Joe Gibbs

Joe Gibbs says video of confrontation on pit road at Indy didn’t show everything

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LONG POND, Pa – Car owner Joe Gibbs defended the decision to suspend two JGR pit crew members who work on Martin Truex Jr.’s Furniture Row Racing team, saying video of their confrontation with crew chief Adam Stevens at Indianapolis didn’t show everything.

Gibbs declined to reveal what else happened.

“No sense in going in all of that,” Gibbs said Sunday morning at Pocono Raceway. “(The video) didn’t show everything.”

Kyle Busch, who starts on the pole, said Sunday: “It was pretty poor reporting by much of everybody with the TV camera and everything else. How they cut it short. Obviously there was some instigation going on, and Adam didn’t feel that was all that necessary and wanted to make sure those employees knew that, knowing that they were JGR in-house employees.

“He probably wouldn’t have done that if they were in-house Furniture Row employees, so it’s just the nature of what all was going on there, and who the people where there and who they were associated with.”

MORE: Jeff Burton – Pit crew suspensions send wrong message

Issues started when Truex, the points leader, and Kyle Busch wrecked on a restart while battling for the lead last weekend at Indy. Truex took the blame. Busch said he got a text from Truex on Monday (“Things happen,” Busch said, “you move on.”).

Afterward, Stevens, Busch’s crew chief, walked by the Furniture Row Racing pit on the way to the garage. Video shows Lee Cunningham, a rear tire changer on Truex’s team clapping. Stevens walks into the Furniture Row Racing pit stall and confronts Cunningham. Chris Taylor, front tire changer on Truex’s team, then comes over and shoves Stevens, telling Stevens to get out of the team’s pit box.

Joe Gibbs Racing announced this week it was suspending both crew members three races. Joe Gibbs Racing supplies the pit crew to Furniture Row Racing as part their alliance.

“I think we took what we felt was the appropriate action,” Gibbs said.

Truex said the suspension will have “a big impact” on his team while they’re out.

Gibbs said Sunday he isn’t worried about those who suggest the decision to suspend those crew members hinders Furniture Row Racing by taking away both its tire changers for three races.

“People are always going to say all kinds of things,” Gibbs said. “I don’t think you can worry about that. Obviously, they’ll be back.”

Gibbs also said there was no reason to discipline Stevens.

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Kyle Busch had a ride for Indianapolis 500 but wasn’t allowed to do it

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INDIANAPOLIS — Kyle Busch said he had a deal in place to run in this year’s Indianapolis 500 before he was denied by “a boss that said no.’’

“I had it done … sold and everything, ready to go and I’ve got a boss that said no,’’ Busch said Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, referencing Cup car owner Joe Gibbs.

“I thought I had a great opportunity,” Busch said. “I’m kind glad it didn’t come together because (Fernando) Alonso kind of stole the headlines. There may be more in the future of guys coming over to run that race. I may have to split the limelight, if you will, with somebody else that wants to do that race.’’

Alonso skipped Formula One’s Monaco Grand Prix to compete in this year’s Indianapolis 500. Alonso won rookie of the year honors for the 500.

Busch still would like to run the race.

“It would be a unique opportunity,’’ he said.“I think the biggest thing that scares my boss is that I’ve never driven those cars. A Cup car, or an Xfinity car, a truck or something like that, I know what to feel. When something bad starts to happen, I can straighten it out, or normally I can try to fix it. So I think that’s probably the biggest fear is just not knowing what those cars do when you get in a bad situation.’’

The only drivers to run in both the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in the same day are: John Andretti (1994), Tony Stewart (1999, 2001 ), Robby Gordon (2000 and 2002-04) and Kurt Busch (2014).

Kurt Busch was selected rookie of the year for the 2014 race.

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Bump & Run: Should Kyle Busch’s team be frustrated or encouraged?

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Parker Kligerman joins Dale Jarrett, Slugger Labbe, Nate Ryan, Ato Boldon and Carolyn Manno from 5:30 – 7 p.m. today on NASCAR America. Kligerman, Ryan, Steve Letarte and Dustin Long discuss this week’s hot topics.

If you were on Kyle Busch’s team, what would be your mindset? Frustrated the team is winless this season or encouraged by the fact the car has been fast and in position to win races?

Steve Letarte: If I was the crew chief, I’ve been in that position before and I think the important thing is you be honest with your guys. You let them know it’s OK to be frustrated. You should be frustrated. You want to win, you expect to win, you’ve had cars fast enough to win, but you need to temper that frustration by showing them how bad it could be. I’d give them some examples of teams that just don’t have the speed. I’d show them how many laps we’ve led and continue to give them reason to be excited to go back to the race track, but at the same time I’d encourage their frustration because it’s real. I think if you hide from it, it’s just going to get worse.

Parker Kligerman: Simply, keep doing what you’re doing. In my opinion, this is the sole in-house JGR car that has rid itself of the speed woes of earlier this season and has only been held back from victory lane by circumstance. I will go on a limb to say the No. 18 will win at least one race before the regular season is done. 

Nate Ryan: If you are employed by a master motivator such as Joe Gibbs, you will maintain a positive mindset despite all the adversity and agony this season. Busch feasibly could have as many as eight victories this season if execution and events had broken a different way. Gibbs will keep the focus on being in position to win so many races rather than having so many that were lost. The recent improvement of his teammates (Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth ran well at Michigan) lessens the pressure on Busch carrying the banner at Joe Gibbs Racing, and the team’s resurgence will be stamped by a Busch win within the next three weeks.

Dustin Long: To go this long without a win would be frustrating. This team is built to win and expected to do so. Adding to the frustration is how this stretch could hurt this team win a championship. Look at all the playoff points that have slipped away in this winless streak. For as good as this team has been — Busch has led at least double-digit laps in each of the last six races — the No. 18 crew needs to see a reward for all its work. And see it soon.

Name one driver you will be watching in the coming weeks and why.

Steve Letarte: Without a doubt the 88 of Dale Jr. has to be the biggest one. He had a good run at Michigan but didn’t really gain a lot of points and that’s my fear for the 88. I don’t see them pointing their way in. I just don’t see it. There are too many good cars that haven’t won a race. I think the 88 is going to have to look for victory lane. I’ll be keeping my eye on the 88 to see if they can turn that good run at Michigan somehow into a win.

Parker Kligerman: Dale Earnhardt Jr. And no it’s not because of him being so popular. I believe over the next 11 races we will either see a resurgence out of the 88, or we are saying thanks for participating. As the rest, the focus moves onto the playoffs and eventually who will be in the 2017 champion. But, for the 88 fans, there is hope. I can confidently say that at Michigan the 88 was a top-five car. If he was able to get track position in that race (not being the first car on two tires) he would have easily finished in the top-five speed wise. Add in the great recovery through the field in the final couple laps to get to ninth and this momentum is exactly what they need going into two unique races. Lastly, I believe he has actually had one of the best average finishes at Sonoma in the last three years – maybe we are talking about Dale Jr.’s first road course win come Monday? 

Nate Ryan: Matt Kenseth. Is this the last season of his career? His last season at Gibbs? The answers are scant about the veteran’s future, but the 45-year-old has indicated he wants to keep driving, and his results during this upcoming stretch might carry a long way in determining how he closes an impressive career on the premier circuit.

Dustin Long: Kyle Larson. Does he show he is a true championship contender? Can he and his team continue to hold an advantage on the field or will they be caught heading toward the playoffs? All signs point to Larson being a leading title contender at this point, but how often have you seen someone excel in the first half of the season only to fade at the end and not be in the championship hunt?

With 11 races left until the playoffs start, these drivers are outside a playoff spot: Clint Bowyer, Erik Jones, Trevor Bayne, Daniel Suarez, Kasey Kahne, Ty Dillon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Which of these is most likely to make the playoffs?

Steve Letarte: I think it’s Erik Jones. I think he’s driving the best equipment of that group, going off how fast (teammate) Martin Truex Jr. is. I like Daniel Suarez and the same argument could be made for him, but I think he is just a little down in the experience level of Erik Jones. I don’t know the reason why, whether it’s the fact that Erik Jones had more time to mentally prepare for the Cup Series where Daniel just found out in January. But in that list, I feel the best about Erik Jones finding a way to bounce his way in.

Parker Kligerman: Clint Bowyer, as he has been the fastest of this group consistently. I would say his main foil could come in the form of an Erik Jones win or stretch of solid races. But with Bowyer’s prowess at Sonoma, I think he will start to build solid momentum and propel himself into the playoffs. 

Nate Ryan: Bowyer should be able to scratch his way back into a playoff berth, and Jones has matured quickly enough that the speed might allow stealing a win in the next three months. Short of a Daytona swan song by Earnhardt, I can’t see postseason spots for any of the rest.

Dustin Long: Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins a race to make the playoffs. It most likely comes at Daytona, but if not there, it will happen before the playoffs begin.

Despite All-Star Race win, Kyle Busch still seeks points-paying Cup win at Charlotte

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Kyle Busch was at the right place and at the right time when he won Saturday’s Monster Energy All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

He won $1 million, earned his first All-Star Race victory and his first in the Cup Series at Charlotte, and it was also the first win of the season for Joe Gibson Racing.

“Finally,” Busch conceded. “I’ve just been trying for here for so long and the right circumstances came our way tonight.”

Unfortunately, though, it was all for naught – or at least for very little. Sure, it heightened Busch’s confidence after several struggles during the first 11 regular season, points paying races.

“Hopefully this is a little bit of momentum, a little bit of wind in our sails, something we can build on for next week,” Adam Stevens, Busch’s crew chief, said after the race.

And it also proved JGR could win a race. But it was also unlike any race in NASCAR Cup this season, just 70 laps in total.

We’ve had such a time this year,” team owner Joe Gibbs said, adding with a laugh, “I told everybody I forgot where winner’s circle was here, it’s been so long since we won a race. It’s a huge deal.

“I would say on this race, this has probably been the hardest race that we’ve run. In 25 years we’ve won twice. That’s it.”

But as such, the All-Star win meant very little in terms of competition potential because Busch and JGR are still both winless this season in points paying races.

And it also means very little in that the next race, Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, also at Charlotte Motor Speedway, is the longest race of the regular season.

Ergo, what worked for Busch and JGR Saturday in the All-Star Race, likely won’t even come close to working in the 600.

It’s apples to oranges. Busch knows that as well as anyone.

“What would it mean to win a points race (at Charlotte)?” he said. “It would mean a lot still. It would certainly kind of I guess close the next chapter, as I said a little earlier, about getting that next victory here.  Hopefully we can sweep it.  It would be nice to be added to that list of drivers that have been able to do that.

“We’ve got a little bit of work to do in order to get ourselves in position to be able to do that.  600 miles is a long race. Starts in the day, ends at night. There are a lot of things that can happen in that race.

“Certainly it’s probably a heck of a lot more fun to do it the way Martin Truex did last year. If we have another one of those, it would be a bad thing. Hopefully we can lead the last lap, the one that matters most, and score that points win here.”

Busch’s All-Star Race win was a rarity. It not only was Busch’s first in the annual May exhibition, it also was his first Cup-level win at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

To say he was expecting to win would be a misnomer, Busch agreed.

I think my move here a few years ago was probably a little bit more crazy when I restarted fourth, got through the middle of the front row,” he said. “I don’t remember what happened after that. I probably wrecked. That’s most times what I do in this race.”

And while Busch wasn’t exactly expecting a win Saturday due to his past history, Gibbs was a bit ahead of himself.

“To tell you the truth, I thought he had won here (in Cup),” Gibbs said of Busch. I’m so used to him winning races. I know this is a huge deal for him.

“I’m telling you, we feel like Kyle can win anywhere. Certainly this year he’s really been in position a bunch, the top five at the end of the races, not been able to win one.”

Now it’s time to put the All-Star Race in the rearview mirror and go from the shortest race in the circuit to the longest: 400 laps for 600 miles around the 1.5-mile track.

“Finally, we’re able to kind of close the chapter on that one,” Busch said of his lack of success in the All-Star Race. “Now it’s time to go get a points win here.”

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Will Carl Edwards return? Denny Hamlin gives his odds of it happening

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What are the odds Carl Edwards returns to NASCAR after announcing in January he would not drive full-time?

“I would just be guessing, but I would say 50 percent,’’ former teammate Denny Hamlin said Friday at Richmond International Raceway — site of where Edwards scored one of his three Cup victories last season. “I think that Carl is a competitor. At his age (37), I’d find it hard to believe that he would just step away and not do it ever again.

“I think him leaving the window open in his press conference to say he’s not retiring, he’s just stepping away, I think it depends. I don’t know. Has anyone found out whether he’s having a good time right now or not? I think that would tell the story about whether he’s interested in coming back or not. From what I hear from all the retired drivers, it’s awesome for like a few months – then you kind of get bored a little bit.”

Earlier this week, Edwards responded by text to NBC Sports’ Nate Ryan on if he was interested in the No. 88 car after Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced he would retire from the Cup series after this season.

Texted Edwards: “You may have it mixed up. I’m recruiting Dale to drive a tractor!”

Edwards also said that he was happy for Earnhardt and that it would be a great ride for someone.

Edwards announced in January that he would not race full-time in NASCAR this year, adding: “If I’m going to get back in a race car, which I’m not saying the R word (retirement) here, I’ve seen how that’s worked out for guys, but if I’m going to get back in a race car, I’m calling Coach (Joe) Gibbs first.’’

Edwards also said in January: “I don’t have any intention of going back to full‑time racing. I don’t have a plan to drive a race car right now. I just know how things work, and if it comes up and the right opportunity is there and at that moment, it’s the right thing, then for sure I’d entertain it. But like I said, the first person I’d talk to is Coach.’’

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