Joe Gibbs Racing has enjoyed more than its share of success in NASCAR’s Cup Series over the years, but it also has had to deal with some of the more colorful drivers in the sport. Coach Gibbs has been on damage control with his drivers a lot more than he would have liked since hanging up his whistle and clipboard as an NFL head coach.
Dale Jarrett was Gibbs’s firstever driver and he was the first to test the patience of the coach when he threw a helmet at Bristol. But that turned out to be the calm before the storm when Tony Stewart moved up to the Cup level for JGR. Stewart entered the sport with a wealth of talent, but quickly began having problems with both media members and NASCAR officials. He tested the patience of both Gibbs and NASCAR as much as any driver in recent years before he was able to get his emotions under control.
When Stewart left to form his own team, he left behind a couple of teammates — Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin — who were always a threat to win at any stop on the schedule, but also had tempers that could make Gibbs think that when he had Stewart it was the good old days. Kyle became the sport’s poster boy for bad behavior as his competitive desire to win often led to on-track run-ins with fellow drivers that eventually led to meltdowns during post-race interviews with the media.
Both drivers were very successful in the sport and both were very competitive. While Busch seemed to wear his emotions on his sleeve each and every week, Hamlin was more businesslike in his approach but was quick to point the finger at other drivers when he didn’t like the way they had raced him.
Joey Logano took over for Stewart but wasn’t able to duplicate the success the team had experienced with Tony the Tiger behind the wheel. What was JGR’s flagship team at one time slipped in performance with Logano to the point that it became the organization’s “other” team.
Gibbs let Logano go at the end of the 2012 season, but Logano immediately picked up a great ride as teammate to Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski at Penske Racing. In his first race with his new team at Daytona, he had problems with his old teammate Hamlin over the way he had raced him.
Hamlin’s problems were just beginning as he soon received a $25,000 fine for remarks he made at Phoenix about the new Gen-6 car that was introduced this season. Just when he thought that was behind him and he could go about the business of racing, he and Logano decided to trade a little paint at Bristol last week. Hamlin gave Logano a bump in the rear while he was racing with the leader that sent him into the outside wall and took him out of contention for the win. Afterward, the two had words on pit road followed by a war of words on Twitter.
The two dominated the headlines leading up to California, but Hamlin felt that it was all behind him and that both of them would go about the business of racing for the win. As it turned out that is exactly what they did during the last lap of the Auto Club 400.
The two took the white flag battling for the win with Kyle Busch in third. Before they could get back to the checkered flag, Logano tried to make the pass on the inside but slid up into Hamlin sending both drivers into the wall. Busch passed the two drivers just before the crash and went on to claim the checkered flag.
It was a win that fell into his lap, but it still awarded Busch the same amount of points as if Logano or Hamlin had gone on and captured the win. Maybe Busch has learned to just race and keep his emotions under check. It is a lesson that his teammate Hamlin and former teammate Logano need to learn in a hurry if either of them wants to ever capture another checkered flag.
Event: STP Gas Booster 400
Track: Martinsville Speedway
(.526 mile oval, 120 of banking in
Date: April 7, 1 p.m.
Defending Champion: Ryan