For a couple of weeks now, there’s been a lot of talk about Joe Gibbs Racing.
It’s well justified: two of its stable has produced five wins this season.
Both Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch have proven that they have what it takes to contend for the Sprint Cup Championship.
Last year at this time, most people weren’t talking at all about Richard Childress Racing, except to lament the team’s decline. Its longest tenured driver, Kevin Harvick, was in the midst of the worst year of his Sprint Cup career.
This year, the turnaround at Childress has extended across the organization, and a closer look at their performance bears this out.
Before everyone gets set to proclaim Gibbs as the white knights that will dethrone Jimmie Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports, take a look at what’s really happening at Childress and Gibbs.
First off, everyone gets it.
Five wins in seven races.
Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin certainly have it together.
But consistency has won titles time and time again.
In 2009, Busch won four times and failed to make the chase. In 2008, he won eight times and finished tenth.
Conveniently, both Gibbs and Childress have three drivers each. A little work with the calculator will show who is quietly getting it done through the season’s one-third mark.
Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton, and Kevin Harvick have made a combined 36 starts this season. Their average finish collectively among them is 12.8.
Gibbs' three car operation, with Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, and Denny Hamlin have posted a collective 14.0 average finish. Sure, Joey Logano is still just a second year driver, and those numbers should look a lot different if you throw him out.
Just take the 24 starts between Hamlin and Busch and their two car average jumps alright—to 13.1. It’s still not strong enough to outperform the Childress cars despite winning all those races.
Poor finishes will do you in. The Childress cars seem to do a better job of dodging them.
The one thing that you hear over and over again when it comes to making a championship team come around is that the good teams will take a bad day and get something out of it.
Childress is doing that.
By his own admission, May is Kevin Harvick’s worst month. Darlington, Dover, and Charlotte have all produced some of the worst performances of his career. He’s managed to navigate two of the three races in his own murderer’s row with top-ten finishes.
For Gibbs, five wins is impressive.
They’re more than any team can boast at this point, and are nearly half the races run, but they won’t win a championship with the poor finishes offsetting the good days.
It’s time to take a look at what is truly this year’s dominant team and take account of the remarkable turnaround at Richard Childress Racing.
It’s been a long time since Childress has been at the pinnacle of the sport.
Maybe that’s why so many people are having trouble getting used to it again.