A significant milestone is in the making for Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 car in the NASCAR Cup Series, currently driven by two-time reigning series champion Kyle Busch. By taking the green flag in this weekend’s Cup event at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course for the Bank of America Roval 400, the No. 18 car competing under the JGR banner will reach 1,000 starts in NASCAR’s premier series.
The No. 18 car serves as the first car fielded by Joe Gibbs Racing in NASCAR when the team made its debut in the 1992 Daytona 500 led by Washington Football Team head coach Joe Gibbs. By then, Interstate Batteries was sponsoring the car while Dale Jarrett, a second-generation competitor from Hickory, North Carolina, was serving as the team’s first competitor. Jarrett and the No. 18 team achieved two top-five results and eight top-10 results throughout the 29-race schedule before finishing the team’s first season in 19th place.
The following season, Jarrett and the No. 18 Interstate Batteries car opened the season in style by winning the season-opening Daytona 500 as Jarrett recorded the first NASCAR win for Joe Gibbs Racing. Jarrett went on to record a total of 13 top-five results and 18 top-10 results before he finished in fourth place in the final standings. In 1994, Jarrett won at Charlotte Motor Speedway in October and he notched four top-five results and nine top-10 results in 30 of the 31-race schedule, where he did not make the field at North Wilkesboro Speedway in October, before he concluded the season in 16th place in the final standings.
Following the 1994 season, Jarrett moved to Robert Yates Racing while Terry Labonte, the younger brother of the 1984 Cup champion Terry Labonte, took over as driver of JGR’s No. 18 Interstate Batteries car for the 1995 Cup season. Eleven races into the season, Labonte scored his first Cup career win in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte in May and he became the second competitor to win in NASCAR’s premier series for JGR. Ironically, JGR’s No. 18 car made its 100th Cup career start when Labonte won his first career race at Charlotte.
Ultimately, Labonte achieved two additional victories throughout the 1995 season: Michigan International Speedway in June and again at Michigan in August. He also achieved two poles, seven top-five results and 14 top-10 results before he concluded the season in 10th place in the final standings.
From 1996 to 1998, Labonte and the No. 18 team won a total of four races and racked up 25 top-five results and 50 top-10 results, with Labonte’s best final result in the standings being a sixth-place result in 1998. By then, JGR’s No. 18 car surpassed 200 Cup starts. After winning five races and concluding the 1999 season in second place in the final standings behind Jarrett, Labonte and the No. 18 team notched four victories, 19 top-five results and 24 top-10 results before claiming the 2000 NASCAR Cup championship by 265 points over Dale Earnhardt. The championship was a first for both Labonte and Joe Gibbs Racing in NASCAR.
In 2001, Labonte and the No. 18 team were unable to defend their title after winning only two races, recording 20 top-10 results and concluding the season in sixth place in the final standings. By then, JGR’s No. 18 car surpassed 300 Cup starts. The following season, Labonte and the No. 18 team recorded only one victory throughout the 36-race schedule before finishing the season in 16th place in the final standings. By then, Joe Gibbs Racing achieved its second Cup championship with Tony Stewart and the No. 20 Home Depot team.
In 2003, Labonte and the No. 18 team rallied by winning twice throughout the 36-race schedule and racking up four poles, 12 top-five results and 17 top-10 results before concluding the season in eighth place in the final standings. For the next two Cup seasons, however, Labonte and the No. 18 team went winless. They also achieved one pole, nine top-five results and 18 top-10 results, with Labonte’s best points result being 12th place in 2004. By then, JGR’s No. 18 car surpassed 400 Cup starts.
For the 2006 season, J.J. Yeley, a native from Phoenix, Arizona, and a former USAC competitor who competed for JGR as an Xfinity Series competitor, assumed driving responsibilities of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet while Bobby Labonte made the move to Petty Enterprises. In his first full Cup season in the No. 18 car, Yeley struggled on the track as he only achieved three top-10 results before he finished in 29th place in the final standings. Following the 2006 season, JGR’s No. 18 team reached 500 Cup career starts.
Yeley and the No. 18 team rebounded the following season by notching a second-place result in the 2007 Coca-Cola 600 in May, three top-10 results and a pole position at Michigan International Speedway in June before concluding the season in 21st place in the final standings. Following the 2007 season, Joe Gibbs Racing changed manufacturers from General Motors to Toyota.
In 2008, JGR welcomed Las Vegas, Nevada’s Kyle Busch as the newest driver of the No. 18 Toyota Camry sponsored by M&M’s/Mars Inc. and Interstate Batteries. It only took the first four races into the season until Busch achieved his first victory with the team at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March. Busch’s win at Atlanta was historical with Toyota achieving its first victory in the Cup Series. Through the first 26 races of the season, Busch won eight races, recorded 17 top-10 results and led the standings for the majority of the season. When the 10-race Playoff stretch started, however, Busch struggled with on-track consistency and only notched four top-10 results before concluding the season in 10th place in the final standings.
Following the 2009 season, where Busch won four races and finished in 13th place in the final standings after missing the Playoffs, JGR’s No. 18 car surpassed 600 Cup starts. Busch and the No. 18 team went on to win a total of seven races from 2010 to 2011. At Texas Motor Speedway in November, Michael McDowell drove JGR’s No. 18 M&M’s Toyota after Busch was not allowed to compete in the Cup and Xfinity events at Texas throughout the weekend due to intentionally wrecking Ron Hornaday Jr. in the Truck Series race at the track on Friday night.
After the 2012 season, where Busch won only once throughout the season and missed the Playoffs while JGR’s No. 18 car surpassed 700 Cup starts, Busch and the No. 18 team rallied in 2013 by winning four races before finishing in fourth place in the final standings. The fourth-place result in the 2013 standings marked the highest result for JGR’s No. 18 car in the standings since winning the 2000 championship. Busch and the No. 18 team went on to win only once and finish in 10th place in the 2014 final standings.
JGR’s No. 18 Toyota team started the 2015 season on a rocky note when Kyle Busch suffered a massive compound fracture on his right leg and fractured his left foot following a harrowing multi-car wreck in the Xfinity Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway in February. The injuries prevented Busch from competing in the early portions of the season. As a result, the No. 18 car was piloted by two-time Truck Series champion Matt Crafton, two-time Cup winner David Ragan and four-time Truck winner Erik Jones through the first 11 races of the season. Following the Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway in May, Busch made his return to racing the following week at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the All-Star Race. After finishing in sixth place in the All-Star Race, Busch finished in 11th place the following race, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte. Ironically, Busch’s first points race of the 2015 season at Charlotte occurred as JGR’s No. 18 car made its 800th Cup start.
Though Busch completed his first points race of the 2015 Cup season at Charlotte, he needed a win and enough consistent runs to make the top-30 cutoff mark in the standings by September and when the regular-season stretch concluded before the 16-car Playoff field would be determined. Busch and the No. 18 team achieved their first goal of winning at Sonoma Raceway in June. After finishing 17th at Daytona the following event, Busch and the No. 18 team went on a three-race winning span. The four victories along with five additional top-10 results throughout the summer were more than for Busch and the No. 18 team to remain inside the top-30 mark in the standings and make the Playoffs.
Following a consistent run in the Playoffs, Busch and JGR’s No. 18 team were one of four driver/team pairings to make it all the way to the Championship Round at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November and with an opportunity to win the 2015 Cup championship. During the finale, Busch led 41 laps and pulled away in a late shootout to win the finale and his first title in NASCAR’s premier series. With Busch becoming the first competitor since Richard Petty to win a Cup title despite not competing the entire season and recording the first Cup title for Toyota, JGR achieved its fourth Cup championship overall and its first since the 2005 season with Tony Stewart.
From 2016 to 2018, Busch and the No. 18 team achieved 17 wins. 53 top-five results and 75 top-10 results. In addition, Busch made the Championship Round in all three seasons, with a best result of second place in 2017 and finishing no lower than fourth place. Following the 2018 season, Busch surpassed 900 Cup career starts. He had also achieved a victory across every active track.
In 2019, Busch and the No. 18 team achieved five victories, 17 top-five results and 27 top-10 results throughout the 36-race schedule. By winning the season finale at Homestead in November as a title contender, Busch achieved his second Cup championship and he became the 16th competitor to win multiple titles in NASCAR’s premier series. In addition, Joe Gibbs Racing achieved its fifth Cup title, third with the No. 18 car.
This season, through 31 races, Busch and the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota have recorded 12 top-five results and 17 top-10 results, though the driver and the team remain winless. Currently, Busch is in ninth place in the Playoff standings and is 21 points below the top-eight cutline to advance to the Round of 8 in the Playoffs.
Catch Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 milestone start in the Bank of America Roval 400 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course on Sunday, October 11, at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC.