The 2019 season: the year of the package … and Joe Gibbs Racing.
By virtue of Denny Hamlin‘s victory on Sunday (Nov. 10) at ISM Raceway, the organization will have three of its four cars in the championship finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the first time in the history of this format.
As for the obvious question of information sharing between the three Toyota teams, team owner Joe Gibbs dispelled the narrative that the knowledge will be contained individually.
“Basically what’s going to happen is we work together,” Joe Gibbs said. “What I love about our sport is we work together at the race shop, try to prepare things, solve problems. When we get to the racetrack, it will be three cars going for it. When you think about this, three drivers want a championship. Their sponsors mean so much to us, each one of them, and it’s a separate story, each one of those.”
Martin Truex Jr., who clinched his Championship 4 spot with his Martinsville victory, agreed with Coach, saying JGR works better together, not separate.
“I can’t speak for everyone. I feel like we’re all here because we work together,” he said. “Our teams work together really well. We got a great group at Joe Gibbs Racing. I would assume all the way till Sunday morning we’ll probably all work together. That’s just what I think. We’ll see what everybody else wants to do.”
Kyle Busch, who hasn’t won since early June at Pocono Raceway, will be competing for his second career championship (along with Truex) and agreed with his counterpart.
“I think we’ve done that,” he said of information sharing. “We’ve done that in the past with Carl [Edwards] and myself. I wouldn’t imagine it would be any different now. It’s just a matter of all of us doing what we do throughout the week for preparation and everything, getting down there.”
He pointed to last season’s technical alliance with Furniture Row Racing, as the No.’s 78 and 18 shared info throughout the lead-up to championship weekend.
“Last year Martin and myself were in,” Busch said. “I guess he wasn’t really a teammate, but in reality they kind of still were. We worked together all the way to Sunday. They were really, really fast and better than us. Same with Carl. He was fast that year. Then in 2017, right, when (Truex) won, we were really fast, just didn’t have track position.”
Busch also tried to dispel the narrative of team orders coming in to play on the final restart, where Busch lined up third and had a chance to move Hamlin for the win, ultimately coming home in second.
“I was racing for me at that point,” he said. “Denny was on the outside, had control of the restart and everything. I was trying to get by the No. 12 (Ryan Blaney) and do what I could. I heard for a moment we were three‑wide in the corner, and I lost front grip because I went that low and just got dirt on my tires. Once it recovered and I got up off the corner, luckily I was ahead of the No. 12 already, but I was behind the No. 11. Once that happened I couldn’t really get close enough to the 11. Two tires is better than four.”
The lone outlier at JGR is Erik Jones, who said he’ll have a “laid back” Homestead experience while his teammates are going balls to the wall gunning for the championship.
But he also had a different opinion than Truex, Busch or Gibbs when it came to information sharing.
“It’s a little different than any other week,” he said. “Each team probably goes a little more dark than they do in the past with sharing information this week. Just because you want the best man to win, but I feel like all those guys have a really good shot. Little bit less sharing of information I think, but still the same policies in place. There’ll be no teammate help, I would guess, in the race, so it should be fun to watch.”
But Busch recalled what Hamlin said awhile back, saying it still rings true.
“Once you start to kind of hold back anything, then that just can kind of snowball and be bad for everybody,” he said. “I agree with him on that.”
Gibbs has a 75 percent chance (by easy math standards) of winning his first championship since 2015 and seventh overall. The lone driver not under the JGR banner will be Kevin Harvick, who’ll be gunning for his second career title.
“When I was in football, it’s one team; you’re trying to win with one team,” Gibbs added. “This is four teams. Then when you get to the racetrack, it’s four teams competing against each other. I love that aspect of it. I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”
The Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway is set to go green Sunday, Nov. 17 at 3:30 p.m. EST on NBC.