After a historic 19-win NASCAR Cup Series season in 2019 – including Kyle Busch’s second series championship – the Joe Gibbs Racing organization is still largely fine-tuning its winning form this year.
Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, won his second consecutive Daytona 500 to open the season in the same triumphant way JGR closed out the 2019 season. But since that race, JGR has found itself in a bit of catch-up mode – not always of its own doing.
Three JGR drivers – Busch, Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. – qualified for the Championship 4 season finale last year. But after four races this season, not a single JGR driver is ranked among the top 10 in the NASCAR Cup Series standings.
Hamlin is 11th, 53 points off the leader Kevin Harvick, who was the fourth member of the Championship 4 last year. Reigning series champ Busch is ranked 12th, also 53 points back. Truex is ranked 15th, 68 points off Harvick and Jones is 21st, 87 points off the title pace.
Only Hamlin has won a stage this year (one). His 79 laps out front – all in his Daytona win – are the most for any Gibbs driver. Truex has led only 15 laps, Busch has led only 14 laps and Jones has not been out front yet.
This is his first season for Truex without longtime crew chief Cole Pearn, so there is a natural learning curve for the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. He has yet to earn a top 10 and has two DNFs in four races.
But, the good news is that JGR is very strong at Darlington Raceway. Jones has the highest driver rating at Darlington (110.8) and the best average running position at 7.550. Busch leads the fastest laps run category with 311, laps led with 716, quality passes with 561 and laps in the top 15 at 4,862, which is 88.1 percent.
Truex has one win, two top fives and six top 10s at Darlington with an average finish of 11.6, the sixth-best. He also has the sixth-best driver rating at the track at 99.3.
Hamlin is very good at Darlington as well with two wins, seven top fives, 11 top 10s and one pole. He has an average finish of 7.8, the second-best and a driver rating of 106.3, also the second-best.
A hot streak for the four JGR guys could be on its way.