All the attention going into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup has been on the drivers from Hendrick Motorsports and Team Penske – and rightfully so. They do own 17 wins in 26 (65%) regular season races this season.
However, there is another heavyweight in the room that has more than a puncher’s chance at the title.
Joe Gibbs Racing.
If JGR can find the speed to match HMS and Team Penske, its three drivers have the experience and talent to compete for the title.
Former Cup Champion Matt Kenseth (2003) headlines Gibbs’ group. He has yet to find victory lane this season, but consistently finished high and has proven he can reel off wins in the past. Last year, Kenseth took seven checkered flags on his way to a second-place Chase finish. In the regular season races at New Hampshire and Dover, he finished fourth and third, respectively, showing he can open the Chase with a quick start.
Kyle Busch (29 career wins) holds the distinction as the winningest active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver without a championship. Traditionally, he has performed well in the regular season, but has not been able to win during the Chase. He hasn’t posted a top-10 finish since consecutive runner-up finishes at New Hampshire and Indianapolis in July, but shouldn’t be counted out. Busch has run well at Chase sites Chicago, Dover and Loudon. His Achilles’ heel? Kansas, where he has his lowest average finish of any track (22.7).
The only rookie to ever make the Chase (2006), Denny Hamlin is back in NASCAR’s postseason after missing the cut last year. Quietly, he has tallied six top-10 finishes in his last nine starts. Hamlin won at Talladega in May, owns a career-best four victories at Martinsville and has taken the checkered at Homestead twice, including last season’s finale.
JGR has won three Sprint Cup championships, but has not clinched a title with any of its current drivers. Last year, the organization placed second in the final owner’s standings.