Emotions run gamut for Joe Gibbs Racing after ups and downs of Bristol

AP Photo/Wade Payne
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BRISTOL, Tenn. — Kyle Busch has seen this before. So has Denny Hamlin.

Their performances Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway showed the strength of Joe Gibbs Racing but also raised some questions about the organization’s performance even with two drivers placing in the top 10 — Hamlin was third and Carl Edwards was sixth.

Busch led a race-high 256 laps before a mechanical issue caused him to spin before he was struck by Justin Allgaier’s car. Busch finished 39th, two spots behind fellow teammate Matt Kenseth, caught up in a subsequent crash that involved Kyle’s older brother Kurt, and left upset.

“I’m not sure what our problem is with being able to put together cars that will last here,’’ Busch said. “Our teammates obviously have a strong sense of what to do, but we don’t. I don’t know what’s going on. Guys know how to set (the cars) up and make them quick, but they just don’t last. We’ve got work to do. We’ve got to make sure our stuff can work and last to the end.’’

So what more can he say at Joe Gibbs Racing?

“They already know,’’ he said. “Just by watching the race. It’s frustrating because that’s two or three or four races in a row at Bristol that we’ve had problems. Yeah, maybe a couple of them were my doing. We’ve also had parts failures here. We can’t be having that stuff.’’

BRISTOL, TN - AUGUST 21: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21, 2016 in Bristol, Tennessee. The race was delayed due to inclement weather on Saturday, August 20. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
BRISTOL, TN – AUGUST 21: Denny Hamlin leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Another issue is mistakes. Hamlin was called for his series-high eighth speeding penalty on pit road this year and he also had to make a green-flag pit stop because of a loose wheel, falling two laps down before recovering for a top-five finish.

“I knew I sped when I did it,’’ he said. “In the playoffs, I’m not going to be that aggressive. Out here trying to get a win, win-or-nothing attitude in the regular season, that’s when I push it.’’

While Joe Gibbs Racing has had some quality control issues in the past — Busch’s frustrations can be traced to previous years when mechanical issues sidelined championship hopes in the Chase — Sunday still was a step forward for the organization compared to the spring race.

Although Edwards won at Bristol in the spring, Busch, Hamlin and Matt Kenseth each had tire issues with Busch placing 38th, Kenseth 36th and Hamlin 20th that day.

“We knew we had issues with the right front and we had to come here and correct it and that’s what we did,’’ Hamlin said. “We changed a lot of things to try to help with that right front tire.’’

One issue solved. More issues to fix. Three races before the playoffs begin.