Is JGR the Chase favorite? Unsurprisingly, Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick disagree.
There is no question much of Joe Gibbs Racing’s success this season materialized during the four races in which NASCAR tested new aerodynamic packages.
In fact, JGR drivers won each of those four races – Kyle Busch at Kentucky and Indianapolis, Matt Kenseth at Michigan and Carl Edwards at Darlington, S.C.
I think JGR did a really good job adapting to the new rules packages and we won all four races. I don’t think that took anything away from 2015 stuff
Without any new aero rules for the 10 races in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, will that hamper JGR’s efforts to come away with the championship this season?
Kenseth emphatically says no.
One of JGR’s top competitors, however, offered a different take.
Harvick confident he can go back-to-back
“I think we're going to pound them into the ground, that’s what I think. Hopefully, they can beat themselves,” reigning series champion Kevin Harvick said Thursday at Chase Media Day at The Murphy in downtown Chicago.
“I don’t know if we’re better than them. It’s really not about having the fastest car at this particular point. It’s about having the experience to be able to go out and handle the emotions of 10 weeks.
“I think that, as you go into these 10 weeks, you have to put it all together, and there’s a lot more than racing to handle. I think for us it’s all about having the experience.”
Three of JGR’s drivers – Busch, Edwards and Denny Hamlin – have never won a title and Kenseth’s only championship came in 2003, before NASCAR implemented its “playoff” Chase system.
Kenseth looking to ride wave of momentum to championship
Kenseth, who has won three of the series’ last six races, believes JGR will be just as strong in the Chase with the aero package with which teams began the season.
“I think JGR did a really good job adapting to the new rules packages and we won all four races. I don’t think that took anything away from 2015 stuff,” Kenseth said.
“I know the group at the shop feels the best about the current package. Now, if it was me, I’d like less downforce even though I wrecked on Darlington. As a driver it’s more challenging and there are more opportunities to pass.
I just feel like we’re most prepared with that and there are the least amount of unknowns with that
“Still as an organization, I think we have the most confidence with the 2015 rules package. I think we’re fine with that.”
JGR’s early-season wins came on tracks such as Martinsville, Va., and Bristol, Tenn., and Edwards won the Coca-Cola 600 on fuel-mileage strategy.
Why does Kenseth believe JGR would prefer the package from earlier in the season?
“I think mainly just because those were the rules we were handed last year and that’s what they worked on and at that time, there was zero discussion on changing the rules. So, they put 100 percent focus on those,” he said.
“That’s what they worked on, that’s what we designed our simulation and set-ups on, so we have a lot more data with that and a lot more time invested in it. I just feel like we’re most prepared with that and there are the least amount of unknowns with that.”