HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. – official team release — Geoff Burke/Getty Images photo —
Joe Gibbs Racing and NOS Energy Drink will reunite in the rejuvenation of a longstanding partnership, as the team announced Wednesday that the energy drink brand will serve as primary sponsor of the team’s No. 18 Camry in the NASCAR XFINITY Series.
Defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kyle Busch will pilot the No. 18 NOS Toyota in a total of 16 races in 2016, starting at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Feb. 27, while 2000 Sprint Cup champion Bobby Labonte will kick off the partnership by returning to the seat of a JGR entry in the Daytona XFINITY race on Feb. 20.
“We’ve always sought out the most determined, fearless and committed athletes to represent our company and brands,” said Vice President of Sports Marketing Mitch Covington. “With Kyle (Busch) in the seat most of the year and a strong Daytona start with Bobby (Labonte), we have every reason to believe our program will win.”
The NOS Energy Drink brand is no stranger to victory lane with Busch. A partnership between the two earlier in his career afforded them much success together. Between 2011 and 2008 (Busch’s first season with Joe Gibbs Racing) the orange and blue NOS colors were represented across 25 races in the XFINITY Series when Busch earned seven victories and three pole-position wins to further their brand exposure. Also in 2008 Busch represented the NOS Energy Drink colors with one NASCAR Camping World Truck Series entry, in which he earned a second-place result.
“I’m pumped to be back with NOS Energy Drink, a brand that supported me initially when I came to Joe Gibbs Racing,” Busch said. “We had a lot of success together and I can’t wait to win with them again.”
In 311 starts over 13 seasons, Busch has proven himself to be the winningest competitor in the history of NASCAR’s XFINITY Series. In addition to 76 career wins, the 30-year old has recorded 186 top-five finishes, 48 pole-qualifying wins and 15,766 laps led. In 2010 Busch made series history with a record 13-win race season. Past XFINITY Series Championships for Kyle include a Driver’s Championship in 2009 and Owner’s Championships in 2010 and ‘08, all with Busch’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and XFINITY Series team owner Joe Gibbs Racing.
Labonte proved to be a strong selection to kick off the NOS Energy Drink program for the first race of the season as he rejoins Joe Gibbs Racing while they celebrate their 25th year of NASCAR racing.
“I’m excited about the opportunity to drive for JGR again,” said Labonte. “I didn’t think this would ever happen and when Joe called me about the program, it was a ‘no-brainer.’ Great race team, great cars, the opportunity is a good one. There would be nothing better than to hang a flag in this building too.”
A Texas native, Labonte was an early driver of the No. 18 with JGR and earned them 21 victories and a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship in 2000. Labonte is also a NASCAR champion in the XFINITY Series (1991) and IROC (2001) and has victories recorded in all three of NASCAR’s premier racing series. This year marks Labonte’s 30th consecutive year as a professional driver.
The No. 18 team’s goal will again be to capture an Owner’s Championship in the XFINITY Series. With Busch and Labonte confirmed and the recent announcement of Matt Tifft as driver of the No. 18 for races later in the schedule, crew chief Chris Gayle is eager to attack that goal.
“Owners points matter and it’s important for us to keep striving for that team goal,” Gayle remarked. “[I’m] looking forward to having NOS Energy Drink back with us and hopefully we are able to give them more trips to victory lane.”
NOS Energy Drink will be featured on the No. 18 XFINITY Series Camry for 18 total races this season: Daytona Int’l Speedway (Feb. 20, Labonte); Atlanta Motor Speedway (February 27, Busch); Las Vegas Motor Speedway (March 5, Busch); Phoenix Int’l Raceway (March 12, Busch); Auto Club Speedway (March 19, Busch); Texas Motor Speedway (April 8, Busch); Bristol Motor Speedway (April 16, Busch); Talladega Superspeedway (April 30, TBD); Pocono Raceway (June 4, Busch); Michigan Int’l Speedway (June 11, Busch); Kentucky Speedway (July 8, Busch); Indianapolis Motor Speedway (July 23, Busch); Watkins Glen Int’l (August 6, Busch); Richmond Int’l Raceway (Sept. 9, Busch); Chicagoland Speedeway (Sept. 17, Busch); Dover Int’l Speedway (Oct. 1, Busch); Kansas Speedway (Oct. 15, Busch); Phoenix Int’l Raceway (Nov. 12, Busch).
CREDIT: Joe Gibbs Racing