Ty Gibbs was born 10 years after Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) made its first appearance in NASCAR Cup Series competition in 1992. But just because he wasn’t around for the early years doesn’t mean he lacks any appreciation for the people who helped found his grandfather’s powerhouse team as a third-generation Gibbs family racer.
A 1991 meeting between then-Super Bowl-winning NFL coach Joe Gibbs and Interstate Batteries chairman Norm Miller in Miller’s Dallas office led to a commitment from Interstate Batteries to become the founding sponsor and help Gibbs start his race team in 1992.
This weekend at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, Ty Gibbs will get to help pay homage to that 30-year relationship as he’ll be throwing it back to the beginning of the Interstate Batteries and JGR partnership behind the wheel of the No. 54 Interstate Batteries Throwback Toyota for Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Steakhouse Elite 200. Gibbs and Interstate Batteries will honor not only the start of their longtime partnership, but also their first victory together as JGR and Interstate Batteries celebrate their 30th anniversary together in 2021.
The paint scheme Gibbs will race is a replica of the original design Dale Jarrett raced to victory in the 1993 Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway – the first-ever Cup win for JGR and for Interstate Batteries. The No. 18 entry for Jarrett’s Daytona 500 victory was the prominent Interstate Batteries scheme that was run for the first two years of JGR’s foray into NASCAR’s top series in 1992 and 1993.
The story of Jarrett’s historic victory in the 35th Daytona 500 has been told many times over the last 28 years. That day – Feb. 14, 1993 – Dale Earnhardt led 107 of 200 laps, but he was passed by Jarrett’s No. 18 Interstate Batteries car on the last lap while Jarrett’s father Ned excitedly called the action during the live television broadcast. The “Dale and Dale Show,” as referred to by Ned Jarrett on the telecast, is still considered by many to be one of the memorable races in NASCAR history.
Perhaps lesser known, and somewhat humorous, is the mass confusion that took place following the checkered flag of that 1993 Daytona 500. JGR was just beginning its second season in NASCAR and had yet to find victory lane, while Jarrett had scored only one previous victory in his career – the August 1991 race at Michigan.
So after Jarrett took the checkered flag at Daytona, a large yet slightly unorganized celebration took place.
“We were so naive, we didn’t know what to do after the race, nor did Joe (Gibbs),” Miller said. “I think we barely remembered to get photos taken in victory lane. It was only our second Daytona 500 and we won the thing. It was amazing.”
Joe Gibbs, who 18 months earlier had sold Miller on sponsoring his team despite not having a race shop, a driver or any racing experience, couldn’t believe his team had won the biggest NASCAR event of the season.
“When we crossed the finish line, reality kind of set in,” Gibbs said. “Norm was obviously excited. We were all very emotional. Pat (Gibbs, wife) was there. She was a crying. I remember when we were heading for the winner’s circle, J.D. (Gibbs, son), Coy (Gibbs, son) and Todd (Meredith, crew member, former vice president of operations) were all kind of wrestling in the infield. It was just a great thrill for us.”
Jarrett, who would go on to win two more Daytona 500s, the 1999 NASCAR Cup Series championship and 32 races in NASCAR’s top division, was in the middle of the chaotic victory lane.
“I would say it was one of the more interesting victory lane celebrations,” he said. “Even though I had won at Michigan in the Cup Series, this (Daytona 500) was the biggest race and we were all kind of looking around going, ‘Did this really happen? What do we do now?’ I think we were all kind of looking for some help. I remember looking at Joe and his family, and Norm was there, and we were all kind of looking at each other wondering what we were supposed to be doing. There was just a lot of laughing and hugging and even a few tears, I think.”
While this weekend’s scheme pays homage to JGR’s 1993 Daytona 500 win, there were also memories made in the years that followed for JGR and Interstate Batteries at the tricky Darlington oval. Former JGR driver and 2000 Cup Series champion Bobby Labonte brought home JGR’s first Southern 500 win back in 2000, the same year he brought JGR and Interstate Batteries its first Cup Series title.
In addition to the Cup Series history of Interstate Batteries, Gibbs will join several other drivers who have made Xfinity Series starts for JGR’s founding partner, including Busch, Denny Hamlin, Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth, Erik Jones, Elliott Sadler, and Daniel Suarez.
Ty Gibbs is set to make his third Xfinity Series start of the season, still early in a career that already has been impressive, to say the least. He won in his first career start on the Daytona road course back in February, then backed it up with a third-place finish in his second start at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway last month. In addition to a full schedule in the ARCA Menards Series this season, Gibbs is set to make 14 starts in the Xfinity Series in 2021.
So as Gibbs heads for his next Xfinity Series start at Darlington this weekend, he is hoping he can end up in the same place the same Interstate Batteries scheme ended up in almost 30 years ago –victory lane at an historic racetrack. But this time it’s the 1.33-mile egg-shaped Darlington oval.
TY GIBBS, Driver of the No. 54 Interstate Batteries Throwback Toyota Supra for Joe Gibbs Racing:
How special will it be to run a throwback to the original Interstate Batteries scheme at Darlington this weekend?
“Interstate Batteries means a lot to everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing. You just see all the pictures and highlights of the 1993 Daytona 500 and how excited everyone was. Norm (Miller, chairman) and everyone at Interstate Batteries have been a big part of Joe Gibbs Racing over all these years. It’s just really cool how they’ve been able to grow with us as the team grew over the years. It’s really an honor to be able to run an Interstate Batteries car and I’m hoping we can make everyone proud this weekend at Darlington.”
Darlington is one of the few tracks where you’ve been able to test. Does that help your confidence for this weekend?
“It will definitely help. Darlington is a tricky place, so it was great to be able to get some time on the track and not just on the sim. A lot of these places I’ve never been able to race before. Darlington is probably one of the more difficult places, so just to have a little track time definitely won’t hurt for this weekend with our Interstate Batteries Toyota. I’m just excited to get some more experience, keep learning and hopefully avoid any trouble. We were able to do that at Martinsville last time out, so hopefully we can keep that going this weekend in Darlington.”
How do you manage expectations each week when you went out and won in your first Xfinity Series start and the scored a top-five in the second one?
“There are a lot of different ways you can handle that and play it out heading into a race. For me, there’s no reason to stress myself out. I don’t have any expectations that I set for myself. I tell this to anyone that asks me, I feel like I have the same mindset and mental attitude going into a race weekend and that’s to get the best finish I can and get the most experience for myself so I can be the best racecar driver I can possibly be in the future. No matter what series or what race I’m in, I’m just trying to do the best I can. We’ll try to do that this weekend with our Interstate Batteries Toyota.”
With your limited experience in the Xfinity Series, how much do you lean on your teammates to learn and grow?
“I’m blessed to have some great teammates at Joe Gibbs Racing. We like to go to the go-kart track together and race against each other. They’ve definitely been there for anything I need and we have each others’ backs. Those guys work really hard and I watch them work week in and week out with their crew chiefs and the way they go about their business. We certainly lean on each other to make each other better and we keep improving each week.”