Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske should be laughing at the competition by now.
Not chuckling. Not quietly snickering. These two teams should be cackling. They should be laughing so hard it starts deep in the belly and hurts so bad they’re hunched over holding their midsection. Or maybe doing the point-and-laugh routine we’ve all practiced when wanting to make sure someone knows they’re being made fun of.
Sixteen races have come and gone in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and the competitive gap from the Joe Gibbs and Roger Penske teams to the rest of the field is as wide Ryan Newman’s bumper when another driver is attempting to pass him. Not only is the gap wide, but it seems to get bigger every weekend. Or maybe it just feels that way with each lap led or win by one of the organizations.
Parity be damned – it is incredible to watch these two groups hold steady and be this good for this long. And unfortunately for those who are tired of seeing it, there are no signs that anyone else in the field has managed to make even the slightest of cracks in the Gibbs/Penske foundations.
Logically, the gap should be closing. NASCAR’s season is far too long for so many teams to stink it up forever. At some point, the competition must get better right? Eventually, other organizations will have updated their fleet of cars to the latest and greatest parts and pieces that a difference will be made, yes?
Maybe not, because the wait drags on. The book of dominance, as written by Gibbs and Penske, receives a new chapter every Sunday afternoon.
There are four drivers in the top 10 in points which don’t drive for either team. Kevin Harvick is third with 11 top-10 finishes and 297 laps led. But he’s been a broken record the last four months talking about Stewart-Haas Racing still having work to do with all four of its cars. Harvick and crew chief Rodney Childers being this far off is eyebrow-raising since this is a duo who has won a championship and 22 races since 2014.
Chase Elliott and Hendrick Motorsports is the “other” driver to have won a race this year. He’s seventh in points with just seven top-10 finishes. On the other hand, he’s led an impressive 406 laps. Except Elliott will tell you only winning matters.
Kurt Busch is eighth and started the year looking like a contender. A bucket of cold water has since been thrown over the No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing team with consistently inconsistent results the last two months. Alex Bowman and Aric Almirola are tied for 10th in the standings. Sure, both have had good moments for their respective teams, but neither has been spectacular in the big picture.
Perhaps that’s the best way to sum up this gap. While everyone else can call themselves good or just OK, the Gibbs and Penske cars are great. Good is not going to come close to beating great this year.
So how can this not be comical? No matter the track, starting lineup, failed inspections, aero package or race strategy, the same two organizations continue to succeed, and there doesn’t seem to be a thing the other 33 can do about it.