Gibbs Garage: Middle-of-the-Pack Finishes for Joe Gibbs Racing at Las Vegas

Kyle Busch spins at Las Vegas.
CREDIT: Getty Images
Given the positive outlook in the Gibbs Garage this season, this weekend’s mediocre showing will be a true test for the teams’ attitudes and confidence. The Joe Gibbs Racing drivers finished the Kobalt Tools 400 outside the top- 15 without leading a single lap. On the upside, two drivers avoided wrecks completely, with Kyle Busch’s car receiving only minor damage.

All three remain in the top 12 in the Sprint Cup Series points standings:
Denny Hamlin – 3rd
Joey Logano – 9th
Kyle Busch – 12th

In an upbeat pre-race piece with Michael Waltrip, Denny Hamlin said he was happy to give crew chief Darian Grubb “an early win” at Phoenix. Hamlin’s confidence couldn’t help fix a tight racecar though, and after starting 17th, he fell back a few spots and ran most of the race just outside the top-20. About mid-race, he went a lap down, but got it back after receiving the lucky dog on the third caution. Overall, the No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota remained tight throughout most of the race, with Hamlin struggling to exit the turns. Despite the handling issues, he managed to bring the car home in one piece and finished 20th.

Kyle Busch qualified on the outside pole with the M&Ms Ms. Brown Toyota, but after a crash in practice, he started at the rear in a backup car. Busch looked fast at the green flag, picking up about 16 positions in as many laps and breaking into the top 10 for the first time around Lap 50.
When the No. 93 of Travis Kvapil blew an engine right in front of him, Busch slid in fluid and grazed the wall. After repairs to the right side, he worked his way back toward the front. But with 8 to go, Busch took a spin off turn four and brought out the final caution. After pitting for fresh tires, he restarted a lap down in the 23rd spot with four to go, and finished in that position. Although Busch won after starting from the rear after an engine change in 2009, he had no such luck at his home track this year. 

Starting next weekend, look for Ms. Brown to relinquish her featured position on the car and ride alongside the other M&Ms guys on the No. 18 paint scheme.

Beginning the season with two top-10 finishes, Joey Logano brought a healthy self-assurance to Las Vegas Motor Speedway.  He said seeing a sports psychologist has helped him with leadership skills, but also credits the positive attitudes of his new crew chief, Jason Ratcliff, and new spotter, Rocky Ryan. “I feel like my whole team has the attitude right now to go out there and win races, make the Chase, make this happen right now,” Logano said earlier this week.
The No. 20 Toyota Camry featured a bright yellow paint scheme as Dollar General made its debut as primary sponsor. After rolling off fourth, Logano ran in the top 10 for the first portion of the race, but fought a poor-handling car all day. He restarted 22nd after the second-to-last caution, then made a four-tire pit stop and battled back to a 16th-place finish. 
Logano tweeted: “Not the day we hoped for. But still got a decent finish. 9th in points. Thanks to @DollarGeneral

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 

Gibbs Garage: Middle-of-the-Pack Finishes for Joe Gibbs Racing at Las Vegas Gibbs Garage: Middle-of-the-Pack Finishes for Joe Gibbs Racing at Las Vegas Reviewed by Beth Reinke on Monday, March 12, 2012 Rating: 5