2017-07-19 / Sports

Gibbs finally gets a win

Steve Mickey

Joe Gibbs Racing did everything but win the title last season as the four-car operation was always considered the ones to beat on race day. JGR’s Toyota Camrys dominated the sport along with the Furniture Row Racing’s Toyota entry driven by Martin Truex Jr.

Truex’s team was considered the fifth Gibbs team as JGR supplied Furniture Row with equipment and maybe more importantly shared all of the information gathered by its four teams. This alliance between the two organizations made Toyota the manufacturer to beat on race day as it led the series in wins.

Even though Jimmie Johnson in his Hendrick Motorsports’ Chevrolet won the title last season, it was Gibbs’ Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards along with Truex that dominated the season and that domination was expected to continue when the 2017 season got underway. Truex has become the dominate driver this season and is running away with the regular season points battle and also has a commanding lead in the bonus points.

While Truex has continued to carry the Toyota banner this season, JGR has struggled as it entered New Hampshire still looking for its first win. All of that changed on Sunday as Denny Hamlin took Gibbs to Victory Lane to give the Coach his first win of the season. The win snapped a 28-race winless streak for Hamlin and it was done in a backup car as he crashed his primary car during Friday’s practice.

Hamlin now becomes the 12th different driver this season and the 11th driver to punch his ticket into the Championship Round of ten races as Joey Logano’s win earlier this season was encumbered after his car failed to pass inspection after the race. That leaves only eight races for another driver to post their first win of the season and move on into the playoff round.

JGR is not satisfied to get only one of its four drivers into playoffs but without a win by one of the other three drivers, it may be tough to get all four in the sixteen driver field. Only Kyle Busch seems to be in a position in the points after New Hampshire to become part of the championship field as he sits third in the points, 108 points behind Truex in the top spot.

Matt Kenseth who will be leaving JGR at the end of the season sits in 11th in the points but there are six drivers below him in the points that will move into the tenrace playoff as they have posted at least one win on the season. Without a win he is fifteenth in the standings and would move into the next round if the regular season ended after New Hampshire. Daniel Suarez who took over for Edwards when he retired before the beginning of the season is in 18th in the points and is one of several drivers battling for the last spot at this time and they know that a win would be his best bet to claim a playoff spot.

Suarez, Kenseth and Busch are like every other driver battling for a playoff spot; they hope that if they don’t win a race that the winner is a driver that has already made a trip to victory lane this season. Without another first time winner, each of these drivers would still have the opportunity to advance to the final 10-race stretch of the schedule with the chance to win the title without posting a victory.

PIT NOTES: Martin Truex Jr. continued to increase his odds on winning his first ever Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship as he led all 75 laps of the first stage after starting on the pole to post his 14th stage win this season. He has now earned stage wins in six of the last eight races. He leads all drivers with 29 playoff points that carry over through the first three rounds of the playoffs.

Race Preview
Event: Brantley Gilbert Big
Machine Brickyard 400
Track: Indianapolis Motor
Speedway (2.5 mile quad-oval, 9o
of banking in the turns)
Date: July 23, 3 p.m.
Radio: IMS
Defending Champion: Kyle

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