Back in 1991, then-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 the NASCAR 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 piece of paper and a dream.
During his entire business career, Miller was never shy about taking chances. And while Interstate Batteries had sponsored a little-known team for a few races with Stanley Smith as its driver, Miller and Interstate Batteries agreed to sponsor Gibbs’ team. That was more than 30 years ago, and Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) was formed. Fast forward to 2021, and the organization that started from humble beginnings before the commitment of Interstate Batteries has been regarded for years as 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.
One driver who has been at the forefront of JGR’s success in the last 14 years has been Kyle Busch. The two-time Cup Series champion and driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for JGR, heads to Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway this weekend hoping to continue the winning legacy of both the team and Interstate Batteries, as he looks to bring home his first win of the season in Sunday’s GEICO 500.
Busch has brought home nine victories sporting the colors of Interstate Batteries. Add Bobby Labonte’s 21 wins and Dale Jarrett’s two, and Interstate has made a combined 32 visits to victory lane in the Cup Series over the years. Labonte scored his last win for Interstate Batteries at the 2003 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and five years later it was Busch who brought Interstate back to victory lane during his first season at JGR when he bested Carl Edwards to win the July 2008 race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
While Busch and his No. 18 Interstate Batteries team are capable of winning at any track, the Las Vegas native has experienced plenty of ups and downs at the mammoth Talladega oval. He has one career win there, which came in April 2008, and he has accumulated 13 other top-15 finishes, but also exited six races early due to accidents.
So as Busch heads to Talladega this weekend, he would like nothing more than to kick off JGR and Interstate Batteries’ 30th anniversary in style. But, in order to do so, he’ll have to somehow stay out of the inevitable multicar Talladega accidents and be running at the end to put himself in position to end up with quite the anniversary celebration in victory lane on Sunday afternoon.