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Pedley: JGR Is The Antidote To Racing Blahs

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, June 7 2010

Joey Logano was spun by Kevin Harvick during Sunday's race at Pocono. Logano was still smoking in the pits afterward. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Dull, pre-packaged, focus-group programmed and bleached: Those have been some of the complaints leveled against NASCAR and its personalities in this, the Hendrick Motorsport era of Sprint Cup racing.

If those are, in fact, diseases which have produced wheezing and light attentiveness in the world’s most important stock car series this decade, then a cure may be at hand.

Joe Gibb Racing is not only producing fast race cars these day, it’s injecting life and pathos into Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons.

For several seasons now, the great driving and temperamental solar flares of Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin have made for great race day stories and must-read follow-up sidebars for NASCAR fans.

Before that at JGR there was Tony Stewart, a sizzling cherry bomb of a personality who was capable of exploding in the NASCAR toilet at the mere whiff of an awkward question or on-track indiscretion.

Like all good practical jokes, the Gibbs team’s antics made witnesses cringe and gasp “wow” both at the same time.

This has been a sensational season for the Gibbs guys. Virtually no race has gone in which either Hamlin or Busch or both have either caused produce either wows or cringes or both.

On the track, Busch and Hamlin have won 12 races combined in Sprint Cup and Nationwide. And when they do win, it’s usually the result of inspired brilliance behind the wheel as much as it is by horsepower under the hood.

These two young drivers just may rank No. 1 and No. 2 in terms being skilled wheelmen.

The show does not always end for the Gibbs kids when the race does. They fight on. Literally. Sometime with deeds, sometimes with words.

And sometimes with each other.

At Pocono on Sunday, young understudy Joey Logano proved he belonged. After a year of playing the role of Sprint Cup’s nerd with the clip-on bow tie, Logano punched back at the bullying when he headed up pit road Gibbs style.

He parked his car at an angle to Kevin Harvick’s which said, basically, eat me.

Logano, who was headed for a top-five finish in the race until he was way-laid by Harvick, climbed out and started pushing his way through a crowd of people trying to stop him – a crowd which included NASCAR officials and Logano’s own father.

Logano got to within a Harvick crew member or two before being stopped. There, he verbally laid into a guy whom is generally the laying into-er.

Out of fear or shock, Harvick seemed content to stand behind his human barricade and take what Logano was giving.

Afterward, Logano cut loose with a verbal beat down to the press which had to take even Busch’s breath away. It came complete with disparaging remarks about Harvick’s manhood.

During a phone conversation a couple weeks ago, I asked team president J.D. Gibbs about handling his group of young, emotional drivers.

He asked back, “What do you mean?”

At JGR, rules on how to act can barely be considered guidelines. At JGR, the folks know the value of putting real emotions on display.

Team founder and owner Joe Gibbs confirmed that after Sunday’s race – which Hamlin won and in which Busch finished second.

“I think up here the drivers, to be quite truthful,” Gibbs said, “I rarely talk to them, whether it’s Denny getting in some kind of a situation with somebody, because they have to handle that. I think we just encourage them.”

Of Logano standing up to Harvick, “The Coach” said, “I think the drivers kind of handle that. But I think it has been kind of a situation where, you know, he’s been the young guy, and he’s probably been knocked around some.  You kind of hate to see that. But I think he’ll do the right things.”

If by doing the right things Gibbs means giving into being a human being, saying what he actually thinks, responding in way which totally disregards Q ratings and sponsor expectations, all I can say is I hope so.

Save the bleach for underwear on wash day.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, June 7 2010
One Comment

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  • Brenda Clem says:

    I am a follower and big supporter of JGR and all their drivers, from the cup guys to the young guys trying to make their way into future cup drivers. My favorite is Kyle, who is supposedly the bad boy of Nascar, but I cheer them all on. Not only do I appreciate the ability of the drivers to stand up on the wheel, but also their ability to show human emotions and not emotionless robots. Does that make them bandied about in the press, not always in a good way? Of course, but as a fan, I like the knowledge that they’re not perfect and are fallible, just like the rest of us. I also appreciate Coach and JD standing behind their drivers and the family atmosphere that seems to be so prevalent at JGR. I will always support JGR and their drivers and hope for them to have many years together.

    GO TEAM!!!!!!!!