JGR Drivers Out To Maintain Ownership Of CMS
By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
CONCORD, N.C. – Same song, second verse.
Such is the case where Joe Gibbs Racing is concerned when it comes to Charlotte Motor Speedway this year. What had been Hendrick Motorsports’ playground in previous years switched ownership to Joe Gibbs Racing this season.
With Matt Kenseth claiming the pole for Saturday’s Bank of America 500, the Wisconsin native swept the No. 1 starting position for both Sprint Cup races at the 1.5-mile track this season. This from a driver who says he’s always had difficulty with qualifying. Now the question is whether JGR can do in October what it did in May – secure a victory in the Sprint Cup race.
In May, JGR dominated the speedway’s activities, winning the Coca-Cola 600 and the Sprint All-Star race as well as the pole for both events. For the October race, not only did a JGR driver earn the pole, the Huntersville, N.C.-based team swept the front row and secured three of the top-five starting positions. Kyle Busch starts on the front row beside Kenseth, while Denny Hamlin goes off fifth and Carl Edwards eighth. All four JGR drivers remain in Chase contention. But with the way Kevin Harvick dominated at Dover a week ago, can JGR secure a victory and a guaranteed position in the next Chase round?
“If you can get it to drive like you want then you can perform well here, but it’s hard to get that feel,” Kenseth said. “You know what it is, but there’s been times where I’ve gone years here without ever really getting it to drive exactly like I think it needs to drive.”
Busch noted the Charlotte track had always been good for him. In 23 Sprint Cup races, Busch has completed 92.8 percent of the laps he’s run and led 903 of them. Even though he has yet to win at the track, he has posted 10 top-five and 14 top-10 finishes. He’s failed to finish only five events. In the Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series, however, Busch has corralled eight and six victories, respectfully.
It’s the race that makes a statement about a team, not qualifying, Busch said.
“You have to have a good race, put it all together,” Busch explained. “You have to have fast race cars, good engines and good guys on pit road that give you fast pit stops. Putting it all together is certainly what the 4 (Kevin Harvick) bunch did last week and they proved that they’re obviously a championship contender. We knew that they were, but they certainly put it to everybody. We were a distant second, but third was distant on us and I look forward to this weekend hoping that we can be better than all the rest of the guys and put on a 4 car type performance with the 18 car this weekend.”
Kenseth agreed with Busch that JGR’s top qualifying performance wasn’t a statement.
“It’s what we try to do every week,” said Kenseth, who has won two Charlotte races in addition to the All-Star race. “We realize our competition is going to keep getting better and we have to be able to do that as well.”