There were 36 NASCAR Cup Series races held in 2019. Joe Gibbs Racing won more than half of those races. That organization also placed three of its four drivers in the Championship 4 final race held at Homestead-Miami Speedway with Kyle Busch eventually earning the title for the company owned by the former Super Bowl winning football coach.
The dominance of JGR in 2019 goes beyond winning races and the championship.
That organization’s Toyotas led over 4,000 laps during the course of the season with only one of their drivers(Erik Jones) having an average finishing position outside the top-10. And more, JGR drivers captured most of the sport’s biggest races with Denny Hamlin winning the Daytona 500, Martin Truex, Jr. taking the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, Erik Jones getting the checkered flag in the Southern 500 at Darlington, and Denny Hamlin drove to victory in the Bass Pro Shops/NRA Night Race at Bristol.
The good news for fans of JGR drivers and the bad news for everyone else is that the likelihood of another team stepping up to challenge the supremacy of NASCAR’s most dominant operation in 2020 is not terribly high.
With the next generation race car due to be on track in the Cup Series beginning in 2021, the sanctioning body has put a freeze on the development of parts used on those cars for the upcoming season. The focus for teams going forward will instead be on the development of that new machine, especially as the 2020 season moves toward its middle and latter stages.
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Simply put, there is little reason to craft anything new for this season. The only real difference impacting the on-track performance of the cars for the coming year will be the adjustments made to the rules package by NASCAR in an attempt to improve the competition level on short tracks and road courses.
So if everyone is essentially going to be racing with what amounts to last year’s designs, why is there any reason to believe that the organization that held a strangle hold over the series in 2019 won’t do so again in 2020?
Well, there isn’t.
Three of the four Cup Series teams at JGR have all the same primary players in place coming into the new campaign. Champion Kyle Busch will again have crew chief Adam Stevens calling the shots atop the pit box of the No. 18 ride. Denny Hamlin, winner of six races in 2019, will be back behind the wheel of the No. 11 with Chris Gabehart serving as crew chief. And, Erik Jones received a one-year contract extension at the end of last season to continue as the pilot of the No. 20 with Chris Gayle remaining in place as that team’s pit boss.
The only major change at JGR during the off-season came when Cole Pearn, crew chief on the No. 19 driven by Martin Truex, Jr., decided to leave the sport in favor of seeking other opportunities. James Small has been called upon to take over as the leader for that effort.
With most of the primary players remaining in place and very little new development of cars for the 2020 season being undertaken, there is little reason for optimism for those who might hope to unseat Joe Gibbs Racing from their perch atop the NASCAR Cup Series. The task for all the other organizations is definitely a formidable one going forward.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association
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