Heading into Martinsville earlier this week, only one driver on the Joe Gibbs Racing roster had visited Victory Lane in the 2020 season – Denny Hamlin.
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. And since then, Hamlin won the second Darlington race after NASCAR returned to racing.
Last weekend in Atlanta, Kyle Busch finished second and Martin Truex Jr. was right behind him in third.
And that success was a sign of things to come, as Martin Truex Jr. won the first NASCAR Cup Series race under the lights at Martinsville on Wednesday night, cementing what everyone could see developing – that JGR was quickly going to see more drivers on the winners list.
A year ago, as part of a record-setting 19-win season, the teammates had combined for seven wins in the opening 11 events – three from Kyle Busch (Phoenix, Auto Club, Bristol-1), two from Hamlin (Daytona 500, Texas-1) and two by Martin Truex Jr (Richmond-1, Dover-1).
They only have three victories through the first 11 races at this point, but they are sitting pretty in the standings.
Truex leads the pack in fourth place in the standings while Hamlin is eighth. Kyle Busch sits in ninth. And the fourth JGR driver, Erik Jones, is in Playoff contention in 15th.
Wednesday’s win at Martinsville marked the first victory for Truex’s new crew chief, James Small. And after a rough start together, the duo seems to have proven that JGR made the right choice in choosing Small to replace Truex’ longtime crew chief Cole Pearn, who departed the organization following the 2019 season.
Through the first four races, they had an average finish of 24.5 – and didn’t crack the top 10. But in the seven races back after the return to racing, their average finish has been 7.86, with a 20th-place effort at Bristol being the only result outside the top 10.
Truex has a win at this weekend’s venue, capturing the 2017 championship with his victory at Homestead-Miami.