We're almost done with 2010, so as we close out the year, we look back one last time at the big teams to see where they went right, where they went wrong, and what their prospects might be for 2011. And we continue with what might have been ...oh, and pay no attention to the photobombing Clint Bowyer there.
By the numbers: 11 wins, 31 top 5s, 52 top 10s, 5 poles
The recap: Oh, so close. So very, very close. Joe Gibbs Racing was within one race of posting its first championship since 2005, but it wasn't to be. Denny Hamlin learned what it takes to be a champion by learning how to lose one. Kyle Busch learned that maybe you keep your mouth shut and your bumper unto yourself when in the Chase. And Joey Logano learned that not only can he race at the top level of NASCAR, he can mouth off with the best of them too. Gibbs is one year, at most, from posting all of its drivers in the Chase. Is a fourth in the future? Why bother, when you're this stacked with talent?
The outlook: The big question for the 11 team is whether the partnership of Hamlin and crew chief Mike Ford can weather the rift that obviously flowered in the last two weeks of the season. If they can get back on the same strategic page, Hamlin ought to be right up there in the hunt for the Cup next year. If Kyle can get his demons under control and run a full 10-race Chase, he too will be a legit contender. And if Logano continues on his present trajectory, he'll be in the Chase by 2012. Bottom line: no team has a brighter future, top to bottom, than Joe Gibbs Racing.
Previously: Hendrick Motorsports