As we draw within sight of the Chase, let's take a look back at how the season has gone so far for NASCAR's top teams. We continue with Joe Gibbs Racing, the heir apparent to Hendrick's throne.
Drivers: Kyle Busch (currently 4th in the standings), Denny Hamlin (currently 11th), Joey Logano (currently 19th).
Wins: 4 (Busch @ Bristol, Richmond and Kentucky; Hamlin @ Michigan)
Overall accolades: 2 poles, 4 wins, 17 top-5s, 24 top-10s, 6 DNFs.
High point: Busch has run strong all season, hanging at or near the top of the standings for most of the year. He's one of the season leaders with three wins, his triumph at the inaugural Kentucky race probably the most notable of those. So what if people are still in their cars waiting to leave the track? While Hamlin has a key win to keep himself in the Chase hunt, and Logano has steadily improved throughout the year, neither can match Busch's record.
Low point: Busch has also been responsible for some of the uglier incidents in recent JGR history: the speeding ticket for a triple-digit run through a residential area and the ongoing feud with Kevin Harvick (though Harvick seems to be far more interested in perpetuating the feud than Busch). Hamlin seems to be headed in the right direction, though the fact that Carl Edwards has been discussed as a replacement for, rather than a teammate of, Logano doesn't say much for Sliced Bread's year so far.
Outlook for the Chase and beyond: Both Hamlin and Busch are legitimate championship contenders, with Busch holding a slight edge because of his consistency. But assuming both make it in, they'll be threats to run up front every week. Logano still has a ways to go to meet that "Chase in '12" prediction we had for him a couple years back.
- Denny Hamlin
- Kyle Busch
- Joey Logano
- Kevin Harvick