JGR eyeing 6th Cup Series championship on Sunday in Phoenix

Winning and excellence are ingrained in the foundation of the Joe Gibbs Racing and since joining the NASCAR Cup Series in 1992 the organization has collected five series championships among three drivers – Bobby Labonte (2000), Tony Stewart (2002, 2005) and Kyle Busch (2015, 2019).

Overall, Joe Gibbs Racing has 10 NASCAR national series owner championships (five in Cup and five in the NASCAR Xfinity Series – 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2016).

Joe Gibbs Racing has won five of the last 21 NASCAR Cup Series championships (2000-2020), putting the team’s title-winning percentage during that span at 25%. The organization also holds the NASCAR Cup Series Modern Era (1972-Present) record for the most wins in a single season with 19 victories in 2019.

Heading into Phoenix this weekend, Joe Gibbs Racing has earned nine NASCAR Cup Series wins in 2021. The 2021 season is the organization’s 29th straight season with at least one victory in the NASCAR Cup Series.

This season Joe Gibbs Racing led a combined 2,792 laps. The team ranks second in laps led in a single season in the NASCAR Cup Series Modern Era (1972-Presnt) with 4,047 laps out front in 2019. Junior Johnson and Associates holds the NASCAR Cup Series Modern Era organization record for the most laps led in a single season with 4,296.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s recent dominance doesn’t end there, they also set a NASCAR Cup Series Modern Era record for the most finishes (32) inside the top two in 2019; a feat Hendrick Motorsports tied this season. This season the JGR foursome of Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Christopher Bell and Martin Truex Jr. scored 79 top-10 finishes; the team’s third-most (92 in 2019, 84 in 2016), posted 51 top-five finishes; the team’s third-most (61 in 2019 and 55 in 2020) and also won 22 stages.

 

Since the inception of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs elimination-style format in 2014, Joe Gibbs Racing has placed at least one driver in the Championship 4 Round each season (Denny Hamlin: 2014, ’19, ’20, ’21; Kyle Busch: 2015-2019; Martin Truex Jr.: 2019, ’21; Carl Edwards: 2016). Impressively, Joe Gibbs Racing has placed more than one driver in the Championship 4 Round in three of the seven Playoffs with the elimination-format (2016, 2019 and 2021) and set the series record for the most drivers to earn a spot in the Championship 4 Round by an organization in a single season when Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin all made the Championship 4 in 2019.

Joe Gibbs Racing has won at least one Playoff race in 13 of the 17 Playoff seasons (since 2004) for a combined 33 postseason wins, second-most all-time. Joe Gibbs Racing is also tied with Hendrick Motorsports for the most Playoff wins in a single season with six victories each (JGR, 2019 and HMS 2007).

This weekend, they have two drivers vying for the title with a 50% chance of netting it – Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr.

“Well, I think first of all we’re thrilled to be a part of the championship weekend,” Gibbs said. “To get two cars in there, I got to tell you, that last 50 laps of Martinsville, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced something like that.

“We actually went into that race with all three cars. You didn’t know what was going to happen. That last 50 laps I still didn’t know what was going to happen.

“It was a thrill for us to get Denny and Martin in. A big deal for us. A thrill for our race team. So proud of everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing. God’s blessed us with so many great people that are working there. So we’re thrilled to be a part of the weekend. We’re excited about going to Phoenix.”

Hamlin made his fulltime NASCAR Cup Series debut with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2006 and he immediately started things on the right foot, winning the Daytona Speedweeks season-opening exhibition event, then known as the Budweiser Shootout, in his first appearance. Since then, Hamlin has earned 46 Cup points-race victories – picking up his third Daytona 500 win last season. Now the 40-year-old is looking to bring the Joe Gibbs Racing organization its sixth NASCAR Cup Series championship and his first; joining Bobby Labonte (2000), Tony Stewart (2002 and 2005) and Kyle Busch (2015 and 2019) in his fourth Championship 4 appearance including three straight.

“I think Denny’s success and everything over these last years, as soon as we put him with Chris Gabehart, I think that combination, the way the chemistry works, they’ve been so consistent,” said Gibbs.

“You kind of look at that, but also you know how hard it is to win a championship. Denny’s an example. Won a ton of races, won three Daytona 500s, yet has not been able to win a championship. He’s had a chance, but hasn’t won it.

“I think, again, the reason why we appreciate championships is because they’re so hard. I think the fact that Chris Gabehart and the team there, for FedEx, when you stop and think about that, they’ve been with us now for those 14 years, it would be a thrill to win one for them. As we know, sponsorships are so important. We have Sport Clips on that car, Craftsman on that car, Stanley Black & Decker. It would be a big deal for us and those sponsors if Denny could do that.

“I would say what gives us a chance is Denny, his experience, and Chris Gabehart and the team.”

But, if Hamlin doesn’t win this weekend, does this put him in a category on not being able to win the big one?

“I think that comes with all pro sports. We know that down through history there’s been a lot of great players that haven’t won championships, Super Bowls, NASCAR championships. I mean, it’s just part of it. We’ve had great drivers that are in the Hall of Fame that did not win a championship.

“I think Denny probably answered it the best last year when he kind of said he’s kind of at peace with what he’s been able to do. He’s won Daytona 500s, won a bunch of races, has had a great sponsor, kept them through all of the years, FedEx and Denny. We appreciate Fred and everybody over there.

“I think he’s at peace with it. But also you just know he has a burning desire and is going to give it everything he’s got on Sunday.”

Truex Jr. is looking to bring the Joe Gibbs Racing organization its sixth NASCAR Cup Series championship and his second becoming the fourth driver for JGR to win a title; joining Bobby Labonte (2000), Tony Stewart (2002 and 2005) and Kyle Busch (2015 and 2019).

“Martin, having won the championship, Bass Pro, I talked about Johnny, he does so much for our sport, not only for our race team, but for our sport, period. Just a huge deal. Then to have the other sponsors there, Auto Owners, Reser’s and Stanley, it’s just a big deal.

“Martin, with his career, it’s great to see him where he is. I know that another championship would mean a lot to him and Sherry. That’s just a big deal.

“We would be thrilled, okay, if Martin could win this. That is certainly a big deal for him, his family, and for us.”

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