Interstate Batteries: Celebrating 65 Years at Hometown Race
HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina (April 4, 2017) – In the spring of 1950, John Searcy began selling and delivering car batteries to wholesalers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area from the back of his red pickup truck. After two years, Searcy founded his new company and named it Interstate Battery System. He based his business on the principles of offering the best-quality product, providing impeccable service, and treating the customer with respect.
When he retired in 1978, Searcy left the company in the hands of current owner and Chairman Norm Miller. In the following years, Interstate Batteries transcended from regional powerhouse to a household name in automotive batteries. Under the guidance of Miller, Interstate Batteries distributorships served auto repair shops in every American state.
From a marketing standpoint, the natural progression of its business led the company to what would become the perfect fit for promoting the automotive battery brand – NASCAR racing. It all started in 1991, when then-Washington Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs ended up in the Dallas office of Interstate Batteries Chairman 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 what is now called the Monster Energy 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 dream.
During his entire business career, Miller has never been shy about taking chances. And while Interstate Batteries had sponsored a few races with a little-known team with Stanley Smith as the driver, Miller and Interstate Batteries agreed to sponsor Gibbs’ team, and the rest, as they say, is history. Now, more than a quarter of a century later, an organization that started from humble beginnings before the commitment of Interstate Batteries has now become one of the premiere teams in all of NASCAR.
Not only did Gibbs gain a lifetime sponsor in Miller and Interstate Batteries, he gained a lifetime friendship, as well. It’s become a relationship that cannot be overemphasized when discussing Joe Gibbs Racing’s (JGR) evolution and longevity.
So as the NASCAR Cup Series heads to its semi-annual stop at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth for Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500, there could be no better way than to continue the 65th anniversary celebration for Dallas-Based Interstate Batteries right down the road from its company headquarters.
Kyle Busch, the 2015 Cup Series champion, first drove the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota for JGR to victory lane at Texas back in April 2013, giving the brand its first win at its home track. The win ended a streak of 19 Cup Series races in which Interstate had competed at Texas without a coveted victory. Busch followed it up with a win in last year’s Texas Cup Series race in April.
However, a new challenge awaits the Las Vegas native and the Interstate Batteries team. Texas has undergone a repaving project this spring as a fresh coat of asphalt wipes the slate clean for crew chief Adam Stevens and the entire team, who will be starting from scratch thanks to the new surface and a reconfigured turns one and two.
On top of his two Cup Series wins there, Busch is no stranger to victory lane at Texas in other NASCAR series, as well. He reeled off an incredible string of five consecutive Xfinity Series wins there from April 2008 to April 2010, adding two more wins in April 2013, November 2014, and April 2016. Add his three Camping World Truck Series wins in November 2009, 2010, and 2014 and he enters the upcoming Texas race weekend with a total of 13 NASCAR national series wins at the 1.5-mile oval.
So while the challenge of the repave and reconfiguration will test Busch and his entire team, it’s safe to say they would like nothing more than to bring home another win for hometown sponsor Interstate Batteries in the Lone Star State as the company celebrates 65 years of providing great batteries across the United States and around the world.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What are your thoughts heading into the Texas race next weekend with the
“It’s going to be a whole new deal with the repave. I’m not a big fan of the repaves. But it’s a part of our schedule, it’s a part of our sport. Five years from now, six years from now, it’s going to be great. I’m looking forward to that aspect of it. Right out of the gate, going there, trying to put rubber down, it’s slick, man. It’s so treacherous, hard to get ahold of, hard to understand what you’re feeling with your car, because you can think you’re tight, you’ve got all the grip in the world, you’re going around the corner, and then, ‘Boom,’ it just busts loose right out from under you with no warning. That’s the worst thing. That’s why the older racetracks, the more aged racetracks – the Atlantas, the Californias – you’re sliding the whole time, so you’re already against the slide. You don’t have maximum grip. You’re already playing with it and trying to get the most out of yourself and the car that you possibly can. You’re not just locked down, locked in solid, then it just jumps out from under you, you know. I don’t necessarily look forward to repaves, but we’ve got one coming up, so we’ve got to do what we know and try and have a good run with our Interstate Batteries Camry. There’s really no homework to do. You can’t even watch last year’s races. You can’t look at anything besides the (Chris) Buescher YouTube video and just see what the place looks like so you don’t go in there blind. That’s about it.”
How special has the partnership between JGR and Interstate Batteries been
“It’s crazy, if you think about it. If it weren’t for Norm (Miller, Interstate Batteries Chairman), JGR wouldn’t even exist today. Personally, Norm and everyone at Interstate Batteries treats me and my family like we are a part of their family. We won the race at Daytona back in 2008 and that was the first time Interstate Batteries had been to victory lane in a long time, and we’ve been able to add more for them over the years. Winning at Texas was special last year, too. Any win is special. But, I’ll never forget how excited Norm was back a few years ago when we won the Cup race at Texas in 2013. He had been trying for so many years and he really soaked it up the entire night. He and Joe (Gibbs) came up to the Speedway Club and told some stories about how long they had been trying to win there. So I was very proud to be able to do that for Norm.”
Should it be alarming or surprising that two of the better teams, Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports, haven’t won yet this year?
“I don’t think it should be alarming. I think it’s probably a good thing, to be honest with you. There needs to be more parity in our sport. There need to be other teams that have the opportunity to get up there and run well and win races. You see RCR (Richard Childress Racing) has done that. You see Ganassi has done that. Those would be two teams that probably haven’t won in the last couple years. I know (Kyle) Larson won a race last year, but not regularly, let’s say, like the JGR bunch or the HMS bunch. Our time is coming. We were so close last week at Martinsville. We know that. We’ll get it up to speed to where we need to. I think we’re playing a little bit of catch‑up right now, to be honest with you. We do have great partners with the guys at Furniture Row who have been running really well. They’ve been strong and up front each week. They’ve been helping us, as well, getting our program to where we believe we know it can be. They’ve shown us. They’ve had the potential each week. We just have to get there ourselves.”
How special was it to get Interstate Batteries to victory lane in the company’s backyard back in 2013, and then again last season?
“It felt good to sit on the pole with a new track record and go to victory lane back in 2013. On top of that, just to see the look on Norm’s (Miller, Interstate Batteries Chairman) face was priceless and something I will never forget. It doesn’t get much better than that. It was a fast race and I expect more of that this weekend. Texas is fast. We were able to carry a lot of speed throughout the turns and down the straightaways throughout the whole race. It was a tough day there for a bit, getting loose, trying to slide around, trying to find grip, being able to move to the middle or move to the top. As soon as that caution came at the end, my boys stepped up to the plate and hit a grand slam and got us to victory lane. Last year, we also didn’t have the best car, but took advantage of some circumstances late in the race and brought home another win there. This year will be a new challenge with the repave, but we don’t go to the racetrack without setting our goal to win this race, and this weekend won’t be any different.”
Interstate Batteries Racing
Race 7 of 36 – O’Reilly Auto Parts 500– Texas
Car No.: 18 – Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry
Teammates: Denny Hamlin – No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry; Daniel Suarez – No.
19 Stanley Toyota Camry; Matt Kenseth – No. 20 Toyota Camry.
Primary Team Members:
Driver: Kyle Busch
Hometown: Las Vegas
Crew Chief: Adam Stevens
Hometown: Portsmouth, Ohio
Car Chief: Nate Bellows
Hometown: Fairfax, Vermont
Race Engineer: Ben Beshore
Hometown: Hometown York, Pennsylvania
Engine Specialist: Mike Johnson
Hometown: Bozeman, Montana
Spotter: Tony Hirschman
Hometown: Northampton, Pennsylvania
Over-The-Wall Crew Members:
Gas Man: Tom Lampe
Hometown: Beatrice, Nebraska
Front Tire Changer: Josh Leslie
Hometown: Mount Clemens, Michigan
Jackman: TJ Ford
Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina
Front Tire Carrier: Brad Donaghy
Hometown: Orange County, Virginia
Rear Tire Carrier: Kenny Barber
Hometown: Hoosick Falls, New York
Rear Tire Changer: Jake Seminara
Hometown: Steubenville, Ohio
Pit Support: Marcus Bonicelli
Hometown: Colorado Springs, Colorado
Pit Support: Jeff Koons
Hometown: Greenfield, Indiana
Road Crew Members:
Truck Drivers: Brendan Greene and Jamie Price
Hometowns: Midland, North Carolina, and Choteau, Montana, respectively
Tire Specialist: Jon Desrocher
Hometown: Plattsburgh, New York
Interior Mechanic: Wesley Lape
Hometown: Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania
Race Engineer: Tyler Allen
Hometown: Seattle, Washington
Ride and Handling Engineer: Chris Chase
Hometown: Nichols, New York
Rear End Mechanic: Chris Jones
Hometown: Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia
Mechanic: Todd Foster
Hometown: Birmingham, Alabama
Front End Mechanic: Brandon Griffeth
Hometown: Pittsfield, Illinois
Notes of Interest:
* The O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 will mark Kyle Busch’s 433rd career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start and his 23rd NASCAR Cup Series start at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.
* Busch has career totals of 38 wins, 19 poles, 149 top-five finishes, 222 top-10s and 12,769 laps led in 432 career Cup Series races. His most recent Cup Series win came in July 2016 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, when he brought home his second consecutive win at the historic 2.5-mile oval. Busch’s win came from the pole position, his most recent pole and the 19th of his career.
* Busch has two wins, 11 top-five finishes and 12 top-10s and has led a total of 741 laps in 22 career Cup Series starts at Texas. Busch’s average Texas finish is 11.6.
* 38 Career Cup Series Wins: With his Cup Series win at Indianapolis last July, the 38th of his career, Busch is tied for 19th on the all-time Cup Series win list with Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) teammate Matt Kenseth.
* Trimming the List: With wins at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and Kansas Speedway in Kansas City added to the list last season, Busch has won Cup Series races at 21 of the 23 tracks at which the series competes. The only two tracks he has yet to conquer in the Cup Series are Pocono (Pa) Raceway and Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. During his 2015 Cup Series championship season, Busch checked off Indianapolis and Homestead-Miami Speedway. Four of Busch’s last six Cup Series wins have been his first at each track in NASCAR’s top series (Indianapolis, Homestead, Martinsville and Kansas). Of the 21 different tracks where Busch has won, he has multiple wins at 11 of them.
* All-Time JGR Wins Leader: With his Brickyard 400 last July, Busch passed three-time Cup Series champion Tony Stewart for most all-time Cup Series wins for JGR. Busch now has 34 wins for JGR to Stewart’s 33.
* 170 and Counting: Busch enters Texas with 170 career wins among NASCAR’s top three divisions – Cup (38), Xfinity (87) and Truck (46) following his NASCAR Xfinity Series win earlier this season at Atlanta Motor Speedway.