Joe Gibbs Racing entered as the favorites to win Sunday’s Bank of America ROVAL 400 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. They had won both Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoff races thus far including four of the last five events overall.
Furthermore, in regards to road course races, JGR was arguably the best. They finished 1-2-5-8 back in June at Sonoma while also being 2-3-4-11 last month in Watkins Glen.
Martin Truex Jr. had won both playoff races the last two weeks to go along with five top two finishes in his last six road course starts. The lone finish outside the top two came on the ROVAL last year when he was spun out while leading on the final lap in the final corner.
So, why bet against them this weekend?
Well, they struggled instead.
Truex and Denny Hamlin had to start in the back at the start due to Truex changing engines on his No. 19 Toyota after final practice and Hamlin having to go to a backup car following a practice crash in his No. 11 Toyota on Friday.
Truex, started off the race rough in missing the backstretch chicane not once, but twice. He’d end up rebounding to finish seventh in the second stage and was running second for a majority of the final stage before fading on the final restart to seventh.
Hamlin, got into a couple of accidents on the day. The first coming on the Lap 22 restart. That’s the same crash that took out his teammate Erik Jones. That 40th place finish keeps Jones from advancing to the Round of 12 too as he finished 36th, 38th and 40th in the opening round.
Hamlin, would come home 31st and 29th in the two stages before getting involved in another incident on Lap 92. He’d finish 19th.
Kyle Busch had a rough go of it and called it a day towards the end with a 37th place result.
7-19-37-40 are not the results we thought JGR had in them this weekend.