I’ve talked about NASCAR banquet rings before. They just fascinate me. I’ve understood the significance of championship rings, who doesn’t. But I’ve never seen these kinds of rings before, where they were enlarged, and used at the banquet as napkin rings until I came across these NASCAR example. With the exception of a Jeff Burton example, they are all Joe Gibbs #18. I’ve come to learn recently, that Interstate Batteries was the group behind these. We’ll get to that in a minute.
At the end of every season, there are banquets, one for all the drivers and teams, as well as ones for individual teams hosted by sponsors or teams. At Joe Gibbs Racing, these napkin rings were given out to crew members and their families as a thank you. Every ring represents a race win. I’ve covered the Daytona 500, Mello Yello 400, and Coca Cola 600 rings before, but I have a couple of copies of these rings, so I will move on.
I also have an example from the 1995 Miller Genuine Draft 500, which took place at Michigan International Speedway, which Labonte won. That took place on June 18, 1995. On August 20, 1995, Labonte returned to Michigan and won the GM Goodwrench Dealer 400 that same year. This ring, same design as the other two rings that season, but with green around the front 18 instead of red.
In 1997, Texas Motor Speedway hosted their first race, the Interstate Batteries 500. The event saw Dale Jarrett on the pole and Jeff Burton winning the race. This proves my theory that Interstate Batteries was behind the rings. This pewter ring was prepared for the race. I haven’t been able to figure out if this is was used at a banquet, or was sold in the gift shop. But it’s nearly identical design and style is hard to ignore. Since Interstate Batteries was doing this for Joe Gibbs racing before this race, and then this ring was made for that race, there is no doubt in my mind that Interstate Batteries was the driving force behind that.
Above and beyond that, it makes sense that Jeff Burton’s team would do that, since at that time, they were sponsored by Exide Batteries, a competitor to Interstate. Exide had to have found out what Interstate was doing, and once Jeff Burton began winning races, Exide decided to join in the fun. It would also explain why there don’t seem to be any examples of any other teams making these rings besides Joe Gibbs Racing, and Roush Racing.
Ok, now with that out of the way, let’s stay in 1997, and look at a new design that Bobby Labonte’s team was given. The 1997 Napa 500 at Atlanta was the season finale. Jeff Gordon won the championship over Dale Jarrett by 14 points. Bobby Labonte won the race. It’s the same design as the other rings, except it is made of pewter. The material change is very evident in that it shows scratches and more chips than their brass counterparts.
Pewter didn’t last too long, and they switched back to brass by 1999. By 1999, the rings were redesigned as well. The driver profile hasn’t changed, but on the other side, a new logo design takes over the car logo. The crest of the ring has a bigger #18 and a glaze around it, instead of a cheap enamel.
The silver color returned in 2000, which culminated in Bobby Labonte winning the NASCAR Winston Cup Championship over Dale Earnhardt. One of the four races he won was the 2000 Dura Lube / Kmart 400 at Rockingham. This brand new design was prepared. A new #18 panel was designed, with the sponsor panel unchanged. The crest has been redesigned with car color on the stone area, and bigger lettering on the front.
Next week, It’s that time of year again,we delve into the Paint Schemies…See you then.