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Joe Gibbs Racing remains winless in 2017, despite strong efforts

Jun 19, 2017 Hit: 167 Written by 
Kyle Busch's car is worked on in the garage at MIS on Friday.. Neither Kyle nor any of his teammates have reached Victory Lane in the Cup series in 2017.
Kyle Busch's car is worked on in the garage at MIS on Friday.. Neither Kyle nor any of his teammates have reached Victory Lane in the Cup series in 2017. Photo by Matt Myftiu

BROOKLYN, MIch. -- It might sound odd to say this in the middle of June, considering how strong the Toyotas have been running overall in 2017, but Joe Gibbs Racing has yet to visit Victory Lane in the Cup series. Every week they contend, and every week they fall short.

Let’s look at Michigan’s results … Kyle Busch led 40 laps in Sunday’s race, and was among the top contenders to win. But as the final laps played out, he fell back and finished 7th. He’s run well enough to be third in points, but has yet to be first to the checkered flag this year.


Both Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth were knocking on the door of the lead Sunday (Hamlin’s shot came right at the end too). But in the end, Hamlin came home in 4th and Kenseth was 11th. Both of these drivers are on track to make the playoffs on points, but would prefer to get there via a trip to Victory Lane.

The fourth Gibbs driver, Daniel Suarez, is a rookie so there isn’t huge pressure on him to win this year. But he has the talent to do so, as he showed last year in winning his Xfinity title.

 


But it’s not all doom and gloom at JGR. Hamlin said after the race that he is confident the Gibbs team will break through with a win soon, and they just need the luck to fall their way.

“Yeah, definitely. I mean, you keep battling in the top-five and eventually you’ll have your chance. Cautions will fall just perfectly for you and pit stops – we know we can gain spots on pit road. We didn’t do that really today, but good effort nonetheless.”

There’s really not a magic switch that can be turned on to get the Gibbs team back into Victory Lane in Cup, and the great thing about the playoff system is that it’s a heck of a motivator.

If other teams keep winning and taking the playoff positions, there will be no choice for Gibbs other than to win to get a shot at the title. I’m sure they will, and I anticipate Busch getting a couple wins before the playoffs, and Hamlin getting at least one. I predict Kenseth will not win and that he will miss the Chase, just by a hair, due to all the winners this year and places getting taken away from usual contenders and given to first-time winners like Ryan Blaney and Austin Dillon and more.


Truex strong, but fades

Perhaps the best-running Toyota right now is Martin Truex Jr., who led 62 laps Sunday and was arguably the best car on track all day. He faded late in the race when he struggled in traffic.

Truex, who won the first two stages and now has 10 total stage wins on the year, was confident after the race that he was the car to beat on Sunday.


“We had the best car out there without a doubt – just inside lane restarts at the end killed us, so just stinks when you have to race like that, you know? You get just in a bad spot and there’s nothing you can do about it. We seen it the last couple restarts, so just wrong place. Probably should have took two tires that last time we pitted – we took four. That killed us. Just wrong lane on the restart every single time all day long and couldn’t use the best car to win.”

One other Toyota driver of note on Sunday was Michigan native Erik Jones. He came home thirteenth at his home track.

“Yeah, just a long day overall. Just never quite had the car to – I think we really needed – we were fighting just being free and as the day went on we never really fixed that issue and that loose wheel early kind of got us pinned in a strategy we didn’t want to be in,” he said.

 

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Matt Myftiu can be reached on Twitter @MattMyftiu

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Matt Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

Website: www.autotechreviews.com Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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