BRISTOL, Tennessee — Joe Gibbs Racing hasn’t gone this late into a season without a victory since 2007, has more drivers outside the top 20 in points (Matt Kenseth and Daniel Suarez) than in the top 10 (Kyle Busch), and didn’t have a driver finish in the top 10 the last week.
Contrast that with how the organization won 26 of 72 Cup races the previous two seasons and it’s easy to question what’s wrong with Joe Gibbs Racing this season.
While Kyle Busch admits the organization has not had the start of past years, he does have a message for those raising doubts about JGR.
“I feel as though as we’re competitive and we’re close,’’ he said Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway. “There’s just some things that we see other teams doing that we haven’t necessarily ventured off to yet.
“We’re working on all those things. It certainly didn’t bode well for us last year to be as strong as we were in the beginning part of the season and the middle part of the season. We didn’t win a championship because of how strong we were early on. You look at (Jimmie Johnson) and those guys at Hendrick, they weren’t very strong at the start of the season and they picked up and won the championship.
“I don’t think there’s any reason for cause to be concerned yet. Ask me that question again in about 10 weeks.’’
Busch ranked second in Friday’s lone Cup practice session. Kenseth was fifth and Denny Hamlin was sixth.
Johnson won two of the first five races last season but then went 25 races without a victory before snapping it at Charlotte in the second round of the playoffs. He won three of the final seven races on the way to winning his seven series title.
Car owner Joe Gibbs said earlier this week that the organization is working to score only its second Cup victory since mid-September.
“Last year, we had one of our best years, were up front, very successful,’’ said Gibbs, whose team won seven of the first 12 races a year ago. “This year shows you how hard things are. Some people have improved. The hardest thing is to stay up there. It’s a short trip back down. We’ve isolated five different things we need to work on and improve on. Five things just overall with our program.’’
He did not name those areas.
Kenseth said earlier this week that this season has been a struggle. He enters this weekend 22nd in points.
“Martinsville has been one of our strongest tracks on performance since I’ve come to JGR,’’ Kenseth said. “We ran really, really bad the last time there. We didn’t finish bad, but we ran bad.
“We ran bad at tracks we historically run good at, which for me is a concern. If we run good this weekend and are competitive and part of the lead group, no matter where you finish, you feel you’re part of that lead group and can run with guys who have been running good all year, you’ll feel better about being on the right track and feel good about fixing problems and getting ahead of the curve.’’
Until then, questions will persist.