Joe Gibbs on final four races: "I think now it gets easier for all of us"
On the surface the pressure seems only likely to rise as the race to this season’s Sprint Cup Series championship draws to a close.
For team owner Joe Gibbs, however, he actually views the next round of three races and the season finale at Homestead, Fla., as an easier and simpler path for his four-team organization.
All four of Gibbs’s Cup drivers – reigning champion Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin – advanced to the Round of 8 following Sunday’s race at Talladega, as Joe Gibbs Racing teams now make up half of the teams still eligible to compete for the championship.
How could the weeks ahead be easier as JGR teammates begin to compete more with each other for the biggest prize of the season?
Because the path ahead is much narrower.
“Well, I think that as you go, this round was – we lost two of our cars last year in this round. This round is kind of ‘a little bit got to win,’ but you’ve got to be up front. Next round, you’ve got to win,” Gibbs said following Sunday’s race.
“So, the farther you go on in this format, now everybody’s geared up. You’re going to have to try and win a race. Everybody is going to be going for a win and that’s what you’re going to see from here on out.”
Gone for the most part is the worries of getting teams to advance through the next round on points and how best to strategize that throughout the organization.
For instance, in Sunday’s race at Talladega, the three Gibbs drivers safest in points – Busch, Edwards and Kenseth – remain safely in the rear of the field trying to avoid accidents while Hamlin was left to battle on his own for win because he required a win or top finish to advance.
“I think really guys would rather be in the situation where they feel like they’ve got to go win. I think the drivers kind of all feel that way,” Gibbs said. “At the same time, it’s a playoff and you’ve got to say what is smart and so you certainly don’t want to make a big mistakes of some kind and cost your sponsor and everybody that’s wrapped into this.
“It’s a huge deal for us. The Lord’s blessed us with a lot of great people and to be able to get in (the next round) with all four is a thrill, but I think now it gets easier for all of us.”
A win by any of the eight remaining drivers in the Chase in the next three races automatically advances them into the championship race at Homestead, thus even teammates are more incentivized to battle for their own individual benefit.
The more Chase drivers that win the next three weeks, the fewer championship slots are left to go to drivers based on points (the minimum is one).
“It’s going to be a tough deal from here on out,” Gibbs said, “but you have to win from here on out.”
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Roger Penske ready to "move on" from last year's Martinsville race
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|Drivers||Matt Kenseth , Carl Edwards , Denny Hamlin , Kyle Busch|
|Teams||Joe Gibbs Racing|