Joe Gibbs Racing to surpass milestone start at Talladega

A week after celebrating a milestone win with Denny Hamlin at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Joe Gibbs Racing will achieve another milestone this upcoming weekend at Talladega Superspeedway. When the green flag drops on Sunday, June 21, for the NASCAR Cup Series’ 13th race of the 2020 season, JGR will surpass 2,500 combined Cup starts among its four-car lineup and in the organization’s 29th season in NASCAR.

Through 12 races this season, JGR has won four races (three with Hamlin and one with Martin Truex Jr.) and has recorded 24 top-10 results (made between its four-car lineup).

Founded in 1991, JGR, owned by legendary NFL coach and three-time Super Bowl championship-winning coach Joe Gibbs, fielded a full-time entry in the 1992 Cup Series season, the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet driven by Hickory, North Carolina’s Dale Jarrett and led by crew chief Jimmy Makar. In their first season in NASCAR competition, Jarrett finished 19th in the overall standings with eight top-10 results. The following season, with his father, Ned, calling the final lap action on CBS Sports, Jarrett held off Dale Earnhardt to record the team’s first ever NASCAR win in the season-opening Daytona 500. Jarrett and the No. 18 team would record 12 more top-five finishes (17 more top-10 finishes) before concluding the season in fourth in the overall standings.


American Muscle

Following the 1994 season, Jarrett left the organization after winning once and finishing 16th in the standings the previous year. He was replaced by Bobby Labonte, a native from Corpus Christi, Texas, and younger brother of Terry Labonte, the 1984 Cup champion. After the first 10 races, Labonte recorded his first Cup career win in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He went on to sweep both Michigan Cup events before finishing 10th in the final standings. Overall, he recorded seven top-five results, 14 top-10 results and two poles to go along with his first three career victories in 1995. After the 1996 season, where Labonte won once and finished 11th in the final standings, JGR made a manufacturer change from Chevrolet to Pontiac. Between 1997-98, Labonte won three races, notched six poles and recorded 36 top-10 results with a best points result of sixth in 1998. By then, J.D. Gibbs, Joe Gibbs’ son, was named team president of JGR and the team was establishing its facility in Huntersville, North Carolina.

In 1999, JGR expanded to a two-car operation as Columbus, Indiana’s Tony Stewart joined the organization, driving the No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac led by crew chief Greg Zipadelli. Stewart notched his first NASCAR Cup career win at Richmond International Raceway in September and won two more races before finishing fourth in the final standings and claiming the Rookie-of-the-Year title. His teammate, Labonte, won five races and finished second in the standings to Jarrett, who celebrated his first Cup title.

The following season, team owner Joe Gibbs and JGR achieved their first NASCAR Cup championship with Labonte, who won four races, including the Brickyard 400, and recorded 24 top-10 results in the 34-race schedule to wrap up the first title for the team and himself by 265 points over Dale Earnhardt. Two years later, Stewart rallied from finishing last in the season-opening Daytona 500 to win his first Cup title and second for the team in a season where he won three races and recorded 21 top-10 results. The next season, JGR returned to fielding Chevrolets as Stewart and Labonte won two races a piece and finished seventh and eighth in the final standings.

In 2005, where the team had achieved 42 Cup career wins, JGR expanded to a three-car operation as Long Beach, California’s Jason Leffler was assigned to pilot the No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet led by crew chief Dave Rogers and as a new teammate to Stewart and Labonte. In August, Leffler was released from the team, having missed one race and finishing as high as 12th on track. Terry Labonte along with Hamlin and Phoenix, Arizona’s J.J. Yeley took turns driving the car for the remainder of the season as Rogers was eventually replaced by Mike Ford. Labonte also had a difficult season as he recorded four top-five results, seven top-10 results and finished 24th in the final standings. Despite the struggles, JGR won its third NASCAR Cup title with Stewart, who won five races, recorded 17 top-five results and 25 top-10 results, which was enough for the Hoosier native to wrap up his second series title by 35 points over Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards.

In 2006, JGR featured a new lineup as Yeley replaced Labonte to drive the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet while Hamlin was promoted as a full-time driver of the No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet. Stewart remained as driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet. Yeley recorded three top-10 results the entire season and finished 29th in the final standings while Stewart was unable to defend his championship after failing to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Cup title, though he won five races overall. Hamlin, meanwhile, won his first two Cup career victories in both Pocono Raceway events, including the non-point Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway in February, and recorded 20 top-10 results to make the Chase and settle in third in the final standings. In the end, he was awarded the 2006 Rookie-of-the-Year title.

Two years later, JGR made a manufacturer change from Chevrolet to Toyota and replaced Yeley with Las Vegas, Nevada’s Kyle Busch as driver of the No. 18 Toyota Camry sponsored by M&M’s and Interstate Batteries. By then, Gibbs, who had returned to the NFL as head coach for the Washington Redskins in 2004, retired from coaching football in January. Four races into the 2008 season, Busch became the fifth different driver to win driving for JGR after accomplishing his task at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March while also recording the first Cup win for Toyota. Through September, JGR operations won eight more Cup races between Busch and Hamlin. The team, however, struggled in the final 10 races, only winning once with Stewart at Talladega in October, before finishing eighth, ninth and 10th in the final standings. Despite the late struggles in the Cup season, JGR had a successful season in the Xfinity Series, winning 19 races between four competitors and clinching the owner’s title.

In 2009, where the team had achieved 68 Cup wins, JGR welcomed young Middletown, Connecticut’s Joey Logano to the Cup lineup, where he was assigned to the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota Camry when Stewart decided to join forces with Gene Haas and become a driver/owner of Stewart-Haas Racing. In June, Logano recorded his first Cup career win in a rain-shortened event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway after gambling late on fuel. He would record six more top-10 results before settling in 20th in the final standings and claiming the Rookie-of-the-Year title. Hamlin, meanwhile, won four races and settled in fifth in the final standings. Busch also won four races, but on-track inconsistencies throughout the summer prevented him from making the Chase by eight points, where he settled in 13th in the final standings. He was, however, able to record the first Xfinity Series championship for JGR after winning nine races throughout the season.

In 2012, with the reigning championship-winning crew chief Darian Grubb atop his pit box, Hamlin recorded the 100th Cup win for the organization at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in September, which marked his fifth of five wins that season. By then, Kyle Busch had won eight more races with the team since 2010 while Logano notched his second series win at Pocono Raceway back in June 2012. In addition, owner Joe Gibbs achieved his third Xfinity owner’s championship in 2010.

The following season, JGR replaced Logano with the 2003 NASCAR Cup champion Matt Kenseth as the new driver of the No. 20 Toyota Camry sponsored by Dollar General and Husky Tools. In Kenseth’s first season with the team, he won a season-high seven races, three poles and recorded 20 top-10 results before settling in second in the final standings, 19 points behind the champion Jimmie Johnson. Busch rebounded from a difficult 2012 season to win four races, record 16 top-five results, 22 top-10 results and finish a career-best fourth in the standings. Hamlin, meanwhile, struggled with on-track performance, which started when he was involved in a harrowing last-lap accident at Auto Club Speedway following contact with Logano, a wreck that caused Hamlin to miss four races due to a collapsed vertebra. He would return in May and win the season finale at Homestead in November, which allowed him to extend his season-winning streak to eight.

Two years later, where the team had achieved 114 Cup career wins, JGR expanded to a four-car lineup while welcoming Columbia, Missouri’s Carl Edwards to the organization and as driver of the No. 19 ARRIS Toyota Camry. The 2015 season was a banner year for JGR as all four competitors recorded multiple wins, including the organization’s first All-Star win with Hamlin, and were competitive throughout the season. Above all, the team achieved its fourth Cup title with Kyle Busch, who missed the first 11 Cup races of the season due to suffering a massive compound fracture in his lower right leg and a small fracture in his left foot as a result of wrecking in the Xfinity Series opening race at Daytona and slapping into a concrete wall not installed with SAFER barriers. Following a three-month absence, Busch would return and win four races throughout the summer months, including the Brickyard 400, and record enough points to qualify for the Chase, where he was consistent to make the Championship Round and won the season finale at Homestead to lock up the first series title for himself, crew chief Adam Stevens and for Toyota along with JGR’s first championship since 2005. Overall, the team won a combined 14 races in 2015.

The following season, with new crew chief Mike Wheeler atop the pit box, Hamlin edged Martin Truex Jr. by 0.010 seconds to win his first career Daytona 500 and record the first 500 win for JGR since 1993. It also marked the first Daytona 500 victory for Toyota. All four JGR drivers won a combined 12 races in the 36-race schedule, including the Brickyard 400 with Busch, but fell short of winning back-to-back Cup titles. The team achieved success in the Xfinity Series, winning 19 races between five drivers and the 2016 Xfinity championship with Monterrey, Mexico’s Daniel Suarez. Over the next two Cup seasons, JGR operations would win 17 more races and surpass 150 Cup victories. In addition, Suarez would be promoted to the Cup Series in 2017 to replace Edwards following his sudden retirement from the sport. The following season, Kenseth was replaced by Byron, Michigan’s Erik Jones, who won his first Cup career race with the team at Daytona in July.

Prior to the 2019 season, tragedy struck for the organization when team president J.D. Gibbs died at age 49 in January due to complications following a long battle with a degenerative neurological disease, a disease which Gibbs had undergone treatment for in recent years. The following month, the team rallied by winning the Daytona 500 with Hamlin, the driver who the late Gibbs played a fundamental role in bringing Hamlin to drive for the organization. The 500 win was Hamlin’s second of his career, the third for JGR, the second for Toyota and the first for new crew chief Chris Gabehart as Hamlin led a JGR one-two-three finish to the win followed by Kyle Busch and Jones. In April, Martin Truex Jr., the 2017 NASCAR Cup champion who joined JGR to replace Suarez prior to the season, won his first race with the team at Richmond. The 2019 season was another banner season for JGR as all four competitors recorded a win (19 overall) and Kyle Busch clinched the fifth Cup title for the team, second for the driver, at Homestead.

Prior to the 2020 NASCAR season, Joe Gibbs was among five inductees, including Tony Stewart and Bobby Labonte, to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on January 31. To this day, Gibbs remains the only person to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

This season, Hamlin recorded the team’s fourth Daytona 500 win in February and has won two more races while Truex recorded his first victory of the season at Martinsville Speedway on June 10. Following Hamlin’s win last weekend at Homestead, JGR has 180 Cup career wins between 10 drivers. In addition to four Cup victories, JGR has notched four Xfinity wins (one with Kyle Busch, Brandon Jones and two with rookie Harrison Burton) and one ARCA Menards Series win (Ty Gibbs) this season.

Heading into this weekend’s event at Talladega, JGR has won a Cup race at the superspeedway venue four times, none since 2014 with Hamlin, and has achieved 53 top-10 results since racing at the track in 1992. In the current Cup lineup, all competitors, but Erik Jones, have won at least once at Talladega within NASCAR’s three national major division series.

The NASCAR Cup Series’ upcoming race at Talladega will air on June 21 at 3 p.m. ET on FOX.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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