As NASCAR prepares to celebrate Kyle Busch’s championship Friday night in Las Vegas at the annual Sprint Cup Awards Banquet, Joe Gibbs Racing finds itself sitting on top of the stock car world.
JGR is coming off its fourth career Cup championship since 2000. Plus, it earned the most wins of any organization in 2015, with 14 in the 36-race season. Lastly, JGR has earned 128 victories in its Sprint Cup history.
Then there’s Hendrick Motorsports, the most successful organization in Sprint Cup history with 240 wins and 11 championships.
But, some may make the argument that HMS and Chevrolet’s time at the top is over and that JGR and Toyota will be THE organization that will dominate over the next several seasons.
It’s hard to ignore HMS’ seven sprint Cup championships since 2000, which is the same season Bobby Labonte won the first of JGR’s four titles.
It’s also hard to ignore that of HMS’ 240 career Cup wins, 41 of those came in the last four seasons, while JGR had 35 wins in the same period.
While JGR has had four championships since 2000, Hendrick has had seven championships since 2000.
But one stat stands out that may very well prove JGR has become No. 1 and potentially may stay there for some time.
In 2014, JGR won 14 races, while HMS won nine, a combined nearly two-thirds of all races on the Sprint Cup schedule.
That’s a far cry from 2014, when HMS dominated the series with 13 combined wins, while JGR had a grand total of just two wins—a year it and Toyota would likely prefer to forget.
But if you extrapolate things out just a bit further to include 2013, JGR again outperformed HMS with 12-9 in total wins.
That means in the last three seasons, HMS has won just three more races in total than its counterparts at JGR, a total of 31-28.
Statistics aside, there are other reasons to think JGR has surpassed—or will soon surpass—HMS as the most powerful organization as a whole in Sprint Cup racing.
Consider that HMS will go into next season without its heart and soul, Jeff Gordon, who retired at the end of this past season. Even though Jimmie Johnson outperformed Gordon over the last decade, Gordon was still the face and leader of the overall organization.
That’s a role that falls to Johnson now.
Also, consider the uncertainty of Chase Elliott as Gordon’s handpicked replacement. Just because he won an Xfinity championship in 2014 and is the son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, that’s no guarantee that Chase will be an immediate hit in Sprint Cup.
In fact, I won’t be surprised if he goes through his entire Cup rookie season and does not win a race.
There’s also the up-and-down performance of Kasey Kahne over the last three seasons, and Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s improvement.
But on the flip side, JGR now has two Sprint Cup champions within its ranks in the younger Busch brother and 2003 champ Matt Kenseth. And it also has two other drivers who have long been predicted to one day be Cup champions in Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards.
Edwards almost won the 2011 title, only to lose to Tony Stewart on a tiebreaker.
If you go head-to-head with each of the four drivers on both teams, JGR would seem to have a slight edge.
Put Johnson vs. Busch head-to-head and it’s pretty much a toss-up. Sure, JJ has six championships to Busch's one.
But when it comes to 2015, both won the same number of races (five each), but Busch gets a slight advantage simply because he won this season’s championship—and in the way he did it after missing the first 11 races recovering from a broken right leg and fractured left foot.
Put Earnhardt vs. Hamlin, and Denny gets the edge ever so slightly. Hamlin likely would have made the final round of the Chase for the second straight season in 2015 had it not been for the freakish roof flap incident he had at Talladega. He came into that race, the elimination race of Round 2 of the Chase, second in the standings. But his terrible luck and performance saw him fail to advance to Round 3.
As for Kenseth vs. Kahne? No contest; it's Kenseth by a mile. Plus, Kenseth is likely going to drive with a chip on his shoulder in 2016, having won five races this past season only to be suspended for wrecking Joey Logano and seeing all his success and good work during the regular season go down the drain.
In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kenseth have another season like he had in his first year at JGR in 2013, when he won a series-high seven races.
And in the battle between the two most recent additions to their respective organizations, Edwards vs. Elliott, Cousin Carl wins by a long shot—or at least until Chase proves otherwise.
Yes, while it may be hard to say JGR has completely overtaken HMS as the most dominant organization in NASCAR, it’s easy to say that it definitely has a decided edge for now and is the organization to beat heading into 2016.
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