Joe Gibbs Racing first appeared on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit in 1992 and its first taste of success came with Dale Jarrett’s win in the 1993 Daytona 500.
Since then, JGR has claimed 118 points victories, with eight coming at restrictor plate tracks, four each at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.
But Joe Gibbs has been in a drought when it comes to points wins at Daytona, the 2.5-mile track that hosts Sunday’s Coke Zero 400 which airs on NBC.
The last came in 2008, when Kyle Busch won the Coke Zero 400. That year, JGR won three of the season’s four restrictor plate races with the exception of the Daytona 500 (won by Ryan Newman).
The only JGR points win on a restrictor place since is Denny Hamlin’s in the spring Talladega race in 2014.
However, this doesn’t indicate the true nature of JGR’s plate program. JGR has won the last two Sprint Unlimited exhibition races at Daytona, with Hamlin in 2014 and Matt Kenseth this year. Last year, Kenseth and Hamlin also swept the Budweiser Dual qualifying races and Busch took a victory in one in 2013.
“Really our superspeedway program in general has been on point for the last two years,” Hamlin said in a release. “I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better at superspeedways and I always find a way to kind of finish well at them, so hopefully we’ll keep that trend.”
In his last three Daytona points races, Hamlin has finished, second, sixth and fourth while leading 20 laps.
Kenseth has two Daytona 500 wins, but those came with Roush Fenway Racing. In his last five points race there, he has finished better than 20th just once (sixth, 2014 Daytona 500).
“It’s a lot harder to pass at plate races than it used to be,” Kenseth said in a release. “So I don’t feel that it’s one of those races where you want to lay back, because you can never guarantee you’ll make it back up to the front. Our plan for Daytona is always to go there and race hard because hopefully we have great speed.”
Busch makes his return to Daytona after recovering from injuries sustained in the Xfinity Series race there in February.
In his last six Daytona points races, Busch hasn’t finished better than 12th (2013 Coke Zero 400) and has two DNFs.
“Daytona is not a place that I think owes me one or anything like that,” Busch said. “It’s just that I want to be able to go back there and conquer it again one day, whether that’s this weekend or not. I’ve won races there in just about everything.
“I’ve won ARCA races, Camping World Truck races, Xfinity, and Sprint Cup points and non-points races there. I look forward to getting back there, though, and back on the racetrack. Hopefully one day we’re able to win a Daytona 500 and, of course, put all the rest of those bad memories in the rear-view mirror.”
Then there’s Carl Edwards. The newest addition to JGR after coming over from Roush for the 2015 season, Edwards has yet to visit victory lane in the Sprint Cup Series at Daytona, in either points or non-points events. He’s been the runner-up once in both the 500 and 400-mile races, but in his last five races there, he’s failed to finish better than 17th.
“We’ve got all four cars with a win, so hopefully we can all stay out of trouble and one of us can get another win in Daytona,” Edwards said in a release. “The whole organization has been on an upswing. It’s fun to be a part of it.”
JGR and Team Penske are the only multi-car teams in 2015 where every full-time driver has won a race. That means JGR can afford to take risks to extend the upswing ever further.