Race Weekend Central

Driving for Joe Gibbs: Are Busch and Edwards Awesome? Or Just Monkeys?

Hey, hey! Cousin Carl executed a backflip Sunday afternoon at Bristol. Woo Hoo! We all celebrated that Kyle Busch did not continue on his stampede through every available NASCAR track. But, you did notice how it was still a Gibbs team that dominated the afternoon, didn’t you? That Gibbs also has a strangle hold on the Xfinity series, as well?


We complain when it’s the same driver winning every single week. This has been true since before most of us have been cheering for NASCAR. Even legendary Richard Petty had a fair share of fans grumbling that he was just stinking up the show for everyone else. Follow The King’s dominance with another seven-time champion in Earnhardt Sr., and then segue into Jeff Gordon’s career, the chant in the stands remained the same. No matter what number adorned the door of the current always-winner, NASCAR fandom bitterly complained that nobody else had a chance with [insert current Dominator here] on the track.


However, since the 90’s, the mantra hasn’t only been bitching about the particular person and their overly genial personality, there has been another underlying complaint—the stable is too strong. The baton passes from one multi-car team to another about every five years. Rousch, Penske, Hendrick, Childress, and Stewart/Haas have all traded off the unbeatable moniker over the past two decades.  JGR has now taken up the crown, putting their vehicles in Victory Lane often enough to have the remainder of the garage scratching their heads while swearing under their breath.


While most NASCAR fans choose a single driver to put on a pedestal, you are sometimes left wondering—just for a moment or two—if the stable put a monkey behind the wheel of the current indomitable machine, would they still win?  It kind of seems like Gibbs has achieved this level of perfection lately.


I’m not taking anything away from Carl Edwards. I believe prior to Kyle Larson, Carl was my last true heartthrob among the Sprint Cup rookies. His big grin, back flip, and on-track talent turned my head when he joined the ranks in 2004. However, Roush Fenway Racing has been struggling for a few years now to put any of its cars in Victory Lane. As the years passed, Edwards went from being a promising part of Sprint Cup Champions list to an also-ran. We forgot just how very good he could be.


So, he switches allegiances and joins Gibbs–the same team that skyrocketed to the pinnacle of our sport in the 2015 season, and seems to have only improved in 2016. It doesn’t appear to matter who is behind the wheel, but if your car was built in the Gibbs shop, you’ve got a darn good shot at winning come the weekend.  As Carl led 276 of the 500 available laps on Sunday, did you wonder? Was he somehow awarded Kyle Busch’s machine this week? Did the office decide to booby-trap the M&M car? We have these thoughts because we can’t remember Edwards having a stellar 2015 season, or ’14, or ’13. He didn’t. Last year he ended the season with a 14.0 average finish. He had days of brilliance, but not the kind of consistency that wins Cups.


However, did you notice? His average finish for 2016 thus far is 6.4. He has never had that kind of stat before. Ever. It’s like he’s a new driver.


Or perhaps after taking a year to settle in with the No. 19 crew, and combining thoughts with the reigning Cup champ, Cousin Carl may have found the magic combination needed to…dare we say it? Win a Sprint Cup.


Granted it is early days. We have plenty of time for this Gibbs driver to drop down to his usual Top 15 world. However, wouldn’t it be awesome for Edwards to give Busch a run for his money? Maybe we won’t be complaining about the No. 18 taking a bow one more time. And I don’t think we’ll be calling Carl a monkey, either.


Still…he is driving a seemingly infallible Gibbs machine. At least it isn’t Hendrick…again.


Something Shiny

They call Bristol Motor Speedway the “Coliseum.” A battlefield for motorsports built on the scale of the Roman Coliseum. You sit right on top of the action, no matter what section your seats are in. Now, they’ve added the “Colossus,” a massive video screen suspended over the infield by a cable system usually reserved for bridges. It is awesome. Check out some of the videos while it was built. You just don’t get the scale of the thing until you see somebody standing next to it.



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