Joe Gibbs Racing put three of their four cars in the Championship 4 last year. They also won 19 of the 36 races held last season, a series record. This year, they’ve got three cars still alive in the 12 drivers left in the playoffs. But, Vegas is a weekend that could be concerning for the JGR camp.
This past February, all five of their cars, including their alliance car at Leavine Family Racing, failed pre practice inspection for what NASCAR deemed something illegal with the front of their cars. In practice, they all struggled with pace.
In pre qualifying inspection, three of the five failed again, this time for a new infraction at the front of their cars.
They’d struggle all day in the race too.
Kyle Busch was 15th in Stage 1, 10th in Stage 2 and finished 14th. He was 19th in last year’s playoff race. Denny Hamlin was 22nd and 24th respectively in the two stages and only came home 17th. He was 15th in last year’s playoff race and has four finishes of 15th or worse in his last five Vegas starts.
Erik Jones was 25th and 18th respectively himself and finished in 23rd. He was 36th in last year’s playoff race. That leaves their best option in Martin Truex Jr. who had track position early and finished second and third in the stages, but he had a tire go down and get into the wall on Lap 175 this past spring. That relegated him to a 20th place finish.
Truex, won this race last year and has five top eight finishes, four of which being in the top four, in his last six Vegas starts.
Hamlin has playoff points, Busch doesn’t. Busch could be in a hole coming out of Vegas.