Race Weekend Central

JGR’s Road Course Struggles Continue in Road America Qualifying

ELKHART LAKE, Wisc. – It wasn’t a surprise Saturday (July 2), but Kyle Busch wasn’t in a good mood.

It’s not like he, or his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, had anything to be happy about after NASCAR Cup Series qualifying at Road America.

At the end of the two rounds of qualifying around the 4.048-mile road course, not a single Toyota qualified inside the top 12.

In fact, JGR’s four cars qualified 12th (Busch), 13th (Denny Hamlin), 14th (Martin Truex Jr.) and 15th (Christopher Bell).

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The poor showing comes two races after Toyota failed to place a single car inside the top 25 at Sonoma Raceway. That was the manufacturer’s worst single race since its first season in the Cup Series, 2007.

“This place is similar to Sonoma,” Busch said after qualifying. “So it’ll be close to kind of the same things will leave you have high speeds, but you have slow acceleration. So that’s where you burn the tires off is accelerating out of the turn. So trying to keep the tires on is going to be important.”

So Sunday’s race will be like Sonoma?

“See if we learned anything,” Busch lamented.

The hill Busch will have to overcome Sunday was made worse after qualifying.

Busch will start from the rear after the engine was changed on his No. 18 Toyota as a precautionary measure.

Hamlin said not much could have been done to improve Toyota’s program in the three weeks since Sonoma.

“We got an issue, I just don’t know if we know we can fix,” Hamlin said. “I think our cars are not as good as others in the wind tunnel. And especially in the over body and just think that we’re fighting stuff that we can’t fix right now. I don’t know. Hopefully, we made strides with our setups. But I wouldn’t expect anything earth-shattering, changing.”

Likely the best person at JGR to measure where JGR is is Truex.

Truex has won four times on road courses, including three times at Sonoma.

But Truex said, “it’s hard to know exactly until tomorrow when we get longer runs. … just a matter of how the tire can hang on and last and what can we do.”

As for the levels of tire fall-off compared to Sonoma, Truex observed “I’m sure it’s less here, but it’s still gonna be some. ”

Before qualifying was practice.

Respectively, Bell was the fastest JGR car in 12th. Truex was 18th, Busch was 22nd and Hamlin was 28th.

“We were getting faster as practice went on, that was more just me learning everything and getting my marks down. I’ve only been here once,” Truex added.

The JGR quartet and Cup field will take the green flag tomorrow (Sunday, July 3) at 3 p.m. ET with TV coverage provided by USA Network.

About the author

Daniel McFadin is a 10-year veteran of the NASCAR media corp. He wrote for NBC Sports from 2015 to October 2020. He currently works full time for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and is lead reporter and an editor for Frontstretch. He is also host of the NASCAR podcast "Dropping the Hammer with Daniel McFadin" presented by Democrat-Gazette.

You can email him at danielmcfadin@gmail.com.

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