NASCAR Notes: Sprint Cup Class of 2013 – Joe Gibbs Racing
By Dave Grayson
It’s all good in the Joe Gibbs neighborhood. The 2013 season is loaded with positive prospects for all three teams and it appears that any one of the three drivers has a better than good shot at the Sprint Cup championship.
DENNY HAMLIN. #11 TOYOTA. CREW CHIEF: DARIAN GRUBB.
Denny Hamlin is coming off of an impressive 2012 season that saw him finish 6th in the final standings based on five wins, 14 top five finishes, 17 top tens, 3 poles along with a healthy average finish ratio of 13. What he wants next is to score his first NASCAR Sprint Cup championship while giving Joe Gibbs Racing their next title.
One of the major positives to help that along is the fact that crew chief Darian Grubb will be returning to call the shots from on top of the pit box. Their driver-crew chief chemistry appears to be as strong as ever. Hamlin has already proven that he’s more than capable of being a championship contender and Grubb has already proven he can get the job done after guiding Tony Stewart to his 2011 championship.
Hamlin’s 2013 sponsor profile is also very strong. Every level of FED EX services: Express, Freight, Ground and Office will be on the hood of the car this year.
KYLE BUSCH. #18 TOYOTA. CREW CHIEF: DAVE ROGERS.
If Kyle Busch had to pick just one word to describe his plans for the new 2013 season, the word just might be redemption. This time last year, Busch was regarded as a pre season favorite to win the championship. We were all stunned as we watched it all unravel. First off, he missed the 12 man Chase line up after finishing 13th in the final standings. Next, a driver who won a total of 19 races from 2008 through 2011 only found victory lane once last year. The late portion of the year saw some improvement and Busch finished the season with 13 top fives, 20 top tens and a 13.0 average finish ratio.
Regarding 2013, Busch is no longer the king of free agents in NASCAR racing. He signed a multi year contract, believed to be through the 2017 season, last December. That announcement came last month, during the annual Media Tour, and Busch admitted he received two serious offers from other teams with one of them being Stewart-Haas Racing. However, in the grand scheme of things, he said he felt his best option was to remain with Joe Gibbs Racing where he had the best opportunity to win a championship.
Despite some obvious tense moments last year, the relationship between Busch and crew chief Dave Rogers appears to be stronger than ever. The same goes for the relationship with the team sponsors. Mars Candy Company, with its M&M’s and Snickers Brand, along with Wrigley’s Double Mint Gum, will be on the hood of the car for a total of 30 races. In recent weeks Interstate Batteries announced they will be returning for six races.
Busch has already been listed by observers, from the NASCAR media to Las Vegas bookies, to be a favorite to finally win that elusive first title this year.
MATT KENSETH. #20 TOYOTA. CREW CHIEF: JASON Ratcliff.
After all of those years of driving for Roush Fenway Racing, does anyone think that a major change to Joe Gibbs Racing will be difficult for Matt Kenseth? Does anyone believe this former Sprint Cup champion is going to struggle after trading a Ford in for a Toyota? Was it even necessary to ask these questions?
No, the questions weren’t necessary. Kenseth’s performance in the JGR # 20 Toyota during last month’s pre season tests at Daytona proved that. The speed charts from those tests clearly indicated that JGR’s new driver is going to be a force to be reckoned with. It also proved that Kenseth has made quick work of getting on the same page with his new team and his new crew chief Jason Ratcliff.
The sponsorship is also very strong on Kenseth’s new car. Home Depot, and their proprietary tool brand Husky, will be the primary sponsors for 21 events while Dollar General Stores will be on the hood of the #20 for 17 races.
Put it all together, you have three different drivers, representing three different teams, all looking strong for the new racing season. All three also has the capability of being the new NASCAR Sprint Cup champion by the time the season ends in November. It’s all good in the Joe Gibbs neighborhood.