Kansas Turning Point: Gibbs, Hendrick ... and who else? Another Midwest moment coming?

Here’s what’s happening in the world of NASCAR with Dover in the rearview and Kansas (Sun., 3 p.m. ET, FS1) right around the corner.


1️⃣ Gibbs, Hendrick … and who else?

2️⃣ What ‘big moment’ might be in store for Kansas?

3️⃣ Around the Track: There’s no place like Kansas

4️⃣ Mile-and-a-Half Martin is due … overdue, even

5️⃣ Catch the pack — news and notes from around the garage

denny hamlin celebrates in dover victory lane
denny hamlin celebrates in dover victory lane

1. Gibbs, Hendrick … and who else?

NASCAR’s two perennial powerhouses look to be in a tier of their own in 2024 — but is it possible a third team enters the fray of the elite?

Sunday’s winner at Dover Motor Speedway, Denny Hamlin, has led in 15 straight races, with his last shutout coming last October in the Bank of America Roval 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (a race he finished third in Stage 2 in before wrecking out).

No. 11 has looked dominant all year. But so has Dover runner-up Kyle Larson. And three-time 2024 winner William Byron. And Martin Truex Jr., leading the series with a 9.4 average finish. Not to mention Chase Elliott’s 10.3 number and Ty Gibbs’ 11.5 right behind him. Oh, but wait, there’s Alex Bowman putting together his career-best average finish (13.6). And remember when Christopher Bell started the season with a win and three top fives in the first six races? Surely, he appears destined for a third straight Championship 4, right?

Wait a second … all of these drivers have something in common — they all drive for Hendrick Motorsports or Joe Gibbs Racing.

RELATED: By the numbers: Denny Hamlin vs. Kyle Larson

Obviously, it’s no surprise that two of NASCAR’s winningest organizations are pacing the field this year, but what is a bit of a shock is just how far out ahead of everyone else they appear to be.

The two teams have combined for five poles, nine race wins, 29 top fives and a whopping 2,185 laps led (the next highest team on the list is defending champion Team Penske, with 388.) Of the drivers with the best average running positions in 2024, the top five (Hamlin, Truex, Larson, Elliott and Gibbs, respectively) all drive for these teams.

It feels like a slam dunk that with eight drivers this capable of dominance, the 2024 Championship 4 will be heavy on Gibbs and Hendrick contenders.

But who could squeeze their way in and crash the party?

After all, it’s only May and we’ve seen “slam dunks” completely brick before, even in the not-too-distant past like when Joey Logano toppled the “Big Three” of Truex, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick for his first title in 2018.

No. 22, himself, hasn’t had a season to remember so far — but it’s an even-numbered year and are you really going to write off Logano and crew chief Paul Wolfe on May 1? Absolutely not, and don’t forget that defending champ Ryan Blaney has still looked the part this year, he just hasn’t won yet. We aren’t done hearing from Team Penske, a team that notoriously finishes strong, by a long shot.

Also in the Ford camp, it wasn’t that long ago that Stewart-Haas Racing was essentially in that top tier of finishers along with Gibbs, Hendrick and Penske and, though a rebuild in the post-Harvick days is still in process, there are some encouraging signs here as the season continues. Don’t let it go unnoticed that Noah Gragson has secured back-to-back top 10s for the first time in his career with a decent shot to make it three in a row on Sunday, while Chase Briscoe is putting up career numbers as the new top dog at SHR.

RFK Racing is probably the most likely of the other Ford teams to push for race wins and land both of its drivers in the playoffs, however, but Chris Buescher and Brad Keselowski have two top 10s combined since they both grabbed one at Richmond — in March.

From a strictly speed standpoint, the JGR-affiliated 23XI Racing and rapidly growing upstart Trackhouse Racing tend to be the biggest competitors to the juggernauts each weekend, and as such are the only other two teams to score a race victory this year. Both project as having deep-playoff-run potential (nobody would bat an eye if Trackhouse’s Ross Chastain or 23XI’s Tyler Reddick raced for a title at Phoenix this year) but there’s a certain polished poise and deeper well of resources and knowledge that JGR/Hendrick have from successfully running championship-capable, four-car organizations for so long that it’s impossible for a pair of two-car teams in their relative infancy to replicate.

Beyond these teams, several other organizations are capable of — and likely will — win this year. We might even see things shift dramatically once we start hitting some of these tracks for a second time and teams continue to build their notebooks and catch up.

But for now, it really feels like both of these powerhouse contenders are without weakness from top to bottom and it’s evident that even if someone is able to topple the Goliaths, the road to the championship very much runs through Gibbs and Hendrick in some form or fashion.


martin truex jr stands at kansas speedway
martin truex jr stands at kansas speedway

2. What ‘big moment’ might be in store for Kansas?

Kansas Speedway has turned into one of the most intense, electrifying venues on the circuit, prone to big and memorable moments and jaw-dropping finishes. 

Kansas is the last remaining track that the series visits in the playoffs that it hasn’t seen yet this year for a regular season race, and teams will certainly be looking for an edge this weekend given its importance later this season. Kansas kicks off the Round of Terror 12 and with the uncertainty that can come along with the other two races at Talladega Superspeedway and the Charlotte Roval, teams tend to look at Kansas as the “safe” race to go out and win to ensure any later chaos is unimpactful.

There’s only one problem with that strategy — Kansas has been wild the past few years and brings its own degree of uncertainty. Even still, with the degree of importance teams put on it, perhaps that’s part of why the racing there has been so intense and has provided so many memorable moments over the past few years alone. Heck, just look at last year’s spring race that saw 37 lead changes — the most in a 400-mile race on a 1.5-mile track … ever.

But what might be the next one?

MORE: Memorable moments at Kansas Speedway

For as dominant as all of the season’s winners have seemed, Martin Truex Jr. is actually outpacing them all on a weekly basis as the only driver to average a finish inside the top 10 so far. He’s actually been remarkably consistent, finishing the top 20 in each of the first 11 races for the first time in his career.

This feels like the weekend he not only finishes in the top 20, but finishes ahead of everybody else, too.

The No. 45 Toyota has won three of the last four Kansas races — but, notably, with three different drivers — and it feels quite likely that Reddick will also be dialed in there once again this weekend. But how about the No. 54 Toyota, with the sophomore Gibbs still aiming for career win No. 1? His hot start has cooled in recent weeks, but the weekend ahead looks very pro-Toyota and Gibbs had a great handle on the track in 2021-22 in the Xfinity Series, winning once and finishing P3 with a bunch of laps led in the other.

Bubba Wallace is one of those who delivered a win in the No. 45 there and he stands as one of several former Kansas victors still looking to hit paydirt in 2024, along with Busch, Logano and Brad Keselowski — all former champs that could get it done this weekend despite lengthy winless streaks of their own.

Of course, all of the familiar Gibbs/Hendrick faces will likely be strong again as well (see: bullet No. 1 above) but the window is open this weekend without question.

No matter who winds up in Victory Lane, though, it isn’t likely to be inconsequential. Kansas’ big-time impact is real.

3. There’s no place like Kansas: Previewing the Cup return to the Midwest

Kim Coon and Skip Flores look ahead to the weekend in Kansas before the NASCAR Cup Series heads back out West.


4. Mile-and-a-Half Martin is due … overdue, even

Truex Jr. was once the 1.5-mile master with 12 total wins, but it’s been 39 races since his last one. He’s been close with 28 top 10s in that span. Racing Insights breaks them down:



















5. Catch the pack — news and notes from around the garage

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denny hamlin climbs into his car at kansas
denny hamlin climbs into his car at kansas