Race Weekend Central

Even With Pit Road Miscues, Joe Gibbs Racing Showed Up Big in Dover Cup Race

DOVER, Del. – NASCAR’s annual trip to The Monster Mile proved to be a weekend (and weekday) of celebration for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Ryan Truex scored his first NASCAR Xfinity Series win in dominating fashion on Saturday (April 29), while older brother Martin Truex Jr. snapped a 54-race winless drought with his fourth Cup Series win at Dover on Monday (May 1).

With 202 Cup wins and 197 Xfinity wins for JGR, the team is just one win away from a milestone 400 victories in NASCAR’s highest levels.

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There were smiles all around during Monday’s postrace press conference.

“Man, [this weekend’s] up there,” Truex said. “I always have trouble kind of separating wins and what means the most here or there. And you know, I can’t even pick favorites when it comes to tracks or dinner.

“I just try to live in the moment, honestly. I try to enjoy each one; they’re all special, they’re all important. This one’s been awesome aside from being bored all weekend sitting in the bus watching it rain.”

Team owner Joe Gibbs also made his intentions clear about Truex going forward: if he wants to race at JGR, he’ll race at JGR.

“I think [a win] is huge, and we’re definitely talking to Martin about next year,” Joe Gibbs said. “We want him to stay with us as long as we can convince him to do that. I think the best way of doing that is winning races and having a chance to win a championship. The best sales job we can do.”

Behind a victorious Truex, JGR was able to put all four cars in the top 13. An impressive feat, nonetheless, but if it wasn’t for a few miscues, the day might’ve been ever better.

Denny Hamlin finished fifth, and he was hounding William Byron (who led a race-high 193 laps) for much of the first two stages. But every time Hamlin got close to the lead, it seemed that pit stops sent him right back.

“One of the fastest cars, that was a positive for sure,” Hamlin said. “[Pit crew’s] been a concern for years. Obviously, it’s a concern every time a caution comes out. A 90% chance of losing spots, so the race just has to fall perfectly for us to contend. …

“We’re just in a major slump. I’ve had different guys, different pit crews, but ultimately, we come in and struggle to not lose two, three spots. We lose eight, we lose 10 and we just can’t race that way.”

Hamlin’s frustration with the pit crew carried over midway through the race, and he was not happy with teammate Christopher Bell about getting held up with a faster car.

“We were the fastest car by a mile, and he was trying to hold his track position,” Hamlin said. “And I was frustrated that we lost so many spots on pit road.”

Through the No. 20 team’s radio communications, Bell seemed confused with what the problem was about.

Bell ended the race one spot behind Hamlin in sixth, but Frontstretch was unable to reach out to him for comment after the conclusion of the race.

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For rookie Ty Gibbs, Dover proved to be one of, if not his best performance of the season. After starting 24th, Gibbs slowly worked his way through the field and was running as high as fourth in the final stage.

But unfortunately for the No. 54 team, the pit crew was unable to get the car full of fuel during the last round of green-flag pit stops. Gibbs fell a lap down while trying to save, and after topping off during the last caution, he ended the day with a respectful 13th-place finish as the first car off the lead lap.

After starting 2023 with just one Cup win in the first 10 races, JGR flexed its muscle with fast cars and a win on a Monday afternoon in Delaware. And if JGR can iron out Monday’s issues on pit road, it appears that the team’s found something going forward.

About the author

Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch, and his weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” Stephen also writes commentary, contributes weekly to the “Bringing the Heat” podcast and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage. A native of Texas, Stephen began following NASCAR at age 9 after attending his first race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Follow on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.

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