After 13 races on the NASCAR Sprint Cup season, it’s apparent the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota’s have the new low downforce package figured out the best.
The combined efforts of its four drivers, featuring Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin have won seven of the 13 races, and its subsidiary division – basically a fifth JGR car driven by Martin Truex Jr. – won Sunday night at Charlotte.
They’ve won seven of the past eight races coming into Sunday’s race at the Tricky Triangle of Pocono Raceway, where incidentally Kenseth won at in August, the last time the Cup series visited. Does the Gibbs gang just keep rolling and piling up wins or can someone else, or some other manufacturer, step up and put a stop to this madness?
Prior to Kenseth’s Pocono win last fall, a Chevrolet had won six straight races, so at least there’s a little recent history showing maybe the 2.5-mile triangular track with three differing banked corners can produce a different winner. It was Kenseth’s first career win there in 32 starts.
What about the other JGR drivers’ track history?
Hamlin leads all active drivers with four Pocono wins, but the last one came in 2010. He’s always been good at Pocono just because he gets in and out of the flat turn 3 the best. It suits his flat track style where he’s typically been his best, places like Martinsville and Richmond. His first two wins came in a season sweep as a rookie in 2006.
Edwards is a two-time winner, but his last victory back-flip there came in 2008 while driving a Roush Fenway Racing Ford. Martin Truex Jr. won this race last season, but he was driving a Chevy that was set-up like a Richard Childress Racing car.
The surprising piece of Pocono history is Kyle Busch has never won there, one of only two tracks on the Cup schedule he’s never won at. He hasn’t had a top-five there since 2011 and in his championship season last year he finished ninth in June and 21st in August.
So yes, JGR is currently the hottest thing going in NASCAR right now, but there may be an opportunity with the unique track to find a few drivers elsewhere at nice prices to win. All those JGR cars are going to be 8-to-1 or less. It’s a dilemma, because you know they have the package figured out and they’ll be fast again. But how about a couple other candidates like the Chevy banner with Hendrick or Stewart Haas Racing or a Team Penske Ford?
If we look back at the past four Pocono races covering the past two seasons, you’ll see Dale Earnhardt Jr. has a 4.25 average finish with two wins. After that in the last four races, it’s Kyle Larson (9th-place average), Greg Biffle (9.5), Jamie McMurray (9.75), and Brad Keselowski (11th). The now-retired Jeff Gordon had a 7.75 average and rookie Chase Elliott gets that sweet ride now. That’s the top-six performers and none of them are Toyota’s.
Sure, that’s just past history, but it’s enough of a trend to follow to suggest someone can slow the JGR train this week.
Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, one of The Linemakers on SportingNews.com , and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Twitter: @MicahRoberts7 Email: [email protected].