Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) understand that the drivers they have currently won’t be around forever and that they need to grow drivers for the future. That is why, if you take a look at JGR, you’ll see drivers winning races at all levels of NASCAR.
Both Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano started their NASCAR careers with JGR.
Hamlin was the start of the young crop, joining JGR in 2004, when he was signed to a driver development contract while racing late models. He made his Nationwide debut for JGR, finishing 27th at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina.
Since joining JGR, he has proven to be successful as he finished fourth in the Nationwide point standings in 2006, has nine Nationwide wins, 10 cup wins, and finished third in Cup points in 2006 in his rookie year.
He is also off to a good start this year, despite his knee surgery, as he has two wins so far and looks to be one of Jimmie Johnson’s biggest title threats.
Logano was added to the Cup driver lineup in 2009 and won rookie of the year. He signed a development contract with JGR in 2005 after Mark Martin gave him the nickname “Sliced Bread."
He has so far impressed the world with his success at all levels in NASCAR. Some notable career highlights include a Camping World Series East (now K&N Pro Series East) win in his first start, the Camping World East Series championship as a rookie, winning in his first ARCA start, and winning his third Nationwide start at Nashville to become the youngest Nationwide Series winner.
Logano looks to improve on his rookie season and continue to grow as a Cup driver, gaining experience each week.
At the Nationwide level, JGR has two up-and-coming drivers making appearances in the cars when Logano, Hamlin, and Busch aren’t: Brad Coleman and Matt DiBenedetto.
Coleman started with JGR in 2007, gaining three top fives, five top 10s, and seven top 15s in 17 starts. He also won a pole at Talladega, and had the highest average finish position of any non-Cup driver in the series that year. He left JGR for the 2008 season due to lack of funding, however, returned in 2009.
Last year saw Coleman have the speed to win, though accidents, blown tires, and other issues forced him to have only one top five and one top 10.
Coleman looks to get back to his 2007 success this year, and also help JGR out as he has been testing Sprint Cup cars at various tracks.
DiBenedetto signed a driver development contract in 2009 with JGR. He saw quick success in the Camping World Series East as he won in his second start at Tri-Country Raceway. He went on to win more races and do well at a variety of tracks, showing JGR that he was ready for the Nationwide Series.
He made his Nationwide debut in October at Memphis, and once again showed his talent. He qualified fifth and ran as high as second in the race, though trouble midway through the race and contact near the end gave him a 14th place finish.
JGR is confident that DiBenedetto will continue to succeed as he is expected to run some Nationwide races this year.
Although it looks like their stack of cards is full, JGR still has more drivers coming up through NASCAR’s lower ranks.
JGR has been using the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East to develop their drivers.
The series was developed by NASCAR to allow future Truck, Nationwide, and Cup drivers to develop their talent and showcase it to top tier owners.
This year, JGR has Max Gresham and Brett Moffitt driving their cars.
Gresham currently sits seventh in points, 61 points behind leader Cole Whitt. He made his first East Series start at South Boston Speedway in 2009, finishing fifth for his best finish of the year.
For just turning 17 on April 30, his racing resume is stacked. It includes five Bandolero titles between Atlanta Motor Speedway and Lowe’s Motor Speedway, the 2006 Semi-Pro National Legends Champion, and registered two wins and 16 top 10s in ASA Late Model competition.
Gresham is up for the full schedule in 2010 and has already won his first career pole and race, which came at South Boston this year.
Moffitt currently sits 14th in points with one top 10 in two starts after issues struck him in the other race.
Moffitt, 18, has already showed his talent in the East Series.
In 2009, he was runner-up in the rookie standings after winning two races (South Boston Speedway, Dover International Speedway), a pole in his debut at Greenville Pickens Speedway, six top fives, nine top 10s, and a third place finish in the standings at the end of the year.
Moffitt looks to turn luck to his side and try to better that third place finish from last year.
Gibbs has proven that he isn’t just made out for football, and has shown that JGR will be around for a long time with talented drivers.
If there is any team out there that could contend with Hendrick Motorsports for supremacy it is JGR, as at every level they’ve got a stack of talented drivers.