There will be celebrating with a side of disappointment today within the walls of Joe Gibbs Racing.
Of the four Joe Gibbs Racing teams that visited Las Vegas, only one left happy. The No. 19 team of Martin Truex Jr. and crew chief Cole Pearn won their series-leading fifth race, while the South Point 400 was a bust for Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, and Erik Jones. All three were outside the top 10 at the checkered flag.
“Our sport is very different in that you got to have four teams work together to really gain knowledge, what happens at the racetrack, make the right calls, and the right adjustments,” said Gibbs. “To show you how hard our sport is, last week (at Indy) we had all four cars that had issues. Four cars, they all had issues. This week, we had three of them.
“Hats off and real compliment to Cole and what he was able to do to keep the 19 up there, he and Martin. Also, we had great pit stops at the end. It was a total team effort. I think what the last two weeks for us just highlights how hard our sport is. Yeah, it is hard. Our meeting (Monday), our technical meeting, will be tough because three of them had a real tough day. I think what you need to do is try and figure out, OK, what happened, how do you keep it from happening again, and learn from those tough nights. So many different things can happen to you in motorsports.”
Following his successful night, Truex jumped atop the playoff leaderboard and is assured a spot in the Round of 12.
Hamlin finished 15th and was confused on pit road about what happened to his No. 11 Toyota. During one run, Hamlin said something weird happened when his car went from being a top five contender to “way, way back.”
“I don’t know,” he said. “I really don’t have a whole lot of answers right now until we look at the car because I’ve been doing this a long time, I’ve never seen a car without damage go from where we were to where we ended up. Certainly, we got to diagnose it and see.”
Confusing and frustrating is how Hamlin summed up his night, although he didn’t want to speculate about what exactly went wrong. But he’s confident the team will be competitive in Richmond and will advance in the playoffs. Hamlin fell from second to seventh in the standings.
Frustrated is also how Kyle Busch felt after his 19th-place finish and a multitude of problems, and he let everyone know. He dropped three spots to fourth in points. Erik Jones lost six points positions and is now last on the playoff grid, and was probably left wondering about what might have been with a fast car that finished 36th because of a mechanical issue.
Not only have all four JGR drivers have won races this year, but the organization has been absolutely dominant in that category. Of the season’s 27 races, JGR has won 14. Sunday night, Gibbs referenced success being a result of hard work and having the right people together.
Considered one of, if not the, favorites for the championship, Gibbs said it is always disappointing when that goal isn’t accomplished.
“I think you also realize, man, it is just so hard, which I think it’s illustrated by tonight what happened to us and our other three cars,” he said. “I think you work so hard, that’s the goal. For any driver or crew chief, these guys, they’ve got so many years to drive a car, so many chances to win a championship, you don’t want to see them miss one. We’ll put everything we got into it and see what happens.”