By admin | August 18, 2008
By Richard Allen
Joe Gibbs knows about the highs and lows of big time sports. He has coached teams that won the Super Bowl and he has coached teams with losing records. NASCAR has treated him no differently and 2008 has been a classic example of that.
Here are some of the highs and lows of his year:
High- Kyle Busch has had a tremendous season thus far. He has built a commanding lead in the standings and has won eight Sprint Cup races.
Busch’s season has to be particularly satisfying to the coach due to the fact that many regarded Busch has a Hendrick castoff and said his attitude would disrupt Gibbs’ already successful team structure.
Low- While Busch has had a stellar year Gibbs other drivers have managed but one win between them.
Denny Hamlin collected a victory in Martinsville and Tony Stewart has not managed a single checkered flag. And perhaps worse, both have been so close on more than one occasion only to see wins slip away in the closing laps.
Hamlin clearly dominated the race in Richmond but a cut tire cost him there. Both Hamlin and Stewart looked like winners in the late going at Bristol only to have circumstances go against them. And, Stewart was less than three laps from taking the Coca-Cola 600 when a tire went flat.
Joe Gibbs Racing has had plenty of opportunities to celebrate this season but they have also felt the sting of numerous near misses.
High- The much anticipated debut of Joey Logano has gone well to this point. The 18 year old driver has scored one win and has had a number of solid runs to increase the slope of his learning curve.
Low- While all is well and perhaps even ahead of schedule with “Sliced Bread”, the Sprint Cup team of Denny Hamlin may have taken a step backward in Michigan.
After the race Hamlin referred to his team’s decision to go with a new engine package as “stupid” and went on to say that the #11 team did not deserve to be in the Chase for the Championship.
High- Reports indicate that on August 25 Joe Gibbs Racing will announce rising star Joey Logano will run the full schedule on the Sprint Cup Series in 2009.
Logano may well be the most heralded driver to come into NASCAR in the last decade or more. To be willing to put him in a Sprint Cup car so soon shows that Gibbs believes his young driver has what it takes to be a success at the top level of the sport.
Low- In order for there to be an opening so that Logano could make his debut, there must be someone leaving JGR.
Of course, that someone is Tony Stewart. JGR is the only place Stewart has driven in NASCAR. He came up as a brash, young open wheel hot shot. With the guidance of Gibbs, Stewart has emerged as one of the biggest stars the sport has known in the modern era. He has collected two championship trophies and wins in the prestigious Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis.
Stewart’s leaving must be bitter-sweet at best for Gibbs. On one hand his leadership helped put Stewart on the path of success which has led to him being able to form his own team. On the other hand, Gibbs will be losing a driver with proven abilities and marketing prowess.
High- JGR’s Nationwide Series teams have been virtually unbeatable in 2008. The #18 and the #20 cars have both won races this year with a total of four different drivers behind the wheel.
Low- During a chassis dyno test following the Nationwide Series race in Michigan the JGR team was caught tampering with their car so as to alter the test in their favor.
This news had to come as a blow to a man and an organization that has had the utmost respect throughout the NASCAR garage.
High- JGR has the opportunity to cap a great season, particularly for Kyle Busch, with a Sprint Cup championship.
Low- After winning so many races, JGR might not win the Sprint Cup title, and while that might not necessarily be a low after such a stellar year, it would be a disappointment.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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