By Ben White
After ceremonial shovels moved dirt in April of 1995, Texas Motor Speedway opened to the public in 1997 with the first Cup Series race being held on April 6th of that year. Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 99 Roush Racing Ford, was the winner of the inaugural Interstate Batteries 500 on the 1.5-mile track that memorable spring afternoon. The No. 99 trend Burton set continued with Carl Edwards later wheeling the Roush Fenway Racing Ford to four additional victories in 2005, 2008, 2009 and 2016.
Over the past 23 years, Ford leads the win column at TMS with 16 visits to victory lane, followed by 15 for Chevrolets, eight for Toyota and three for Dodge for a total of 40 Cup Series races prior to this week’s race scheduled for Oct. 16.
Burton’s victory was his first of 27-career wins in NASCAR’s premier Cup Series. That day at Texas, the victory came 4.067 seconds over Dale Jarrett, then driver of the No. 88 Robert Yates Racing Ford. The South Boston, VA. native began driving in NASCAR competition in 1993 and retired in 2014 before turning his attention to television broadcasting.
Even though Jimmie Johnson has the most wins with seven in the No. 48 at the 1.5-mile track for Hendrick Motorsports, there’s another number that has come to light in various forms over the years that’s proven quite interesting. The number eight has been to victory lane many times in Texas in one form or another.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. drove the No. 8 Dale Earnhardt Inc. Chevrolet to victory in 2000 for his first career Cup Series win at Texas in 2000. Jarrett took the No. 88 to victory at TMS in 2001. Elliott Sadler drove the No. 38 to victory at Texas in 2004, while Kyle Busch has driven the No. 18 to victory there for Joe Gibbs Racing four times during his 19-year Cup Series career. He has won the most in the Lonestar State among all active Cup Series drivers.
For Busch, Texas Motor Speedway proved magical to keep his 16-year win streak alive when he went to victory lane there on Oct. 28, 2020 for his only win of the season.
“I guess for me, the opportunity of being able to continue the win streak is huge,” Busch said in post-race interviews. “I say that because there’s a lot of people that put the pressure on me, on us as the 18 team that we’re known for — we need to win. We should win. We have to win.
“All of that stuff kind of weighs on you a little bit, but to be honest with you, it just — they’re right. I’m not self-touting. I have been told by many folks that I’m one of the best here, that’s been here, and to have that opportunity with myself and my team and the people that are around me, to go out there and win races, it makes sense. Like you should be able to win a race, races every year that you’re out there for a long time to come.
“Obviously every great thing I guess must come to an end eventually, but man, I’m only 35. I feel like I’ve got at least 10 more years left in me. There should be a great opportunity for this streak to go for a long, long time, and that’s why it’s been so stressful and has not felt very good to have this dry spell.”
Come Sunday, Busch may be able to add career win No. 60 to his personal victory column and win No. 5 at Texas Motor Speedway.