Interstate Batteries Racing: New Paint, Same Result
The paint scheme was different but the result was the same for Kyle Busch in Saturday’s Bashas’ Supermarkets 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Phoenix International Raceway.
The driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) dominated the 200-lap race, leading flag-to-flag en route to his first Nationwide Series win of 2011 and his fourth at Phoenix. It was the first time a driver led every single lap of a Nationwide Series event since Dale Earnhardt Jr., led all 100 laps in the July 4, 2003 race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
“Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) and these guys brought an awesome Interstate Batteries Camry here to begin with,” said Busch, who gave a prelude of his impressive run by winning the pole with a track-record time of 26.806 seconds at 134.298 mph around the 1-mile oval. “There wasn’t much work we needed to do on it. To lead that many laps and to come out of here with a win – it feels really, really good. I love coming out to the west coast and Phoenix.”
The lights-out performance didn’t exactly come easily, as Carl Edwards made Busch earn the victory with a spirited challenge in the last 20 circuits that saw the two run side-by-side for laps at a time. Busch, however, always emerged out front when the duo crossed the start/finish line.
“First person I have to thank is Carl Edwards for racing me clean. He raced me hard, but raced me clean,” Busch said. “After that second long run, I was like, ‘Man, so far I’ve led every lap of this thing,’ and it came down toward the end of the race and Carl was alongside me and he was trying to pass me and I was like, ‘Man, just beat him back to the start-finish line, just beat him back to the start-finish line.’ I was just trying to hold on for as long as I could. Finally, it seemed like it was about 15 laps or so that his stuff would just start falling off enough where we could start clicking back away and get away from him a little bit. I knew if I could just make it to that threshold, that I thought we’d be okay. Fortunately we got there. When it came down to the end of the race I knew it was every lap. It was pretty cool. I love doing that stuff and being in the position where you’re the guy to beat.”
The 25-year-old Busch remained “white hot” after winning Friday night’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, and he did it in Interstate Batteries’ new “white hot” paint scheme that celebrates the company’s 20-year partnership with JGR. The Toyota Camry is primarily white with green and black accents, including a distinctive lightning bolt design on the sides. The new livery features a stunning illustration of an “Outrageously Dependable” green-top Interstate Battery seemingly bursting out of the hood.
“Gotta thank Interstate Batteries and all of our partners on this No. 18 Toyota,” said Busch, who jokingly referred to his Camry as a hybrid because of the big Interstate Battery. “It’s fun to run in this Nationwide Series and to run in front of these fans here in Phoenix.”
When Busch burst into victory lane upon the completion of the Bashas’ Supermarkets 200, it marked his 44th career Nationwide Series victory. He is now just four wins shy of breaking the all-time Nationwide Series win record of 48, currently held by Mark Martin.
Busch now has 88 victories across NASCAR’s top three divisions (Sprint Cup – 19; Nationwide – 44; Camping World Truck – 25). He could add to that total again this weekend with a win in Sunday’s Subway Fresh Fit 500k NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. A clean sweep of the race weekend is possible, for Busch pulled the feat last August when he swept the Truck, Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series races at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
“We’re two for two so far this weekend,” said Busch when the prospect of a weekend sweep was broached. “I hope Carl (Edwards) didn’t save everything he had for tomorrow. Our Combos Camry is good. I’ll let you know in about 24 hours.”
His JGR teammates – Joey Logano, driver of the No. 20 Toyota Camry, and Brian Scott, driver of the No. 11 Toyota Camry – finished sixth and ninth, respectively, in the Bashas’ Supermarkets 200.
Edwards finished .514 of a second behind Busch in the runner-up spot, while Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman and Reed Sorenson rounded out the top-five. Logano, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Justin Allgaier, Scott and Kenny Wallace comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were three caution periods for 15 laps, with nine drivers failing to finish the race.
The next event on the Nationwide Series schedule is the March 5 Sam’s Town 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The race starts at 3 p.m. EST with live coverage provided by ABC beginning with its pre-race show at 2:30 p.m.