Sunday, May 13, 2012

Gibbs Garage: Trio of Top-10 Finishes at Darlington for Joe Gibbs Racing

Denny Hamlin and Cale Yarborough at Darlington
Credit: Rainier Ehrhart/Getty Images
When the checkered flag fell for the Bojangles Southern 500, the Gibbs guys were at the front of the pack: Hamlin in 2nd, Kyle Busch in 4th and Joey Logano in 10th. Hamlin led four times and Busch led five times for a combined 100 laps, and both drivers ran in the top 10 all night.

At one time or another, all three of the Joe Gibbs Racing drivers have tamed the “Lady in Black.” Kyle Busch is the youngest Sprint Cup Series winner, setting the track race record of 140.350 miles per hour when he won in 2008. Denny Hamlin has an amazing average finish of 6.6 at this track, with a win, two top fives and five top 10s under his belt. Joey Logano and his team celebrated in Victory Lane after winning the Nationwide race on Friday night.

With the iconic No. 11 car sitting at 199 wins, Denny Hamlin may have wanted this trophy more than anyone. His Sports Clips Toyota featured a retro paint scheme to honor Cale Yarborough’s induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, so a victory would have made an extra-special 200th win for the No. 11.

After starting eighth, Hamlin ran in the top 10 for the entire event. A call by crew chief Darian Grubb to stay out on the second caution panned out, allowing Hamlin to take the lead. ”Our finish is because of the crew chief making good calls and the pit crew making good pit stops,” Hamlin said after the race. “That kept us in the ballgame, kept our track position up front.”

Hamlin finished second to teammate Joey Logano in the NNS race, and ended up second again in the NSCS race, too. He reflected about the 2x2 in a post-race interview, “Really proud of our effort. Two seconds, this weekend, this track, we'll take, even though we wish we had a win.”

The No. 18 Doublemint Toyota
Photo by Boris at
Kyle Busch ran the entire Southern 500 in the top 10, dropping outside of the top 5 only twice. “The Doublemint Camry was great all night,” Busch said after the race. “It was good to keep it up front like that and have another strong run. I think that’s our third top-five in a row, so we’ll try to keep that momentum rolling for us and keep it ongoing and try to go get us an All-Star win next week.”

Even though he ran up front most of the night, Busch struggled with handling on the racecar - sometimes loose, sometimes tight, especially in traffic. Just past the halfway mark, Busch kissed the wall, earning his Darlington stripe and losing a few spots. After his final pit stop at Lap 299, Busch restarted second, and even led 12 laps, but after two more cautions and restarts, slipped to fourth position.

“We were just so loose at the end of the race,” Busch said. “It’s really hard to hustle the car and be loose here, and it seems like old Darlington’s back. Tonight was definitely a lot more slipping and sliding, a lot more slowing down using brakes and using tires."

Joey Logano
Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
Joey Logano rolled off 21st, but earned his third top 10 finish of the season. After getting two Darlington stripes before the midpoint of the race, the No. 20 pit crew checked the car, pulled out fenders and got it back on track without losing too may spots. Overall, the Home Depot Toyota struggled on restarts but was decent on long green runs. Logano said, “I just wasn’t very good on restarts and I would lose several positions each time and I was getting frustrated. Our car was great on the long run and I could reel those guys back in and make those spots back up, but once the restarts happened, I’d lose them again.”

Toward the end, Logano hit the wall going into turn three and dropped back to 19th, but a caution allowed for repairs. In those last 30 laps, he drove the wheels off his racecar to claim a 10th place finish. “If there was an award for the most cars passed I feel like we would have won that tonight pretty easily,” Logano said after the race. “We went from 21st or 22nd into the top-five, dropped back to 20th and then drove our way back into the top-10. That was fun racing like that and finding some speed once again in the Home Depot Toyota. Hopefully we can build on this and head to Charlotte and get in that All-Star race.”

Earlier in the week, Logano and two other Gibbs drivers, Brian Scott and Jason Leffler, spent some time at a Dollar General Store. Under the direction of JGR staffers, the guys made a light-hearted video as they played “game shows” and shopped for birthday gifts for other Gibbs team members. If you enjoy a chuckle, it’s worth the view.

No change in the points standings for the JGR drivers after Darlington:
Denny Hamlin – 4th
Kyle Busch – 9th
Joey Logano – 15th


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


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