FONTANA, Calif — Joe Gibbs Racing had three cars finish in the top 10 in Sunday’s Auto Club 400. If not for a slow final pit stop for Martin Truex Jr. towards the end, all four likely would have seen their numbers in the top 10 of the scoring pylon when it was all said and done this weekend from the Auto Club Speedway.
Seems pretty good right?
Well, if you take a deeper look at things, the Toyota/JGR camp is a bit worried as we head to the final race of the west coast swing next weekend at the Phoenix Raceway.
Following a rough go of it last weekend in Las Vegas, everyone was wondering if the Toyota camp had somehow lost speed from a year ago. In Vegas, they finished 15-17-20-23. They never were a factor all weekend.
Then, in practice and qualifying this weekend in Fontana, they weren’t a factor yet again. Yes, they had long run pace, but short run speed wasn’t there.
In the end, Kyle Busch finished runner-up, Denny Hamlin sixth and Erik Jones 10th.
Their problem is, if you take away Daytona, they’re not leading laps. They led one combined lap in each of the last two weeks.
While they went 19-for-36 last year in wins, they’re 0-for-3 in 2020.
In Fontana, Truex Jr. had led 73 laps in 2017, 125 in 2018 but just three on Sunday. Busch, led 62 laps in 2018 and 134 last year. He led none on Sunday and also didn’t lead any laps last weekend either.
“Slow, we were slow,” Busch said following his third straight top three finish in Fontana. “Just didn’t have the speed overall today for some reason. Then, there at the end felt like the tires were worn out at the last bit of the race. Just frustrating day for us with our Interstate Batteries Camry. I just feel like we’re kind of missing it a little bit – here, here, here and here and those things kind of add up and drag you down a little bit.”
His teammate in Hamlin agreed.
“We’re still slow,” said the Daytona 500 winner following his second top six finish in three tries in 2020. “Our cars handled okay. If we don’t have a draft, we’re just run over. It’s tough because I feel like we’re getting beat on throttle time, but we’re also just getting murdered down the straightaways. Just need more horsepower, more downforce and less drag. If we can have all those, we’ll be better.”
Busch, said that they have a lot that they need to do to get better.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Busch continued. “Guys did a great job here though just trying to work on it and trying to make everything we could out of it all day long, all weekend long. Interstate Batteries Camry wasn’t a second place car, but thankfully we got a good finish out of here and try to get some points. Guys are doing all they can, I know along with everybody at TRD (Toyota Racing Development). I appreciate all the hard work, we just have to get a little bit better. We finished the end of last year so strong, I don’t know what we’re missing here. Obviously, it’s a little bit of something here and maybe a little bit of something in a few different areas, but overall good car today.