By Jared Turner
As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Richmond International Raceway for Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400, there’s one lingering question on just about everybody’s mind: Can Joe Gibbs Racing be stopped?
With Carl Edwards’ dominant victory last Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway, JGR drivers have reeled off three consecutive wins and gone to Victory Lane in four of the season’s first eight Sprint Cup races.
In addition, JGR drivers have won four of the season’s eight poles and hold down three of the top nine positions in the standings.
RIR, a three-quarter mile D-shaped facility, is arguably JGR’s best track on the entire Sprint Cup Series tour.
Thanks to the combined efforts of Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth, JGR drivers triumphed in seven of the past 14 races at the Virginia venue.
So will JGR remain red hot this weekend by making it four wins in a row and five out of nine for 2016?
All signs suggest it’s a definite possibility.
“You’ve got to have all the pieces of the puzzle put together, but I think more importantly we’ve got good cars, but the crew chiefs are just doing a really good job right now, I think, just being able to apply all the things that we’ve learned over the couple of years,” said Busch, the reigning Sprint Cup Series champion and a two-time winner this season. “We knew we were behind, and when we were struggling a couple years ago when we were behind, we were working in all areas of the race car and trying to make it better, trying to make it better, and we knew Toyota Racing Development was behind a little bit, and when those guys caught up, man, it was easy. It was easy for us to gain speed because that’s a huge proponent of what we do each and every weekend, which is that engine.
“… We’ve got everything going for us. The cars are good, engines are good, and crew chiefs are smart. Again, the whole puzzle.”
Busch’s team owner, three-time Super-Bowl winning coach Joe Gibbs, shares a similar with Busch on why the organization is performing at such a high level.
“I think it’s really a product of — I can’t thank everybody enough back at the race shop,” Gibbs said. “So much hard work back there, those guys never get to be in winner’s circle with us, and there’s so many people that are dedicated in this sport, it takes everybody to win.”
Edwards, a second-year JGR driver who is working with a new crew chief this season in veteran Dave Rogers, believes the organization pairing the right crew chiefs with the right drivers has played a role in all the success this year. Another factor, according to Edwards, is the cohesion shared among the four JGR teams.
“I’ve spent more time with Dave and the guys this year and in the off-season than I ever have in my career,” he said. “When Dave says this is a real team effort and Coach says it’s a team effort, it’s true.
“I’ve never been around a group that really brings everyone together as much as Coach does at JGR, from the sponsors to the families to everybody that builds the cars, to guys that are on the road and guys that jump over the wall. There is no more close-knit team in sports probably, so it’s really cool to be a part of it. It’s been a lot of fun.
“I’ve had a great time getting to know Dave, and it’s really just fun to be a part of something like this, and the fact that we’re running well, that’s just icing on the cake. It’s really neat.”