Joe Gibbs Racing Headquarters One of Premier Shops in NASCAR
If you’re driving on Interstate 77 north of Charlotte, N.C., and exit onto Gilead Road (Exit 23, as the locals call it), when you head west, you’ll see a shopping center on the right and Presbyterian Hospital on the left. Just past the hospital on the left is an entrance for Huntersville Business Park. Once you turn onto Reece Boulevard and head south for bit, you’ll travel just slightly to the right on Reece Boulevard West.
Travel less than a mile, just past Julian Clark Avenue, and you’ll see nestled in a beautiful wooded area the 240,000-square-foot headquarters of Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR). If you drove past it and didn’t see the sign out front, you would never know the building housed one of premier teams in NASCAR. The massive building looks like it could house a Fortune 500 company or serve as a medical complex.
And that’s exactly how Todd Meredith, vice president of operations for JGR, envisioned things in 1997 when he began scouting locations for JGR’s third and final headquarters.
“We wanted something that looked nice and was in a pleasant environment, so when we brought corporations in to talk about sponsorship, it didn’t look like an industrial park,” said Meredith, who has been with JGR since 1991. “We wanted something a little bit nicer that looked like a business park.”
But the look of the building was far from the reason to pull up stakes and move to the current shop. After spending its first three seasons in a shop on Harris Boulevard in north Charlotte, JGR built its second headquarters in Twin Lakes Business Park, also in north Charlotte, just north of Harris Boulevard, and moved there in November 1994.
“We pretty much outgrew our second shop the day we moved into it,” Meredith said. “But, once we decided to do the 20 car, we knew we had to move.”
From 1992 through 1998, JGR fielded only the No. 18 Interstate Batteries entry, first for Dale Jarrett and then for Bobby Labonte, who took over for Jarrett in 1995. With space already tight in the shop and multi-car teams becoming more and more common in NASCAR, JGR officials began the process of adding a second car while also looking for a new place to call home.
By the time Tony Stewart was announced as the driver of JGR’s second car, the No. 20 Home Depot machine, the organization was just three months away from moving to its current location in Huntersville.
And what a challenge it was.
Meredith spent months searching parcels of land that would house the new shop before settling on Huntersville – the last piece of land he looked at during the process. He was then heavily involved with the design process, along with architects from LS3P Associates Ltd. Meredith was there when Shelco Inc., which constructed the building, broke ground in late 1997, and then oversaw the move from the old shop to the new shop in December 1998.
“It’s a huge challenge and a lot of hard work,” Meredith said. “The year we moved to the current shop, I worked seven months without a day off, and then worked all day Thanksgiving day just because it was so much work to get moved in. You don’t have a lot of downtime to get ready for the next season, so you have to do it quickly.”
When employees moved in, they were greeted by a 130,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art complex which gave them all the tools – and more importantly – space to work in.
“It was a massive ‘wow’ factor,” said Jimmy Makar, vice president of racing operations for JGR and Labonte’s crew chief at the time of the move. “Even when we were building it, you couldn’t believe the size of it. Everyone was just really proud of the place that Joe had built for us. It was like buying a new home. Everyone was just proud and happy to have a place like our shop to come to everyday to go to work.”
Labonte was equally impressed.
“I thought the other shop was pretty big,” Labonte said. “Of course, there were only 18 people working there. Fortunately, I was able to be involved and I wanted to be involved. I’ll never forget looking at the plans for that shop in Todd’s office, and then we went over the woods where the shop is now. It was me, Joe (Gibbs), J.D. (Gibbs), Jimmy (Makar), Todd (Meredith) and Mac (Steve McMillan, facilities supervisor) and I remember just thinking, ‘There’s a lot of woods here.’ So, for me to have walked through the woods and see the plans from Todd and get the updates throughout the process from Todd and Mac – to then see it finished was an incredible feeling.”
In 2005, JGR added a third entity to its stable – the No. 11 FedEx team. In turn, JGR officials constructed a 110,000-square-foot addition to the shop to bring the total square-footage to 240,000.
“One of the things we did originally with the shop was design it so we could grow,” Makar said. “Nobody knew at that time how quickly the sport was going to grow and what we were going to need. The seven-post room was planned for even before we built it. The ground was going to be laid and the foundation was laid for that. The engine room was designed for expansion. The machine shop, which was originally in the engine room and something that we thought we weren’t going to outgrow, turned out to grow out of its area, so we moved that to what used to be the fabrication room. But, we had the ability and we had rooms to grow into. We have had, and still have, the ability to expand and change as we need to, and that’s what’s great about our shop.”
Even more than a decade after the shop opened, Meredith and Makar can’t believe how far JGR has come in 20 years.
“There’s no doubt about that,” Makar said. “The industry has grown leaps and bounds since the early ’90s and the shops are much more phenomenal than they were back then. To have even been able to envision a shop of this size and magnatiude, with the amount of people we have working and the technology we have within the walls – it’s something you never would’ve thought about. You never would’ve dreamed that you’d be doing the things we’re able to do at our shop.”
“It’s been quite a ride,” Meredith said. “It’s obviously slowed down in the last three years, but for the first 17 years it was just everything you could do to keep up. You couldn’t hire enough people, you couldn’t buy enough space and you couldn’t buy enough equipment. It was just all you could do to keep up. And there are days I walk around and am still amazed at how far we’ve come.”
And Meredith, like everyone at JGR, knows the gamble by Norm Miller, chairman of Interstate Batteries, to align with JGR in 1991, paved the way for the team’s success.
“Obviously, without Interstate Batteries, we wouldn’t be here today,” Meredith said. “They’ve been with us for all 20 seasons and they’re a huge part of history and our culture. Norm Miller is a huge friend to all of us. He’s not just a sponsor. It’s a deeper relationship than that. When you see Norm, you give him a hug, and he and Joe are very good friends. They’re just a huge part of our history.”
You are now two races away from tying Mark Martin for the career lead in Nationwide Series victories. What does that mean for you?
“All in all, the Mark Martin record – it’s two away, it’s three away from being my own. When and where that happens, we’re not going to pick a date. It’s too hard to do that. We have Darlington coming up, we’ve got Dover, and we’re not going to do Richmond. There’s definitely some good opportunity here to win three more races before June, or right into June. If everything goes right, then maybe we could do that. If it comes through this year, great. If not, then we’ll just wait and try to do it next year.”
What are your overall thoughts heading into Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Nashville Superspeedway?
“The racetrack is real finicky. It’s a fun place. It’s a mile-and-a-third, and yet it almost feels more like a short track. You’ve got really long straightaways, really fast speeds and you get down in the corner and you have to use a lot of brake, but yet there’s a lot of grip because of the concrete surface and the tire that Goodyear brings there. So, with the trucks and the Nationwide cars being there on the same weekend, I like it because it gives you a little bit. It’s kind of like a Nationwide-Cup weekend, I guess. You get a little bit more track time and that kind of gives you maybe a little bit of an advantage. I enjoy the back-and-forth stuff. And Nashville, being a standalone, non-Cup weekend, seems to be a little bit more relaxing and a little bit easier. I’m looking forward to going to Nashville.”
Kyle Busch: Two to Tie, Three to Win
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (April 19, 2011) – After last week’s improbable victory in the Aaron’s 312 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, Kyle Busch finds himself just two Nationwide wins away from tying the legendary Mark Martin for the lead in career wins in NASCAR’s second-highest division as the series heads to Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway for Saturday’s Nashville 300.
Martin has 49 Nationwide Series victories in his illustrious career, but Busch, driver of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), inched closer last week with a wild win that put his total at 47 trips to victory lane.
The fact Busch was even running at the end of last Saturday’s race at Talladega was a shock, for it appeared that his day was over after being involved in a multi-car accident on lap 89. His No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota was a mangled mess, so much so that he was ready to take his car to the garage so his crew could load it up and get a head start on the trip home.
But crew chief Jason Ratcliff had other ideas. The veteran race-caller brought Busch to pit road, where a swarm of JGR crewmen went to work on repairing the Z-Line Designs Camry. Quick and tenacious effort during a series of stops allowed Busch to rejoin the field without losing a lap. And, with 32 laps remaining in a car seemingly held together with duct tape and sheer will, Busch rallied his way to the front with JGR teammate Joey Logano pushing him from behind.
With a shove from Logano on the last lap, Busch took the lead down the backstretch of the 2.66-mile oval and kept it in the right place at the right time when a melee erupted behind him that sent Mike Wallace’s car airborne. With NASCAR having already attempted two green-white-checkered finishes, this caution provided the third and final strike. The race ended under caution with the field frozen just before entering turns three and four. Busch was clearly the leader when the caution flag waved, and after leading only three laps on three separate occasions – all before lap 36 – Busch was the leader on the lap that mattered most, allowing him to secure his fourth Nationwide win of the season and his second Nationwide win in a restrictor-plate race.
Busch not only moved closer to Martin, but also crossed another track off his Nationwide Series win list. There are 23 tracks throughout North America that will host a Nationwide race during the 2011 season. After scoring his first series victory at Talladega, Busch now has won at all but six of them.
Busch has never competed at one of those other six tracks – Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. – and is not scheduled to do so this season. And he only ran the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve road course in Montreal once, when he finished 10th in 2009. That leaves Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, the road course at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International and Atlanta Motor Speedway as circuits he has competed at more than once yet not scored a Nationwide Series victory.
This week at Nashville, Busch will look to score his second Nationwide win at the 1.33-mile oval, as he took the checkered flag there in June 2009. Ratcliff was on top of the No. 18 pit box that night and would love nothing more than to gain a second win at a circuit he considers a “home” track.
After nine years working in various forms of racing around Texas, Ratcliff’s breakthrough came in 1995, when he joined Sadler Racing in Nashville, Tenn., as a mechanic and rear tire changer for drivers Chuck Bown and Gary Bradberry in the Nationwide Series.
After two years with Sadler Racing, Ratcliff left the team and spent the 1997 and 1998 seasons at LAR Motorsports, headquartered in Columbia, Tenn., where he was chief mechanic for Casey Atwood and Jeff Purvis over the two-year span. Ratcliff left Tennessee following the 1998 season and spent 1999 to 2004 at Kentucky-based Brewco Motorsports, serving as a crew chief for Atwood, Jamie McMurray and David Green. He then moved to North Carolina and began his career with JGR.
Despite having left more than 10 years ago, Ratcliff has several ties to the Nashville area as his parents and his sister live there.
And he’d love nothing more than to get a victory in front of family and friends, while helping his driver and friend inch closer to a record.
Joey Logano Quotes
“More than anything, I really need to thank Harvest Investments and Harvest-Properties.com for coming aboard to sponsor the event. That is huge, because this team has been running good all year long and to let the owner’s championship points lead slip away because we didn’t have sponsorship would have been tough to swallow. Times are tough now and everyone is having trouble finding sponsorships, so to be able to have a company step up at the last minute because they want to see this team continue and chase that title is huge. So I can’t thank Harvest Investments and Harvest-Properties.com enough. Hopefully, we can repay them for doing this with a win and an even bigger points lead.
“I’m excited to go to Nashville because I’ve always run well there, but more than anything, I’m excited for the guys on the team. They were really bummed at not going to Nashville, especially after the way we’ve been improving week-to-week with a pretty much brand new team. After Talladega, when we looked at the points and saw we had increased the points lead, it was a downer. Then, when things came along, I told them ‘let’s get it done.’ So this is a big shot in the arm for those guys and might just give them the added push to get this No. 20 Toyota back into Victory Lane.
“I love Nashville. It’s just a great place to go. I really wish the Cup cars would race there, but since they don’t, I would hate to miss a race there in the Nationwide deal. I won my first pole there and one of my Nationwide wins came at Nashville, so it’s pretty special to me. I’ve already got one of those guitars, but I’m ready for another one. And we’ve run well there every year we’ve been there. My first year, we got wrecked, but we were running in the top-five when we did. And last year, we were one of the cars to beat, but pit strategy came back and bit us. So the results might not show how strong we are, but it’s probably one of my better tracks. That makes me even more confident going into the weekend as well.”
Harvest Investments Toyota News and Notes
LAST MINUTE CHANGE… HERE COMES JOEY & THE NO. 20 TEAM: Due to a lack of sponsorship, the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and driver Joey Logano were not originally scheduled to run this weekend at Nashville Superspeedway. However, a number of factors following this past Saturday’s event at Talladega Superspeedway changed that. First, with Logano’s second-place finish at Talladega, the No. 20 JGR team extended its points lead in the NASCAR Nationwide Series Owner’s standings to 13 points over its JGR teammates, the No. 18 team. Second, a new sponsor jumped on board Sunday evening to make the trip possible. Harvest Investments, LLC & Harvest-Properties.com have signed on with Joe Gibbs Racing for a one-race sponsorship to allow the No. 20 team and Logano to head to Nashville to continue the strong start to the season and continue the chance to run for the Nationwide Series Owner’s Championship, which Joe Gibbs Racing has won three years in a row (No. 20 team in 2008, No. 18 team in 2009 & 2010). The team was originally scheduled to run the first seven races, with Nashville being the first without sponsorship and not on the schedule. Now, with Nashville back on the schedule, the team will run through Dover. As of now, the team doesn’t have sponsorship for Iowa, but is still looking for interested companies.
THANKS HARVEST INVESTMENTS: Harvest Investments, LLC and Harvest-Properties.com will serve at Logano’s primary sponsor for this weekend’s event at Nashville Superspeedway. “Loyalty goes both directions and this is our way of showing our appreciation to Joey and the entire Logano family for their continued support in Harvest Investments,” said founder Mark Paley. Harvest Investments was established in 1992 to acquire and manage multi-family apartment properties as a means of generating significant cash flow, a consistent return on capital and long-term capital appreciation. Harvest Investments main office is located in Wethersfield, CT. For more information about Harvest Investments, call (860) 529-5158. Harvest-Properties.com is where coming home is the best part of the day. Harvest-Properties.com offers lovely and affordable housing with locations throughout the United States, offering efficient, one bedroom, two bedroom and three bedroom apartment homes. Harvest-Properties.com can assist anyone in finding the perfect place to call home. For more, visit www.harvest-properties.com.
FROM TIME OFF TO OVERTIME FOR NO. 20 TEAM: Members of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team had a number of different plans for the coming Easter weekend. Some were going to local racetracks to check out the action. Others were going to take a vacation during one of their few off weekends. Others were going to spend time with family. However, when word came down Sunday that the team would now be competing at Nashville Superspeedway instead of taking the race off due to a lack of sponsorship, the team got right to work. Starting Sunday afternoon, the team had to start preparing a car that had just been sitting in the shop previously in an effort to get it ready to head to Nashville on Wednesday evening. The team had to go over the car, scale it, set it up and decal it all in just a few days.
CHASSIS: The JGR team will take chassis #20113 to Nashville this weekend. The chassis was built new at the JGR shops this past off-season and was run for the first time earlier this year at Phoenix. In that race, Logano qualified the car third and finished sixth.
STAT OF THE WEEK:1.3 In three-career starts at Nashville Superspeedway, Logano has a career-average starting position of 1.3 and Logano has never started worse than second at the track. Those stats include two poles, coming in 2008 and 2010. His pole in 2008 marked his first-career NASCAR Nationwide Series pole, coming in just his second-career start.
Brian Scott Quotes
On His 50th Career Start…
“It hasn’t felt like I’ve made 50 starts in the series but I am at the point now where I am starting to go back to tracks for a second third or even a fourth time so it’s definitely nice to be going back to these tracks with more experience. I feel like I’m able to get up to speed even quicker just from getting more seat time. Nashville is where I made my first career start in the Nationwide Series so hopefully we can get a better finish.
“I love racing at Nashville. Nashville was a great track for me in the Truck Series – I finished second there in the Trucks and it’s just a track I feel really confident about visiting. For some reason I’ve always done better at the concrete tracks. I’ve won at Dover in the trucks and I feel like I adapt well at Bristol. Nashville is definitely a track where I feel like I could get my first win. Hopefully we will have a good car and will at least get a good top-five finish or even a win.”
No.11 Shore Lodge Team Notes of Interest
Brian Scott and the No. 11 Shore Lodge Toyota team head to the “Music City” for this weekend’s Nashville 300 at Nashville Superspeedway. This weekend’s race in Nashville is the first “stand alone” event for the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2011.
This weekend’s 300-mile race at Nashville Superspeedway marks an anniversary for Scott. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver made his first career NASCAR Nationwide Series start at the 1.33-mile track on April 11, 2009.
In addition to Nashville being the track at which Scott made his Nationwide Series debut, it also becomes the track at which the Boise, Id.-native will be making his 50th career start in NASCAR Nationwide Series competition.
Scott has three previous starts in Nationwide Series competition at Nashville Superspeedway. He earned his best Nashville finish during the 2010 spring race in which he scored a 15th-place finish after starting the event from the 13th position. Scott started the 2010 fall race at Nashville from the 19th position but was scored with a 28th-place finish after the engine on his car expired with just 30 laps remaining.
Scott also has two career starts in Truck Series competition at Nashville with his best effort being a second-place finish during the 2009 Truck Series race.
Last Race: Scott earned an 11th-place finish at Talladega Superspeedway during last weekend’s Aaron’s 312. Scott scored an 11th-place finish despite minor damage sustained on the No. 11 Shore Lodge Toyota during an incident just past the halfway point of the race.
Scott’s 11th-place finish at Talladega maintained his eighth-place position in the NASCAR Nationwide Series driver point standings. The finish did allow him to close ground on the championship point leader. He sits a mere 27 points behind leader Jason Leffler.
Chassis #116 is the car Scott will race this weekend at Nashville Superspeedway. Chassis #116 is the same car Scott raced to a 12th-place finish at Bristol Motor Speedway last month. Chassis #106 will serve as the backup. This car has not yet been raced in 2011.
“I think in the long run, consistency is what’s going to pay more than ever for this points system. If you finish (two races) in the high-teens, that’s as good as a win and a 40th-place finish. It’s a little different, for sure. It pays to be consistent, which we feel like we’re a pretty consistent race team throughout the year. Then, at the end of the season when we feel like we need to turn it up, then we feel like we can. It does make you a little scared of those bottom finishes because it’s tough to look at your points day and say you go into a weekend with 400 points and you’ve just spent three days at a race track and you come out three points better than what you started. You might as well have just stayed home. It’s a hard hit when you only get a few points, especially single digits.”
Do you enjoy racing at Auto Club Speedway?
“We haven’t had a ton of success at California, but I like racing there. We have had some bad luck with tires or getting caught in wrecks, and I’m still looking for that first win. It’s big and wide and fast, and a lot of fun for the drivers. It’s a place where you can move around and change your line to try to get your car working the best. You need a lot of horsepower because the straightaways are long, and that place is tough on motors. It’s a little easier now that this race is 400 miles. I’m happy that they shortened it. Hopefully we’ll have a good car for practice and just fine-tune on it for the race.”
Bristol Recap: Denny Hamlin and the FedEx Racing team endured a long day Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway, as early contact disrupted the rear alignment of the #11 FedEx Toyota and resulted in a 33rd place finish. A group of cars just in front of Hamlin made contact on Lap 29, and Hamlin spun trying to avoid the wreck, but was hit from behind in the left-rear. What looked like cosmetic damage turned out to be much more severe, as it made the car a handful to drive for the remainder of the 500-lap event. With the finish, Hamlin dropped nine spots to 17th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings, 44 points behind leader Kurt Busch after four of 36 events.
Going Back to Cali: Hamlin is making his 11th career Cup Series start at Auto Club Speedway (ACS) on Sunday in the #11 FedEx Office Toyota Camry. In 10 previous trips to the two-mile speedway in Fontana, Calif., the 30-year-old driver has one top-five and four top-10 results, including a third-place finish in the fall 2008 event. This year marks the first since 2003 that the track is only hosting one Cup Series race. Hamlin finished 29th and eighth in the two events at ACS in 2010. Fuel strategy worked to near-perfection in the spring race last year, but two cut tires in the race’s final 30 laps resulted in the #11 Toyota finishing two laps down to the leaders. Hamlin rebounded in the fall trip to the track, as Hamlin charged from a 34th-place starting position to finish eighth and stay in the Chase hunt. Hamlin started on the pole in the fall 2009 race at Auto Club and was leading the field to the green flag on a lap 190 restart when contact with Juan Pablo Montoya sent Hamlin spinning through the infield grass to make contact with the pit wall. Hamlin has a pair of sixth-place runs at the track — in the fall of 2006 and spring of 2009. In total, Hamlin has led 56 laps with an average finish of 17.2 at Auto Club Speedway.
Kyle Busch Quotes
With a Sprint Cup win at Bristol last weekend under your belt, and with the season-long championship your primary goal, are you more concerned about points or wins as you go forward?
“I think that racing to your potential on most days will get you a win, so you don’t really have to worry about that. It seems like we’re a lot better at a couple of racetracks than maybe some others that we’re working on and getting better at, and one of those coming up is California this weekend. We’re always like a fifth- to ninth-place car. Hopefully, we can get a little bit better than that at California. Michigan is another one. Some of those places where we struggle at a little bit, we’d like to get better, particularly a couple of racetracks in the Chase. Every time we unload, we’re racing for the win. If we can gather the wins up, the points will take care of themselves. If we can finish consistently, points will take care of themselves. It’s a matter of keeping track of your bad days. Our only bad day so far has been due to an engine failure. I have the utmost respect for Mark (Cronquist, JGR head engine builder) and what his guys are doing, what those guys are doing in the engine shop. Vegas is hopefully behind us, now, and we can continue on our good run of strong finishes.”
Do you enjoy racing at California?
“I like California. It’s fun. It’s really wide and it’s kind of flatter than Michigan, so it’s a little harder to kind of get a hold of, but you can really spread out. We’ve been seeing a lot of guys all the way down at the white line. We saw guys all the way up at the wall. It always seems to be a really good race, there. It’s a really fun racetrack. It’s widened out and it’s become where you can race all over it and, with the race being as long as it is, you need to take a lot of time working through traffic and being able to have a good car and all that. It’s the same thing every week. California is just another one of those racetracks that seems to suit Jimmie (Johnson) really, really well. He’s been in contention to win the past seven races there, I think, and he’s probably won four of them. That’s another place we know he’ll be fast. Again, we just hope for a solid day and that our efforts will put us in a good enough position. And if they don’t, then we weren’t good enough.”
Do you think the key for your championship run this year is racing with a little more savvy, like we’ve seen you do at the first four races this year?
“I guess so. We need to keep it going all year long. That’s the most important thing. When it gets hot and slick in the summertime, you get more frustrated that you’re not going forward or you’re kind of stuck running 15th somewhere. Those are the days that savvy really needs to show versus the days you’re running up front, top-five. It’s a little easier. We just keep working on the things that we can do, what we can do better to improve our program and to make it to where we can run competitive top-fives week in and week out. Be a championship contender in order to bring home not only the hardware but the points that will get us into the Chase, then the final stretch to Homestead.”
Are you looking forward to running the Interstate Batteries ‘Hybrid’ Camry scheme this weekend at California?
“I’d say it was pretty good luck out in Phoenix for the Nationwide race, so I hope that continues this weekend. I was calling it my ‘Hybrid’ Camry with the Interstate battery coming out of the hood. It’s always great to have Interstate Batteries a part of our program. Just the relationship with Norm (Miller, Interstate Chairman) means a lot to myself, Samantha (wife), the Gibbs family, and everyone at JGR. We’ve come close to getting them a win at California, so I’m hoping this is the weekend for it.”
How has Auto Club Speedway changed over the last few years, going from a new track to a place that has a lot more character and racing grooves?
“That place is tough. It’s really a hard racetrack to get ahold of, now, especially when it’s hot and the sun is out. There are two completely different types of racing when you run the top versus the bottom groove. You can run from the top to the bottom, but when you run the bottom, you really feel like you’re puttering around the racetrack. You feel like you aren’t making up any time on the bottom. But when you are running the top groove, you feel like you’re getting the job done. The guys who run the bottom have a little bit more patience and handle it better than the guys who are on the gas on top.”
Kyle Busch Notes: ‘‘White-Hot’ and Heading West’
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (March 22, 2011) – Following his weekend sweep of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide Series races at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, there’s no driver more “white-hot” than Kyle Busch.
As the Sprint Cup Series heads back to the West Coast for round five of the season, Busch, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), looks to keep his hot streak going in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
The talented 25-year-old will debut the Sprint Cup version of Interstate Batteries’ new “white hot” paint scheme to help celebrate the company’s 20-year partnership with JGR.
While Sunday’s race will be the first of six Sprint Cup races in 2011 for Dallas-based Interstate Batteries, the scheme has already visited victory lane after a dominating performance by Busch in the Nationwide Series Bashas’ Supermarkets 200 at Phoenix International Raceway last month. The No. 18 Toyota Camry is primarily white with green and black accents, including a distinctive lightning bolt design on the sides. But, perhaps the most talked-about aspect of the new livery is the front of the Camry, which features a stunning illustration of an “Outrageously Dependable” green-top Interstate Battery seemingly bursting out of the hood.
After leading all 200 laps en route to the Nationwide win at Phoenix, Busch dubbed his Interstate ride a “Hybrid” Camry, in reference to the battery emblazoned on the hood of his No. 18 Toyota. It’s a bold look to celebrate the anniversary of what was essentially a bold move 20 years ago by Interstate Batteries chairman Norm Miller.
In the summer of 1991, Joe Gibbs met with Miller in Dallas and pitched him on having Interstate Batteries be the first-ever sponsor for JGR, despite the fact he had no racecars, engines, employees or even a building. Miller was sold on the idea immediately and a highly successful relationship was born. Twenty years later, Interstate Batteries-sponsored JGR cars have now won the 1993 Daytona 500 (Dale Jarrett), the 2000 Brickyard 400 (Bobby Labonte), the 2000 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship (Labonte) and 24 Sprint Cup races (21 by Labonte, two by Jarrett, one by Busch).
Busch, of course, is determined to add to the Interstate Batteries’ 20-year legacy with his No. 18 JGR team, and it’s quite clear his sights are focused more than ever on adding another Sprint Cup title to JGR’s already impressive resume. It all continues this weekend in Southern California as Busch and his No. 18 teammates look to remain “white-hot.”
Joey Logano Quotes
Logano Quotes on Auto Club Speedway:
“There is a ton to think about during a race at Auto Club. It’s a pretty cool race track. There is so much room out there to race and you can draft down the straight-aways. It’s starting to wear out so it’s pretty bumpy. But the craziest thing about it by far is the restarts, a good restart is huge. When the flag goes in the air, people are four and five-wide. You can gain and lose five spots before you get through the first turn, not the first lap, but the first turn.”
Logano Quotes on the Season:
“It’s been tough this season. I know the results don’t show it, but I really believe we are running better now than we were last year. Every time I think the bad luck is out of the way, something happens. Last weekend we were down 150 horsepower then the wheel broke. But the good thing is the performance is there and we know what we are capable of doing. We are now to the point where we can’t afford to have another bad race or we will never get the points back. I think with how fast the cars have been we can still make it into the top 10 before Richmond.”
The Home Depot Team Notes of Interest
Joey Logano is searching for that illusive first top-10 finish of the 2011 season and hopes to find it at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. this weekend. Auto Club Speedway has been one of Logano’s most consistent tracks on the circuit. He has four starts at the two-mile track and has completed all but one lap of competition. He has one top-five and two top-10 finishes and an average finishing position of 14th.
About the last race: Logano and The Home Depot Team had another frustrating finish at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday. Logano consistently improved throughout the 500-lap race, but a right-front tire issue with less than 30 laps to go forced him down pit road under green-flag conditions. The blown tire dropped him from the top 10 to the 23rd position.
The Home Depot Team is currently tied for 29th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings following the race at Bristol. The team has accumulated 74 points so far this season and sits 49 points out of the series top 10.
Welcome aboard The Home Depot associates from store #405 from Glendale, Ariz. The store number will ride along with Logano this weekend for the 200-lap race.
Logano will be competing in the Cup Series and Nationwide Series races this weekend. Before climbing behind the wheel of the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota on Sunday, Logano will once again race the No. 20 Toyota in the NASCAR Nationwide Series event on Saturday. Logano has one win, four top-five and five top-10 finishes in just five starts in the Nationwide Series at the Fontana, Calif.-based track.
The No. 20 Home Depot Team is taking chassis #287 for Logano this weekend for the Auto Club 400. The team raced this chassis to a seventh-place finish at Charlotte Motor Speedway in October and to a fourth-place finish at Texas in November. The back-up chassis is chassis #284 which Logano drove last year at Auto Club Speedway to an 11th-place finish and at Phoenix International Raceway in November to third.
Scott Quotes on the upcoming race at Auto Club Speedway:
“I’m really excited going to California. I feel like it’s one of my better tracks. If you look at last year that was the first place that we had a really strong run. It was the second race of the season and we ran second most of the race behind my now, current teammate of Joey Logano. We had a really good car. I like the place. Really pays off the high line. It’s a difficult line to run, but if you can run it then it pays off. I feel like I’ve got the high line figured out. I feel like I’ve got the race track figured out and I feel like I’m with a team now that has the equipment even more figured out. I think we can be a deadly combination at California.”
What are the benefits to having teammates in NNS that are only focused on wins?
“It’s been a tremendous benefit for me to have teammates like Kyle Busch and Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin – guys that are on the Cup side and going for the wins. How they are approaching practice and how they approach a race is different and more experienced. To see one, for myself what they’re doing and be able to talk to them after the runs. Two, for the team and for Kevin (Kidd, crew chief) to be able to communicate with their crew chiefs and know that if they were going for a championship then we probably wouldn’t do this, but we’re going to roll the dice. It allows different strategies to play out and it allows us to have better information, better data and everything for when we go back to race tracks a second time. We can see what risks worked, what risks they didn’t so then we can create a better game plan.”
How is the relationship with Kevin Kidd?
“Me and Kevin (Kidd, crew chief) are great. I feel like we’re on the same page. I don’t say anything bad behind his back — I don’t know what he says about me when I’m not around. I think we understand each other. I think that we have similar mentalities and I think that we both know what the goals and objectives are week by week. I think that’s all you can really ask for in a crew chief and driver relationship.”
Shore Lodge Team Notes
Brian Scott and the No. 11 Shore Lodge Toyota team travel to Auto Club Speedway for this weekend’s Royal Purple 300 in what will be Scott’s fourth career start at the two-mile California track in NASCAR Nationwide Series competition.
In three previous starts at Auto Club Speedway, Scott has one top-10 finish. He finished 10th during the spring race in 2010.
During his previous three starts at Auto Club, Scott has completed 454 of the 454 laps that have been run during those three races for a 100 percent lap completion rate.
Last Race: Scott earned a career-best 12th-place Bristol Motor Speedway finish last weekend in the Scotts EZ Seed 300. Scott started the race from the 13th position and avoided the multiple accidents that took place for his third finish of 14th or better in the last three Nationwide Series races.
Scott’s 12th-place finish at Bristol moved him up a position in the NASCAR Nationwide Series driver point standings to 10th place. He is a mere 17 points out of third place and 35 points behind championship point leader Jason Leffler.
Chassis #119 is the car Scott will race this weekend at Auto Club Speedway. The car is a brand new chassis for Joe Gibbs Racing. The backup car for the race will once again be Chassis #106. This chassis has been the backup for all of the races in 2011 and is also new for this season. The car was used at the test in which Scott participated at the Walt Disney World Speedway in January.