Texas Sprint Cup update: Joe Gibbs Racing’s teamwork at the … – Nascar
“Race hard, go for the win, do what you need to do,” Busch said, allowing a slight smile.
The reigning Sprint Cup Series champion – along with his three JGR teammates, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards – all have reinforced the philosophy in one way or another in NASCAR’s 2016 playoffs. But it has been an interesting and tedious path for the team, which for the first time ever advanced all four of its drivers into the penultimate round of the championship Chase.
At Talladega, Kenseth, Busch and Edwards stuck together mid- to back-pack as Hamlin raced for his Chase lifeline, ultimately finishing third. At Martinsville, Hamlin, Kenseth and Busch freight-trained through the field (Edwards had a tire failure and finished 36th). But they finished behind Jimmie Johnson, whose victory ensures him one of four spots to challenge for the big trophy in the Homestead season finale in three weeks, as well as race runner-up Brad Keselowski.
Busch seemed upset on pit road after climbing out of his No. 18 Toyota immediately after the race and suggested that one of the Gibbs trio could havem and should have challenged Johnson for that automatic berth in the title finale.
“We worked so good together that we gave the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) car the win today,” Busch said at Martinsville. “That’s how good JGR is.”
The Gibbs teammates met this Tuesday, as they always do to dissect and plan strategy. To talk it out.
“That’s the thing that we always do every week,” Busch said. “We all strive to be the best we can as teammates to help one another, but then there’s also the strategy that you have to have to be able to perform to the best of your ability for your team and to go out there and win the championship.
“This format obviously lends itself to a different situation than in years past. Maybe I was expecting a little bit different than what transpired in the race on Sunday (at Martinsville), but we talked, forgive and forget and move on and here we are.”
Busch’s JGR teammates Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards also spoke to the racing media Friday at Texas Motor Speedway, where Busch won this April, but where Johnson has won four of the previous six races.
Kenseth was calmly adamant that there was no big issue with the teammates and the way they are expected to race.
Nothing to see here, folks.
“I think our teamwork at Joe Gibbs Racing is second to none,” Kenseth said. “I’ve had a lot of great teammates, none any better than what I have now, that’s for sure.
“Everybody is really, really competitive and wants to win. Our goal was to have four cars at Homestead and now there’s only three spots left. Every week we talk about what we can do to help each other, and make things better but we also realize when they drop the green on Sunday, it’s one against 39 and have to get the best finish we can for our respective teams.”
He did, however, acknowledge that things are a little more complicated in general than perhaps two or three decades ago. Much of that is because there were no three- or four-car teams battling each other and others for the title trophy.
“The format has brought up certainly a lot of different scenarios,” Kenseth acknowledged of the three-year old elimination-style Chase.
“It’s not as cut and dry as probably when it first came out when everyone thought it was just about winning. There’s things that go on and lots of moving pieces.
“I think there’s a lot of huge benefits to having good teammates and talented teammates and crew chiefs and all that stuff. The only downfall you can find of it is it’s hard to beat them when they are in the same stuff. I reap the benefits every day of having great teammates and crew chiefs and competitive cars.”
Edwards joked that the upside of his early exit last week at Martinsville didn’t put him in position to even be frustrated that the remaining JGR three car-train failed to earn a victory despite its competitiveness.
“I know there was frustration after the race, but that was the only good thing about having that tire problem is that I didn’t get caught up in any of that – if there was something good out of it,” Edwards said. “So, I didn’t see first-hand what happened. I haven’t gone back and watched the video yet but knowing the discussions afterward everybody had a different perspective but everybody understood one another and they really got over it very quickly. It wasn’t a big deal.”
Edwards’ teammates are ranked second (Hamlin), third (Kenseth) and fourth (Busch) as the series prepares to take the checkered flag in Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBC, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). However, Edwards is a three-time winner here on the Texas high banks – best of any Gibbs driver. Because he is ranked eighth (39 points behind Johnson) he is a position where he will likely need a win either here or next week at Phoenix to advance.
“Without getting into particulars about the driving or whatever just to be able to sit at the table with Matt (Kenseth), Kyle (Busch) and Denny (Hamlin) during our meetings and as much as open and honest as all of them are, kind of the format that Coach (Gibbs) has is just really cool,” Edwards said.
“It’s opened my eyes to some different things. Different things that I maybe wasn’t paying attention to as a driver that I should’ve been and it’s been really cool. I guess something specific other than just the whole team atmosphere and the teamwork. I mean, amongst competitors, especially fierce competitors like all of us that’s very rare and I think it’s something that we’ve just got to hold onto and keep using because it’s working.”
As he also acknowledged, it’s a highly competitive, highly driven group with one goal in mind. And only one driver who could ultimately achieve it.
“I think we’re all about as different as four drivers can be and it actually helps and is really good,” Edwards said of the Gibbs group.
“It’s a unique situation that I think is really special. I know it benefits me and I think as a group it benefits all of us the way we’ve been doing things.
“Yeah, we’re going to have days where we’re frustrated and we don’t get along, but we tidy that stuff up real quickly.”