It’s never wise to show up to a racetrack on any given weekend and believe that as a competitor you won’t have to deal with Joe Gibbs Racing in some way, shape or form.
In 28 NASCAR Nationwide Series events JGR has won 13 of them. In 28 Sprint Cup Series events they’ve gone to victory lane nine times in 2010. Heading to the Midwest this weekend it may end up being an all JGR party as they prepare to dominate the Kansas Speedway.
The organization comes off a weekend in Dover that saw success for each of their three drivers. On Saturday it was Kyle Busch who broke the NNS all-time wins mark by scoring his 11th of the season. It would be foolish to think that Busch is done winning when there are still races left to be run.
Sunday was also a great day for JGR, for starters all three drivers finished in the top 10 of the AAA 400. All eyes were first on point leader Denny Hamlin who was looking to survive at a track that hasn’t been kind to him in the past. After trading words and paint with RCR on Friday and Saturday, Hamlin didn’t lead a lap on Sunday but came home with a ninth place finish.
More importantly he kept the point lead and is still in control of his own destiny as he tries to win his first NSCS title.
The youngest member of the JGR team and 2009 Rookie of the Year, Joey Logano, led the JGR charge. Logano ran a smart and smooth race, avoiding going end over end like he did a year ago and finish third. It was Logano’s 11th top 10 finish and fourth top five.
Then there was Busch, who was looking to sweep the season at the Monster Mile. He led on three different occasions for 46 laps before finishing sixth. His fourth win of the year would have to wait but the finish kept the No. 18 third in points behind teammate Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson, 45 points out of first.
Next comes Kansas where the trio has all won before, be it in the NNS. Busch and Logano will team on Saturday where they’ll look to again sweep the top two positions as they have done on numerous occasions. Logano was already looking forward to Kansas before the haulers had even left Dover.
“If were able to get the car going, (we’d) have a chance to stay with Kyle and everyone else,” he said. “But it just takes us too long to come around, and we have too much ground to make up when we do.
“The cars we are bringing to the track are good,” Logano continued. “We just need to get them that much better to beat Kyle and the No. 18 team. Kyle is a great driver, and you can’t give him any sort of edge. If you do, he’ll put a whipping on you.”
The JGR pair has put on a show in the NNS in the past. Including last weekend in Dover, Logano has finished second to Busch four times, three of them coming this season. On two occasions Logano got the best of Busch, including this race a year ago, which Busch doesn’t want to happen again.
Logano is back to defend his title; Busch is back to win another race. At stake is a three-year winning streak in this event for the organization: Busch won it in 2007 (while with Hendrick Motorsports), Hamlin in 2008, and Logano in 2009. With Hamlin not entered for Saturday, will either Busch or Logano make it four?
Saturday will be for fun; Sunday will be about a championship. While Logano didn’t qualified for the Chase, Hamlin and Busch are in the thick of the fight for the championship. Dover was the one race that Hamlin believed if he could make it through, would make things easier for his No. 11 team.
Kansas is not a track that Hamlin’s won at in the NSCS, but a top 10 or top five will be just as effective in the big picture.
“We finished fifth there last year,” Hamlin said after Dover. “I felt like we almost had a race-winning car there last year. I think our program is better this time around then where were last year. So if we finished fifth last year, we should improve on it this time around.”
Hamlin then declared, “When I go there, I’m going to go with an open mind. It is another one-off racetrack where we don’t go there but once a year. Really it’s almost like everyone is going to have to start over. That’s one thing I do like about our team.”
“Whenever we go to a track where you have to throw everything out the window, put a setup, a place you go only one time a year, things happen within our garages so fast, the evolution of these cars happen so fast, it’s almost whoever can get their car right the quickest at a track like Kansas is going to be good.”
Before he left the Dover on Sunday night Hamlin said, “I have a lot of faith in our team, that we’re able to go there. Even if we don’t start out strong, we should end strong.”
Those who follow NASCAR know that everyone at JGR is strong and determined. Momentum is everyone’s side and what has already been a successful season can only get better and the road to it might lead through the Kansas Speedway.