18 Days until the Daytona 500

In Sprint Cup Series competition the #18 car has started 1,358 races and has 57 wins, 43 poles, 264 top 5s, 477 top 10s, and 365 DNFs.

  • Dale Jarrett  drove the #18 car for 2 different owners in his career for a total of 113 starts and 2 wins. In 1987  Jarrett finished 2nd in the Rookie of the Year standings to Davey Allison driving Eric Freelander’s unsponsored #18 Chevy. Joe Gibbs Racing  debuted at the 1992 Daytona 500 with Dale Jarrett driving the #18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet Lumina to a 36th place finish after a crash. The team improved dramatically the next year when Jarrett won the Daytona 500  while his father Ned Jarrett called the finish for the CBS broadcast, a moment now known as “The Dale & Dale Show.” That year he finished a then career-high 4th in points. Jarrett won a race at Charlotte  but he slipped to 16th in points in 1994, and moved to Robert Yates Racing’s famed 28 car for 1995.

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Jarrett, 1987

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  • Bobby Labonte  has the most starts in the #18 car with 375 from 1995-2005 including 21 wins and 1 Winston Cup (Sprint Cup) Championship.
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Labonte, 2001

In 1995 Labonte won 3 races, sweeping both Michigan events and winning at Charlotte, finishing 10th in points. This would mark the beginning of a decade of success between Labonte, Joe Gibbs Racing, and Interstate Batteries. In 1996 the team struggled to win until the season finale at Atlanta  and finished 11th in points.

In 1997 the team had a similar year to the previous but managed to improve to 7th in points. Their lone win came at the season finale. The team improved in 1998 by winning races at Atlanta  and Talladega en route to 6th place in points. 1999 was a breakout year for the 18 team. They scored 5 wins which came at Dover, Michigan, Atlanta  and both races at Pocono. The team came just short of the championship and finished 2nd in points to former driver Dale Jarrett, once again at Atlanta. The team continued their success in the next season, winning the second race of the season at Rockingham. Labonte’s next win was the Brickyard 400  at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. His third win came at the Darlington Southern 500, recovering from a hard practice crash and taking the lead on a late race pit stop to win the rain and darkness shortened event. His fourth and final win of the year came at Charlotte a month later, though the team barely missed another win at Atlanta . Labonte would hold the points lead for 25 consecutive races to win the 2000 NASCAR Winston Cup Series Championship.

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Labonte, 2000 Champion

The team faced disappointment in 2001 after high expectations following the championship season, winning only 2 races at Pocono and Atlanta  and finishing 6th in points. 2002 was the team’s worst year since Labonte joined the team, scoring only one win at Martinsville and finished a disappointing 16th in points. The team rebounded in 2003 scoring 2 wins at Atlanta  and Homestead to finish 8th in points. Even though the team made some progression in 2004, the team fired crew chief Michael “Fatback” McSwain midseason, with Brandon Thomas taking over for the rest of the year. The team went winless to finish 12th in points. Steve Addington, a Gibbs Busch Series crew chief, was named new crew chief for the 2005 season, but a rash of troubles, some caused by mechanical problems, continued to daunt the team. The high point of the year was the Coca-Cola 600 , when he finished second to Jimmie Johnson by half a car-length. Labonte finished 24th in the championship standings, and the team’s regression led to his departure following the end of 2005. Bobby Labonte earned all 21 of his career Cup Series wins in the car, as well as the Winston Cup championship in 2000. He would depart for the 43 car of Petty Enterprises.

  • After Labonte’s departure, Gibbs announced that JGR Busch Series driver and former USAC standout J. J. Yeley  would replace him in the #18 for 2006, joining fellow rookie teammate Denny Hamlin. Yeley had a dismal rookie season with only three top tens while failing to finish seven races, leading to a 29th place points finish. Yeley’s sophomore campaign was only slightly better, earning a pole  at Michigan and scoring three more top tens to finish 21st in points. Yeley would moved to JGR-affiliated Hall of Fame Racing for 2008. Yeley started 72 races in the #18 and earned only one top 5.
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JJ Yeley, 2007
  • Kyle Busch  signed a contract to drive the number 18 with Joe Gibbs Racing from 2008 through 2010, leaving Hendrick Motorsports’ number 5 car after a successful but controversial tenure with the organization. Mars, Inc.’s M&M’s brand was signed as the team’s primary sponsor, leaving Robert Yates Racing, while longtime partner Interstate Batteries  scaled down to be a secondary sponsor and six race primary sponsor. Joe Gibbs racing also left General Motors in favor of becoming Toyota’s highest-profile team. Busch gave Toyota its first Cup win on March 9, 2008, leading a race-high 173 laps to win the Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta  Motor Speedway. In his first year in the 18, Busch had brought the car back to its former glory, winning 7 additional races (Talladega, Darlington, Dover, Infineon, Daytona, Chicagoland, & Watkins Glen,) and would finish tenth in points. kyle-busch-wins-at-bristol-motor-speedway-35f39f210f69c0c0

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In 2009, Busch opened the season by winning his Gatorade Duel qualifying race, but finished 41st in the race after a crash. He won the third race of the season from the pole at Las Vegas, and scored additional wins at Richmond and both Bristol races, but failed to qualify for the Chase by only 8 points. As a result, longtime JGR crew chief Steve Addington was fired near the end of the season, and coincidentally went to crew chief for Kyle’s brother Kurt Busch at Penske Racing. Dave Rogers, Busch’s Nationwide Series crew chief, took over the pit box in 2010. The year produced 3 victories at Richmond, Dover and Bristol, but more struggles in the final 10 races led to a 7th place finish in the standings. 2011 was an up and down year for the 18 team. The team won at Bristol and Richmond early in the season, as well as the inaugural Cup race at Kentucky and the August race at Michigan.

At Texas Motor Speedway in November, Busch was parked by NASCAR for the remainder of the race weekend after intentionally spinning out Ron Hornaday  in the Truck Series race. Michael McDowell  would replace Busch that weekend, finishing a dismal 33rd. Mars, Inc proceeded to pull its sponsorship for the final two races, with Interstate Batteries covering those races. Busch was relegated to tenth in the final standings.

In 2012, Busch won the Budweiser Shootout to open the season, and scored a single points-paying victory, the spring race at Richmond. He would miss making the Chase for the Sprint Cup by 3 points, but scored 7 top 5 and 8 top 10 finishes during the final ten races, finishing the year in 13th place and nearly 100 points ahead of 14th place Ryan Newman. In 2013, Busch won the second Budweiser Duel qualifying race, and won the pole at the spring Bristol race, finishing second. He also swept the spring Fontana and Texas race weekends, winning the Nationwide and Cup races, giving Joe Gibbs his first win at Fontana in Sprint Cup competition and first win for himself at Texas. He would win at Watkins Glen and Atlanta . Busch’s four wins and career-high 22 top ten finishes would lead to a fourth place finish in the championship, the highest of his career. In 2014, Busch earned a spot in the new Chase for the Sprint Cup with his early season win at Fontana. Busch would be eliminated in the second round, after being swept up in a wreck at Talladega, and would finish tenth in points.

2015 was a strange year for the #18 team. Kyle was sideline for 11 races after braking his right leg and left foot in an XFINTY Series accident at Daytona. Matt Crafton, Erik Jones, and David Ragan would all make starts in the #18 car while Busch was on the mend.

Busch returned to the #18 at the Sprint All Star Race at Charlotte. In June at Sonoma, Busch would find victory lane with his brother finishing 2nd. He continue his winning ways and won 4 out of  5 consecutive races in the mid-summer.

After a 37th place finish at New Hampshire, Busch would find consistency in the Chase and advance all the way to the final 4. At Homestead Busch was the class of the field and would win the race and his first Sprint Cup Championship.

In 2016, Busch scored 4 wins including back to back wins at Martinsville and Texas in the Spring. Busch also lead 149 of 170 laps en route to his second consecutive Brickyard 400 victory.

Despite failing to win a race in The Chase, Kyle made it to the “final 4” at Homestead, but would ultimately finish 3rd in points.  Kyle Busch will return to the #18 in 2017, and so far has a total of 34 wins in 312starts in the #18.

  • Joe Frasson  drove his self sponsored # 18 in 101 starts from 1970-1978. The racing eventually took a heavy burden on his finances because of his absolute devotion to being a “pure short track racer.”
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Joe Frasson
  • Stick Elliott  started 78 races in #18 from 1962-1966.
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Stick Elliott
  • The unfortunately named Dick Johnson  started the #18 car 52 times from 1967-1969. It is important to note that this is not the Australian Dick Jonson, former NASCAR Road Ringer and current Co-owner of Marcos Ambrose’ V8SC Penske Ford Falcon. We will discuss him tomorrow with #17.

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  • Prior to Dale Jarrett, Tommy Ellis drove the #18 car in 42 events from 1985-1987.
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Ellis
  • From 1953-1956 Arden Mounts  drove #18 in 21 races.
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Mount’s Hudson at the 1995 Southern 500

Other notable drivers in #18:


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