Race Weekend Central

Kickin’ the Tires: Safe to Say, Joe Gibbs Racing Has Done a 180

Earlier in the season, the odds were against any of the Joe Gibbs Racing drivers being contenders for the Sprint Cup Series Championship in 2015.

Before the season had really even begun, Kyle Busch was looking at a potentially career-ending injury and would be out for an unknown number of races. The team, as a whole, was behind the 8-ball and there little hope existed toward things making a drastic turnaround. Facing battles, both personally and on the racetrack, not many would have bet the farm on JGR considering that the combined win total in 2014 was only two.

The team added Carl Edwards at the beginning of 2015 to make it a four-team operation. That wasn’t an easy task and there were early struggles. Yet as of this week, Joe Gibbs Racing now has a combined total of eight wins.

Apparently, getting yelled at by Coach Joe Gibbs is one of the best motivators in the world because after a March 2015 meeting, where Gibbs left angry, things began to change for the better. Toyota had been working on the engines. The teams were working on chemistry. And after Busch missed 11 races at the beginning of the season, the focus is now on him making the Chase after coming back and winning three out of the past six races.

Matt Kenseth said, “I think as late as March, I think Coach was still yelling at us in meetings, and ever since he yelled at us that last meeting, we’ve all been running better. You (Coach Gibbs) left, I was like, man, he’s really mad.”

Whatever the motivation, the JGR tram is now a force to reckoned with.

Mentioning the odds earlier, it should be pointed out that the week before 2015 Daytona, Kenseth – at 10/1 odds – was the favorite for drivers from JGR to win the Sprint Cup Championship. Edwards and Busch were tied at 12/1 odds and Denny Hamlin was listed at 15/1 odds. There were three others teams and five other drivers ahead of them on the Las Vegas charts.

Then, in April, a check of the odds remained the same for Kenseth but Edwards dropped to 16/1. Hamlin picked up a little and was listed at 12/1 odds with Busch not even being listed on the board because he was out with an injury.

Oh, what a difference a few months make. Kenseth was listed at 9/1 odds just six days ago – a big jump in gambling terms. Edwards and Hamlin were back at their original January odds but Busch was the second most favorite driver to win the Championship at 5/1 odds.

Does any of this mean that a JGR driver will make the final round of the Chase and battle for the Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway? No. But it does indicate the team is better focused and determined to bring home the hardware for Coach Gibbs.

Even though Busch didn’t continue his winning streak in the Windows 10 400 at Pocono, before the race Joe Gibbs told me that “runs like this in professional sports are very special. They don’t happen often.”

Keeping in mind everything that Coach Gibbs does for this sport, his overall character and his desire to help just about anyone around him, I can think of no better person I would like to see celebrating such a phenomenal turn of events.

About the author

Jerry Jordan, is a two-time National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) award-winning writer covering the world of NASCAR. He is the founder, editor and radio host of Kickin' the Tires, which is a motorsports media outlet focusing primarily on NASCAR.
The goal is to bring visitors a behind-the-scenes look at what's happening in the sport of NASCAR through the printed word, in pictures and with audio from the who's who of NASCAR.
Each week, Jordan's award-winning Kickin' the Tires syndicated column is featured first at Frontstretch.com, and then published in print publications covering Southeast Texas and on the Kickin' the Tires Web site.

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Puzzled McGee

I think you are giving Gibbs way too much credit for being a good guy. It is win at all cost, almost to hell with the rules, they must have a tremendous “skunk works” program. They eggied on the “twister sister” cars that looked like they were wrecked when they got to the track, and Sunday Busch’s car looked twisted from the roof camera. They have had an advantage on restarts for years, the tremendous explosion in a dyno cell is something that never should happen!! Don’t get me going on how stinky the now called Xfinity cars are, stealing all that money and prestige from drivers that desperately need it!! And Busch always acting like a junior high school jerk when he wins, I guess he will never grow up!!

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