The historical significance of Erik Jones’ next Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race is certainly not lost on the 23-year-old driver from Michigan.
His 110th career Cup Series start behind the wheel of the No. 20 Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) will be his first in which he and his car will feature the iconic, green-and-white colors of longtime JGR sponsor Interstate Batteries in NASCAR’s top series. Thus, it will be a proud moment when he takes to the track for Sunday’s Bluegreen Vacations 500k at ISM Raceway near Phoenix, knowing he will be the latest driver during the long and storied partnership between JGR and Interstate Batteries that began in 1991, a short but powerful driver heritage that features current and future Hall of Famers Dale Jarrett, Bobby Labonte and Kyle Busch.
Jarrett scored Interstate Batteries’ first Cup Series win at the 1993 Daytona 500 and added the second at the fall 1994 race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. Labonte was victorious in his Interstate Batteries car 21 times in his storied career, punctuated with the 2000 Cup Series championship. And Busch, one of Jones’ current JGR teammates and 2015 champion, has nine Cup Series wins and counting for Interstate Batteries and has added a pair in NASCAR’s Xfinity Series and one in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series wearing the green and white.
As the founding partner and “Official Battery of Joe Gibbs Racing,” Interstate Batteries has been powering the team for more than 25 years. Since 1992, JGR’s first full season in NASCAR, Interstate Batteries has played an integral role in the organization’s development from start-up race team to championship powerhouse.
Jones would like nothing better than to make his first Cup Series start for Interstate Batteries end in victory lane Sunday, and his chances of doing so at the mile oval in the Arizona desert are promising, as it’s one of his favorite stops on the Cup Series tour. In six Cup Series starts at Phoenix, he has a best finish of fourth in the 2017 edition of this race and has two other top-10s. In Xfinity Series competition, he’s posted top-10 results in all seven of his career appearances at Phoenix, including five top-fives. And Phoenix happens to be the where he scored his first career NASCAR victory in the fall 2013 Truck Series race, backing it up with another Truck Series win there one year later.
While this weekend marks Jones’ first Cup Series start for Interstate Batteries, he has represented the brand in three previous Xfinity Series races, two of them just up the road at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2015 and 2016. His best effort wearing the green and white came in the June Xfinity Series race at Iowa Speedway in Newton, where he qualified on the pole and powered his way to a third-place finish. He brought home another third-place finish for Interstate after qualifying second at the 2016 Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas.
Growing up in Michigan, Jones learned early in life how hard winters can be on a car battery, and in the time since he’s also learned that drivers don’t necessarily have to live where there are frigid winters to experience battery failures. Thus, he and Interstate Batteries are encouraging consumers to make sure their batteries are up for the cold winter temperatures that have already appeared in many parts of the country. Interstate All Battery Centers® nationwide offer free battery tests, especially before embarking on their holiday road trips.
Not surprisingly, the weather in Phoenix this weekend will be anything but frigid with temperatures forecast in the mid- to upper-80s each day. And Jones and his No. 20 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry team for JGR look to arrive fully charged in their bid to score an important victory in the penultimate race of the season.