The Frontstretch: Going By The Numbers: Which NASCAR Team Is Off To Their Best Start Ever? by Kevin Rutherford -- Tuesday May 14, 2013

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Collectively, the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide series has run 20 races in 2013, dating back to the opening weekend in Daytona at the end of February. That’s 11 events for Cup, while Nationwide has experienced more off weeks, traveling to the track nine times.

Kenseth’s win on Saturday night was just the latest installment of the JGR Auto Racing Domination. Get ready for more.

In those 20 collective races, the winner has come from the same team half the time. That’s right. Half.

No doubt, Joe Gibbs Racing is off to a commanding start in both national series. Organization stalwart Kyle Busch and newcomer Matt Kenseth have combined for five wins in the Sprint Cup Series, following Kenseth’s recent third win of the season in Darlington, while Busch’s return to the team’s Nationwide program has produced five victories — over half of the total races the series has even held so far.

It’s the best start for a team over both series in recent memory, and it should scare every other major organization out there.

That’s not as much a threat as it is a simple, harrowing truth. Looking at the last five seasons in both series, dating back to 2008, no team has won as much as Joe Gibbs Racing in the first 11 Cup and first nine Nationwide events. Not since 2008, when the team won nine of those races, has a team even come close.

The reason for this anomaly can undeniably be chalked up to two drivers. One has already been mentioned above for his blistering start this season. The other just left the team in favor of Penske Racing.

This record-setting start began with Kyle Busch and Joey Logano.

The year 2008 was a particularly exciting year at Joe Gibbs Racing before it even began. Busch, the young Las Vegas native who had come up in the Hendrick Motorsports organization, garnering four Cup wins, had just joined the team as the driver of its No. 18, which admittedly had seen better days and was struggling with its former wheelman, J.J. Yeley. Logano was a newcomer to NASCAR but had been talked about at major length in recent months, earning the Connecticut teenager the nickname Sliced Bread (as in, the best invention since… well, you know).

That year, Busch went on an absolute tear. He won eight times in the Cup Series, doubling his old career total in the process, and competed in the Nationwide Series for Gibbs in 30 of the circuit’s 35 races. He won 10 times.

Logano, meanwhile, won only once in 2008, but that’s beside the point. That was the year these two came to Joe Gibbs Racing and kicked off a flat-out dynasty in terms of victories that still continues today, though some of the players are a little different.

The next season, Joe Gibbs Racing won seven times during the aforementioned 20-race split. The team went on to win 23 times that year, including 14 times in the Nationwide Series. All of those Nationwide victories were split between Busch and Logano.

The 2010 season saw a continuation in Gibbs dominance, with Busch, Logano and Denny Hamlin combining to win 27 races total over both divisions. The next year was less fruitful, though the team still won 10 times in the Nationwide Series and scored 15 wins overall. In 2012, the team had the most wins of any organization over Cup and Nationwide, taking 16 trophies despite not having Busch as part of its Nationwide stable. Logano seized that moment and ran with it, winning 10 times (nine in Nationwide) in his final season with the organization.

Check back in on 2008 for a moment. During that explosive season, the Gibbs organization won a whopping 30 times, including 20 wins in the Nationwide Series spread between Busch, Logano, Hamlin and Tony Stewart. Remember how many wins the team had at this point in the season? Nine. Nine over the two series.

In 2013, Joe Gibbs Racing has 10 wins entering Charlotte. That’s without Hamlin for four races in the Cup season due to injury. That’s without Logano, who might not have competed for victories in the top-tier series but undoubtedly would have gone HAM, as the kids say, in a Nationwide race.

Yeah, note to other teams: remember 2008, when Joe Gibbs Racing won almost two-thirds of the season’s Nationwide events and approached scoring half of the total wins in both series? Gibbs is off to an even hotter streak so far than the team was five years ago. Granted, the number of Nationwide races in a season has dropped from 35 to 33 since then, meaning that Busch, Kenseth and Co. have two less races to eclipse the mark set in 2008. But don’t doubt for a second that they won’t do it. What evidence is there to suggest otherwise?

There’s been a lot of talk in the Nationwide Series in particular this season about Kyle Busch and how tough it is to best him when he’s in his black and green No. 54. But after last weekend’s near-sweep of the top 5 at Darlington (the main reason Gibbs didn’t pull it off? The team couldn’t; only four teams entered) it’s not even necessarily attention that need only be directed at Busch. Look at the seasons of Elliott Sadler and Brian Vickers, full-time title contenders which are getting increasingly better. Check out Matt Kenseth in his limited Nationwide campaigns. Consider Denny Hamlin, who returned from a debilitating back injury to finish second in his first full race back. Take a gander at Kenseth’s three Cup wins in 2013, the most of anyone in the series. Kenseth, like Busch five years ago has come to JGR with a chip on his shoulder, looking to prove something towards the Roush Fenway Racing organization that may have underestimated how much he had left in the tank. Simply coasting during the regular season, like some Chase-contending teams do will not be an option here. This man is on a trophy-collecting mission, leaving him on pace for what would be a career-high nine Cup wins.

So if you or someone you know is incredibly averse to Joe Gibbs Racing, keep those folks (or yourself) in your thoughts. Check in to see how they’re doing every once in a while. Tell them 2014’s just around the corner, even though it isn’t. They’re going to need all the comforting they can get, because this run of dominance isn’t going to end anytime soon.

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Andy D
05/14/2013 01:08 PM

I understand your point about JGR’s dominance, but they didn’t win either championship in 2008. Don’t count your chickens until they hatch.

For the record, I’m rooting for Kenseth.

Steve K
05/14/2013 11:24 PM

Kyle Busch has ruined Nationwide racing. There really isn’t much of a reason to watch a race he is entered in. Are you listening ESPN? NASCAR still needs to do more to get Cup guys out of Nationwide races. A flat out ban would be a good start.