FRISCO, TEXAS – The balance of power has shifted at Joe Gibbs Racing.
It’s a shift that’s hard to ignore. Especially when all five JGR-related teams remain alive in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, which begins its second round this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
In the nine races since Busch’s win at Indianapolis in July, all three of those drivers have gone winless. Meanwhile, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. have won five races – Truex winning three of the last five. Truex and Furniture Row Racing are enjoying previously unreached levels of success for both driver and team in their first year of racing with Toyota power.
“There’s two sides to it,” said Carl Edwards on Wednesday at a media event in North Texas. “We look at the 78 team and say ‘Man, how are they doing this?’ They’re just so fast, they’re doing such a good job. That is frustrating. It makes me think, ‘Am I doing a good enough job?’ and I know everybody at the shop is thinking ‘Are we doing a good enough job? What’s going on?'”
That’s where the other side of Edwards’ point comes in.
“That’s motivation,” Edwards says. “There’s nothing better for the guys at JGR and myself than to see somebody out there doing something because we know we can do it that well too.”
But Edwards and his other JGR compatriots haven’t been doing that well since July. Edwards hasn’t finished in the top five since he was a runner-up to Brad Keselowski at Kentucky. He has only one top 10 in the last five races. Both Kenseth and Busch have two top fives in the last two races after going seven races without any.
Then there’s Truex and Furniture Row Racing, taming the field and his teammates in their first year with Toyota and the support of JGR.
“Right now, we need to and we’re able to rise to the occasion,” Edwards said. “I think you’re going to see four teams, the JGR teams, really step it up the next few weeks and it will be in large part because of how well the 78 is running.”
Edwards joined JGR in 2015 after more than a decade competing for Roush Fenway Racing and Ford in all three of NASCAR’s national series. He describes Furniture Row Racing as a “very nimble team” after how it’s handled its transition from Chevrolet to Toyota.
“Being a single-car team, the transition is probably much easier than it would be for say a larger organization,” Edwards said of the Denver-based program that will grow to a two-car team in 2017 with the addition of Erik Jones driving the No. 77.
“I guess Furniture Row’s transition is probably similar to mine in that when I came over here it was really eye-opening how much Toyota’s involved and how much effort they put in, how much they truly care,” Edwards said. “It’s a partnership. They don’t just write a check to the team. All of the tools they have and the way they have information. I sit next to 750-horsepower engines built by (Toyota Racing Development) every week. They’re integral in the team. I think that makes the transition easier when you come to Toyota.”