In his 26th year as a partner with Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), Interstate Batteries Chairman Norm Miller has seen it all.
Miller helped jumpstart JGR by committing to sponsor Joe Gibbs’ first NASCAR endeavor with a handshake in his Dallas office in 1991. One year later, Gibbs and Miller’s dream became a reality as the team hit the circuit with Dale Jarrett behind the wheel of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries machine.
Over the years, the Interstate Batteries colors have been to victory lane in some of NASCAR’s biggest races. Most notably, in just their second year as sponsor of JGR, Miller and Interstate Batteries went to victory lane with Dale Jarrett in the 1993 Daytona 500. Their other notable wins included the 1995 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway and the 2000 Brickyard 400 at historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway, both with driver Bobby Labonte at the controls. Coupled with the 2000 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship with Labonte, Miller and Interstate Batteries have had a long and successful run as a sponsor of a Sprint Cup program.
But despite those landmark wins, Miller has his sights set on one particularly elusive milestone – a Sprint Cup win at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, situated right in the backyard of Dallas-based Interstate Batteries.
As the series heads to Texas for Saturday night’s Samsung Mobile 500, Miller and the rest of Interstate Batteries’ dealers and distributors across the country know that if there’s anyone who can finally get that long-awaited Sprint Cup win in the Lone Star State, it’s talented 26-year-old Kyle Busch.
After bringing Interstate Batteries a Camping World Truck Series victory at its hometown track in November 2010, Busch will attempt to use his No. 18 Interstate Batteries “white hot” Toyota paint scheme to bring the sponsor its first Texas-sized Sprint Cup win on Saturday night.
In addition, Busch, who reeled off an incredible string of five consecutive NASCAR Nationwide Series wins at Texas from April 2008 to April 2010, hopes to also notch his first Sprint Cup win in the Lone Star State. He’s come close in recent years as he has four finishes of sixth or better in his last eight Sprint Cup outings at the 1.5-mile oval.
So, as Busch focuses on that elusive first Sprint Cup win at Texas this weekend, there’s not much doubt he’ll be thinking about his good friend Norm Miller, along with everyone at Interstate Batteries, as he looks to finally grab a highly anticipated crown jewel at the “Great American Speedway.”
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
How fast of a racetrack is Texas Motor Speedway?
“It is a fast racetrack. Texas was really hard for me at the beginning with the Cup cars for some reason. I took to it right off the bat in the Nationwide stuff. We’ve kind of correlated some of that information back and forth and, having the cars from Jason Ratcliff (former Nationwide Series crew chief and current crew chief of the No. 20 Sprint Cup team for JGR) and from Dave Rogers (Busch’s Sprint Cup crew chief) being as good as they’ve been, we’ve been really fast there. And now that Jason is on the Cup side with Joey (Logano), I’m hoping they can bring back a little of that magic that helped us win five in a row there in the Nationwide car. It’s a fun place. It’s really challenging because of the flatness of the corners, getting into the corners, and then they’re so banked through the turns and then the exits of the corners, they kind of fall off real quickly. That was always really weird for me to try to figure out because the lateral grip seems to go away so fast on the exit of the turns. You kind of want to be straight by that point. It’s an interesting facility. Texas, Charlotte and Atlanta all might look exactly the same, but they drive nothing alike. It keeps you on your toes.”
What would a Sprint Cup win at Texas mean to you?
“That’s something we want to do – I want to do – before I’m done. Hopefully, I have a long time before I get there. It would be nice to win there at Texas. It would mean a lot to see Norm’s (Miller) face in victory lane if we could pull it off. It meant a lot to get him to victory lane in the Truck Series there, but to win a Sprint Cup race there for him would be a huge deal.”
What changes will we see on a Saturday night in April that might be different than the day race in November?
“I think it will be somewhat similar to the last couple of years. You’ll still have the heat of the day going into the night and into the deeper night. It should be a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to the challenge of going into the night race at Texas – something different than what we’ve done there in the past and being on a Saturday night. It should make for an interesting race. I feel like a lot of guys have been really good there in the past during the daylight because of the hot, slick racetrack having a better car setup. This time around, it’s about nighttime and getting the most speed out of your car and the most grip out of your car. We’ll see how it all goes with everybody, but we like our chances.”
You’ve had success at Texas Motor Speedway, recently. Are you getting more comfortable there each time you go back?
“It used to not be so much. I had some wild races there early on in my career and it wasn’t one of my favorite places, for whatever reason. Things have gone well, recently. Obviously, the Nationwide Series wins the last several years and getting the win in the Truck Series the last couple of years have been real confidence-boosters there. I’ve sort of learned how to drive it a little bit better and I know what I need in my racecar to make it easier. The cars that JGR has given me since I joined the team have also been a confidence-booster there. I can’t seem to get that win in Cup that’s eluded me, even though we’ve been close. So, hopefully, that’s something we can change this weekend.”