Joe Gibbs Racing’s storied history in NASCAR begins in 1991. The Joe Gibbs Organization started, by fielding General Motors cars, first with Pontiac Grand Prix, then moving to Chevrolet Monte Carlo. In 2008 it would be Joe Gibbs Racing helping introduce Toyota to NASCAR.
Joe Gibbs Racing fields three full-time Toyota Camry’s in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the #11 FedEx car driven by Denny Hamlin, the #18 M&Ms/Interstate Batteries car driven by Kyle Busch and the #20 Home Depot/Game Stop car driven by Joey Logano.
Several Gibbs drivers lay claim to Rookie of the Year honors over the team’s 21-year history. Denny Hamlin won Rookie of the Year honors in 2006, Joey Logano won the honor in 2009. During his ten years with JGR, Tony Stewart also earned Rookie honors in 1999 and two of his three championships – 2002 and 2005.
|Denny Hamlin #11 FedEx Driver at JGR
Photo – Chris Graythen/Gett Images
Denny Hamlin joined Joe Gibbs Racing in 2005, making his Sprint Cup debut at Kansas, and a total of seven starts. In 2006, he was named the full-time driver of the #11 car beginning his official rookie campaign. He earned the distinction of being the first rookie to win the Budweiser Shootout and the first rookie to make the Chase for the Cup. Since joining JGR, Denny has missed the Chase only once, in 2007. His best finish in the standings came in 2010 when he gave Jimmie Johnson a run for his money only to come up a little short, finishing second.
After Hamlin’s banner year in 2010, many anticipated Denny and the FedEx team to come out with guns blazing in 2011 as one of the top contenders for the championship. However, the team struggled in the early goings of the 2011 season. Denny and the team did manage to find their stride, making the chase and finishing 9th in the standings. At the end of the 2011 season, long time crew chief Mike Ford was replaced with Darian Grubb. With the infusion of Darian Grubb with the #11 team, they are off to a great start to the 2012 season with one win under their belts and 7th place in the standings.
Joey Logano joined Joe Gibbs Racing in 2008, making his debut at Dover in the Nationwide series just days after his 18th birthday. Logano’s debut in the Sprint Cup series is in 2009, when he won his first race in a rain-shortened event at Loudon also winning Rookie honors for the year. Logano earned the distinction of being the youngest race winner in both the Nationwide – 18 years and 21 days of age – and Sprint Cup series at 19 years, 1 month, 4 days of age. At the end of the 2011 season, the #20 team’s long-term crew chief Greg Zipadelli left the Joe Gibbs organization. JGR crew chief in the Nationwide series Jason Ratcliff took over for Zipadelli at the beginning of this season. With a new crew chief at the helm, Joey and the #20 team find themselves currently 13th in the points standings, just 22 points out of 10th – the cut off for contending in the Chase.
|Kyle Busch & Joey Logano JGR Drivers
Photo – Getty Images
Kyle Busch joined Joe Gibbs Racing in 2008. Not only did Busch earn Toyota their first win, on March 9 that year, he also brought back “winning” as part of the #18 team going on to win a total of eight races and making the Chase his first year with JGR. He made the Chase again in 2010 and 2011. After all the success that Kyle and the #18 team have experienced, they also have their share of struggles and this year is no different. Kyle currently finds himself in 16th in the point standings, 38 points out of 10th place.
With a new crew chief and a strong start to the season, will Denny and his new crew chief continue a strong showing as the FedEx team did in 2010, contending for another championship? This is a contract year for Joey – could this play a role in how the team performs or how Joey races? As the season progresses, will Kyle and crew chief Dave Rogers find their stride?