Rumors of JGR’s demise have been somewhat exaggerated. I think most of us who follow NASCAR closely knew it was only a matter of time before they would get that long-overdue first win of 2017. What about the other three in Coach Gibbs’ stable? Who gets in? Who misses the playoff cut?
Wouldn’t it be a surprise of Denny Hamlin were the only JGR driver to make the playoffs? In spite of his age and currently unsettled status, Matt Kenseth is far from washed up. Kyle Busch is, well, Kyle Busch. Daniel Suarez is underrated among the rising stars of the sport. The problem really hasn’t been the drivers.
Slumps like what JGR has had have many causes. Among the culprits have been some bad pit calls, bad pit stops and some bad luck. Throw in the occasional driver blunder (it even happens to the best among us), and you have the recipe for recent history. That’s all to say that the recent woes are fixable.
It may be taking the path of least resistance to say so, but Kyle Busch is a cinch. The skill is there, the speed is there. In this opinion, there have been times where crew chief Adam Stevens has cost his driver. It happens sometimes. No pit boss is perfect. That aside, the 2015 champion has been quite racy. He won’t be denied much longer. In fact, the JGR could be celebrating a second consecutive win with Kyle Busch at the wheel at Indianapolis.
I would further lean towards Matt Kenseth making it into the playoffs. Regardless of his uncertain future, Kenseth is a professional. He will not just mail it in for his JGR swan song. There have been plenty of moments of racing brilliance. This is another case of not being able to keep a good man down.
If Kenseth does falter, don’t rule out Daniel Suarez. The rookie hasn’t been as heralded as some of his counterparts, but he has handled his sudden promotion well after the unexpected retirement of Carl Edwards. He’s flown under the radar while much of the focus has been on the others. He just might make it, especially if Kenseth and Penske’s Joey Logano misses the cut.
Yes, the whole JGR could find itself as a part of the 2017 NASCAR Monster Energy Cup playoff picture. This is NOT a team racing for relevance. It’s just been one of those funky years. Now, I grant you there’s more than a couple of fans who would love to see Joe Gibbs fall- whether it be perceived Christian hypocrisy, being a Toyota team, or the Kenseth situation, or animus towards Mrssrs. Busch and Hamlin in particular.
Cue the old Frankie Stallone song, they may be down, but they are far from over. JGR has more noise to make before this season is out. Two drivers are a virtual lock. Three is quite possible. Four isn’t as far fetched as one may think.