
“Here, the physical demand isn’t that big of deal. You can run around here all day long and not break a sweat, really. Once you get down into the nitty gritty of the race and try to play the chess game that goes on all day, you’ve got to really pick and choose your spots, and think all the time about going here or there and teaming up with a guy. It really wears on you a little bit, mentally – kind of makes you tired. The other thing, too, is when you’re in the two-car draft and you’re pushing each other, you’re more worried about not spinning that guy out than anything else. You just don’t want to do that. So, you’re up on edge most of the time, just making sure you don’t get to that guy left of center of his rear bumper and cause him to turn sideways. I don’t know if you call it racing, or what to call it, really. But it’s definitely a different dynamic here at Talladega and Daytona, now, than what we’ve had in the past.”
How many people can talk on the radio during a race?
“Yeah, I’ve worked with my guys and my radio guys, being able to put the radios together where you can do everything you want to be able to do. If I could, I’d have all 42 other drivers on my radio, but that radio isn’t legal to go into the racecar. You have to have a channel radio, which I think only allows you 15. I have my teammates on my primary radio and then, on my secondary radio, I have my teammates again so I can hear them, and then I have about 13 others.”