NASCAR: Ranking the Greatest Drivers in Joe Gibbs Racing History
Joe Gibbs Racing quickly became one of NASCAR's powerhouse teams after its formation in 1991. JGR drivers have amassed a total of 88 Sprint Cup series wins and three Cup series championships, the last coming in 2005.
Which JGR driver is the greatest? Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin have legitimate chances of claiming that title some day, but both have work left to do. Read on to find out where they rank and who is in top.
6. Joey Logano
Joey Logano has as much potential as any driver in the NASCAR garage. Dubbed "Sliced Bread" by Mark Martin, the 20-year-old has been driving the #20 Home Depot car full time since 2009.
Logano won the Rookie of the Year award that year, as well as his first Sprint Cup series victory at New Hampshire in June. Since then, Logano has yet to return to Victory Lane, although he flashed his talent during several solid runs in the second half of the 2010 season.
5. Dale Jarrett
Before Dale Jarrett won a championship and scored dozens of Sprint Cup wins for Yates Racing in the late 1990s and early 2000s, he drove the #18 for JGR from 1992 to 1994.
Jarrett won two races with the team, including the 1993 Daytona 500. He finished fourth in the championship points in 1993. However, he left the team after falling to 16th in points in the 1994 season.
4. Kyle Busch
Kyle Busch is always exciting to watch on the track. Well known for both his driving ability and his flamboyant style, "Rowdy" is a polarizing figure in NASCAR today.
Since moving to Joe Gibbs Racing from Hendrick Motorsports in 2008, Busch has won 15 Sprint Cup races. However, inconsistency has prevented him from finishing higher than eighth in the standings.
Perhaps his marriage this past offseason will help Busch settle down and figure out how to win a championship. Until that happens, he will continue to win races but is unlikely to move up on this list.
3. Denny Hamlin
Denny Hamlin has been with the #11 FedEx team since his rookie year in 2006. He won two races his rookie season and finished third in the championship, taking home rookie of the year honors.
Hamlin has won at least one race and made the Chase every year. In 2010 he collected eight victories en route to a runner up finish in the championship behind Jimmie Johnson.
With 16 career victories (all with JGR), Denny Hamlin is one of the top drivers in NASCAR today. He could easily move up this list in the next few years if he can figure out how to beat Jimmie Johnson for the Sprint Cup championship.
2. Bobby Labonte
Bobby Labonte drove the #18 car for Joe Gibbs Racing from 1995 to 2005. He won 21 races with the team, and in 2000 he won JGR's first championship.
Labonte's career with JGR went south after his championship season, and he never again finished in the top five in the standings. He failed to win in his final two seasons in the #18, and he and the team parted ways following the 2005 season.
Bobby Labonte's status as the second-best driver in JGR history is in jeopardy. Either Kyle Busch or Denny Hamlin would pass him with a single championship season. Both drivers are just entering their prime, so Labonte's place on this list will likely be short-lived.
1. Tony Stewart
Tony Stewart is indisputably the greatest driver in the 20-year history of Joe Gibbs Racing. Between 1999 and 2008, "Smoke" won 33 races. He also won two championships, in 2002 and 2005.
It is entirely possible that another driver could take over the top spot from Stewart within the next several years. Hamlin and Busch have each won as many as eight races in a single season, while Stewart never won more than six. Each has the talent to surpass his accomplishments, not to mention Joey Logano, the youngest and possibly most talented driver in the current JGR stable of drivers.
Before any of the three can think of claiming the title of best JGR driver ever, they'll have to start winning championships. And that starts with beating Jimmie Johnson, the five-time defending Sprint Cup champion. The last man to beat Johnson? Tony Stewart.
Disagree with my rankings? Leave a comment or send me a message.