Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Gibbs Garage: Joe Gibbs Racing leaves Daytona with positive momentum and cars intact

Final restart of the 2012 Daytona 500.
Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images.

The Joe Gibbs Racing teams departed a foggy Daytona International Speedway with several feathers in their caps. Although none used those caps in the hat dance, all three drivers took their cars home in one piece – quite a feat at the 2012 Great American race. With two top-10s and a top-15, JGR started the season with positive momentum.

Historically, the Daytona 500 has not been kind to Denny Hamlin. With a career best finish of 17th in both 2008 and 2010, he has never cracked the top fifteen. But after starting near the back in 31st, Denny Hamlin ended the race in third place, his best finish in seven career Daytona 500 starts.

At the halfway mark of the race, Hamlin pushed Martin Truex Jr. across the start-finish line, resulting in the No. 56 team winning the $200,000 bonus purse. Truex’s team owner Michael Waltrip tweeted, “Feel like @dennyhamlin is going to ask me for part of that $200K.”

On top of his top-5 finish, Hamlin led the most laps, leading the race three times for 57 of 202 laps. After the race, he tweeted: “Awesome run for our FedEx team today. Proud of our effort.. So close.”

Joey Logano had a solid start to the season, a big plus for a guy in the last year of his current contract. After starting 12th, Logano stayed in the top 15 for the majority of the race, logging many laps in the top 10 and earning a career best finish of 9th place. In addition, he led two laps, a first-time accomplishment for him in the Daytona 500.

The No. 20 had several close calls, one on pit road and two multi-car wrecks at the end of the race, but he avoided contact every time. With about 15 laps to go, Logano suffered a hiccup when he lost a few positions after shutting off his engine to save fuel, and had trouble refiring it.

Although he thought the Home Depot Toyota was good enough to win, Logano admitted he was pleased with his strong start to the season.

“I’m just happy to get out of here with a top-10 finish and some momentum,” Logano said after the race. “Momentum is a huge deal in this sport and this is the way we wanted to start the year.”

Coming off his win in the Bud Shootout, his 14th place finish in the Daytona 500 might have been a letdown for Kyle Busch, especially since he finished 8th last year. But overall, it was still better than his average Daytona finish of 17.6.

Busch started in the 14th spot, wearing his new brown firesuit in honor of M&M character, Ms. Brown. Fans on twitter got a kick out of Busch’s trip to the portable toilet as soon as drivers were allowed to exit their cars during the red flag. Sometime during the red flag delay, a tear-off was removed from the No. 18 windshield, sending Busch to the rear of the field for the restart. Even with this setback, Busch was able to gain numerous positions and recover from a sideways slide near the end of the race.

Busch tweeted, “Played it smart, patient, methodical, and was in pos to have a shot 2 win w 2 to go and got spun. Just all about luck. Ready for phx!!”

Joe Gibbs Racing headed to Phoenix with all three teams in the top 15 in points. Not a bad showing for this crazy rain-postponed, fire-delayed race.


Beth Bence Reinke writes "Gibbs Garage," Joe Gibbs Racing Sprint Cup team recaps, for the 2012 season. Her Skirts and Scuffs column, “Faith on the Frontstretch,” explores the role of faith in motorsports.
Beth is the author of Race Fans’ Devotions to Go, a devotional book geared toward female NASCAR fans. Follow Beth on Twitter at @bbreinke or reach her at bbreinke@SkirtsandScuffs.com


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