KENSETH: JGR’S NEW SECRET WEAPON
WORDS Tom Jensen MAIN IMAGE Matthew T. Thacker/LAT
Matt Kenseth is surely the perfect team leader for the fast but
erratic supertalents in Joe Gibbs Racing’s Sprint Cup stable.
mong the upper echelon of NASCAR
Sprint Cup Series teams, the moneyed
elites who battle for championships year
after year after year, there are no
pessimists in early February.
After a short, intense winter off, the
best of the best carry high hopes and
bold ambitions into Daytona Speedweeks.
Rick Hendrick thinks he’s going to win
another championship this year, and so
do team owners Jack Roush, Roger
Penske and Tony Stewart. They have each
spent a king’s ransom over the off-season
building cars, hanging sheetmetal, bolting
engines together and plotting the
strategy and tactics necessary to capture
stock car racing’s biggest prize.
Joe Gibbs Racing is one of the
heavy hitters that’s gone all in on a
championship run this year. And, frankly,
JGR needs to win another Cup title. Its
last one came in 2005, when Tony Stewart
was the big dog at JGR and the team was
wrapping up its third championship in six
years. Since then, the results have been
mixed. Pretty good, but mixed.
Denny Hamlin and the No. 11 JGR
team snatched defeat from the jaws of
victory in 2010, when they led the points
after eight of 10 races in the Chase, but
made critical blunders in each of the final
two races. Their lackluster ending allowed
Hendrick’s Jimmie Johnson to win his
fifth consecutive championship.
Kyle Busch came on like gangbusters
when he joined JGR in 2008, winning
eight races in NASCAR’s regular season
that year, but fading to 10th in points at
year-end. For all his formidable talent,
Busch has failed to make the Chase twice
in five seasons with JGR and has never
finished higher than eighth in points.
Joey Logano, Stewart’s highly-touted
replacement starting in ’09, won only two
races in four years and failed to crack the
top 15 in points. JGR made only a token
effort to keep Logano, who is still just
22 years old, allowing him to slip off to
Penske Racing for 2013 (see page 83).
And yet, for all that, there is
considerable – and, more importantly,
justifiable – optimism for JGR in 2013.
That’s because unlike Hendrick
Motorsports, Stewart-Haas Racing,
Richard Childress Racing, Roush Fenway
“Matt is the perfect guy to wrap
his arms around Denny and Kyle
if they start to get sideways”