Back in 1991, Washington Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs ended up in the Dallas office of Interstate Batteries Chairman Norm Miller.
Gibbs was there to make his pitch to have Miller’s company sponsor the three-time Super Bowl-winning head coach’s first foray into what is now called the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The only problem was that Gibbs had no race shop, no employees, not even a driver to drive his cars. What he was selling to Miller that day was nothing more than a dream.
During his entire business career, Miller was never shy about taking chances. And while Interstate Batteries had sponsored a few races with a little-known team with Stanley Smith as the driver, Miller and Interstate Batteries agreed to sponsor Gibbs’ team more than 25 years ago, and Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) was formed. Now, a quarter of a century later, an organization that started from humble beginnings before the commitment of Interstate Batteries has now become one of the premiere teams in all of NASCAR.
Not only did Gibbs gain a lifetime sponsor in Miller and Interstate Batteries, but a lifetime friendship, as well. Needless to say, it’s a relationship that cannot be overemphasized when discussing JGR’s evolution and longevity.
The team, which had less than 20 employees during its first season, hit the track for the first time in February 1992 with Dale Jarrett driving the No. 18 Interstate Batteries car and Jimmy Makar serving as crew chief. Under Gibbs’ leadership, the inaugural season was a success as Jarrett scored eight top-10 finishes, including a second-place result in April at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
Ironically, just as he had done during his second season with the Redskins, Gibbs won the Super Bowl in his second season as a NASCAR team owner. In 1993, Gibbs helped Jarrett and the No. 18 team to a victory in the “Super Bowl of Stock Car Racing” – the 35th Daytona 500.
The win legitimized JGR immediately and set the stage for the organization to become a NASCAR powerhouse, starting from just one team to the now four Sprint Cup and three Xfinity Series teams it has today.
So as the Sprint Cup Series heads to its semi-annual stop at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth for Saturday night’s Duck Commander 500, there could be no better way than to kick off the 25th anniversary celebration of JGR than a stop in Interstate Batteries’ backyard down in the Lone Star state.
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota for JGR, enters this weekend’s race as the hottest driver on the Sprint Cup circuit. In addition to leading a race-high 352 laps at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway last Sunday and scoring his first win of the season, Busch has also scored five top-five finishes in the six races contested thus far in 2016.
The Las Vegas native will look to keep the hot hand as he sets his sights on another Texas trophy to kick off the 25th anniversary in Interstate’s backyard. The 30-year-old Busch drove the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota to victory lane at Texas back in April 2013, giving the brand its first win at its home track. The win ended a streak of 19 Sprint Cup races in which Interstate had competed at Texas without a coveted victory.
On top of his 2013 Sprint Cup win there, Busch is no stranger to victory lane at Texas in other NASCAR series, as well. He reeled off an incredible string of five consecutive Xfinity Series wins there from April 2008 to April 2010, adding two more wins in April 2013 and November 2014. Add his three Camping World Truck Series wins in November 2009, 2010, and 2014 and he enters the upcoming Duck Commander 500 race weekend with a total of 11 NASCAR wins at the 1.5-mile oval.
Some 25 years later after JGR’s humble beginnings, not only has Miller’s gamble paid off for his company, but JGR wouldn’t be what it is today without the help of Interstate Batteries. Safe to say that Busch – the 2015 Sprint Cup champion – would like nothing more than to keep adding to his hot streak and bring home another win for hometown sponsor Interstate Batteries in the Lone Star State during its 25th anniversary celebration.