Joe Gibbs Racing is on fire again. They’ve won 17 of the 33 races run this year including four of the seven playoff races. Now, they’ll look to tie Hendrick Motorsports on Sunday for most wins in a single season by one organization.
The good news is, they already won at the Texas Motor Speedway earlier this year. Denny Hamlin picked up his first victory of the season this past spring on the 1.5-mile track. It was a day that JGR would finish 1-4-10-12. But, other than Kyle Busch’s win in the spring race in 2018, Texas hasn’t necessarily been kind to them in the playoff race though.
JGR has won four of the last seven races on the Fort Worth area track, but three of which were in the spring race. Carl Edwards’ win for JGR in the November race in 2016 was their first in that respective race since Hamlin’s in 2010. Those are their only two victories in the past for the playoff race at Texas.
Can they earn a third win Sunday?
If so, it would put possibly another one of their three drivers into the Championship 4 for the final race at the Homestead-Miami Speedway in two weeks.
Martin Truex Jr’s win last weekend in Martinsville puts him into the final round for the third time in the last four years. He’s very capable of going back-to-back in the win category in the Round of 8 too. Other than Talladega, he’s been in the top 10 in all the other playoff races run this year including three trips to victory lane. He also has seven top 10 finishes in his last nine Texas starts as well. The problem is, since his runner-up in the 2017 playoff race, he has one top 10 in his last three tries.
Hamlin, makes the most sense in that he’s a two-time Texas winner and has two top three finishes in his last four tries. He also has five top five finishes in his last six starts on the season too. But, his other two finishes in that time frame were 30th or worse though. Also, only three times in Texas history has a driver swept both races in a single season. Jimmie Johnson was the last to do so in 2015. Carl Edwards was the first in 2008. Hamlin, has done it too before as he won both races in 2010. Hamlin is +24 in the standings right now and just needs a solid top five effort.
But, it’s Kyle Busch who they surprisingly need to get going again.
Busch is struggling on the season and has just eight top five finishes in his last 15 Texas starts. He won the spring race last year but was 15th, 19th, 17th and 10th in his other four starts. He may be +17 in the standings but if someone below him wins Sunday’s race, he could be in some trouble himself. He’s also only had two top five finishes during the playoffs.
Busch, was the quickest driver to reach four victories this season, earning his fourth on June 2 at Pocono. His 1,375 laps led on the season are most in the series. And his average finish of 9.5 through the first 33 races is second best in the series to his JGR teammate Denny Hamlin (9.2).
Since his victory at Pocono, however, Busch has 11 top-10 finishes in 19 races. Eight times he finished a race lower than he started on the grid, including a pair of season-low 37th-place finishes at Indianapolis and the Charlotte ROVAL. His best Playoff showing was a runner-up at Richmond Raceway – the second race of the Playoffs – where he led a race-high 202 laps but finished runner-up to Truex by more than two seconds.
Erik Jones could then play spoiler. He was fourth in each of his last three Texas starts and has five top four finishes in as many tries on the track in the XFINITY Series.