Joe Gibbs Racing was supposed to get back on track this weekend at the Phoenix Raceway. They had gotten out to a slow start to the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season. While Denny Hamlin won the season opening Daytona 500, the other three races run this year, all on the west coast, could be seen as worrisome to their Toyota camp.
A year ago, the Toyota’s were the top dogs in the sport. They had won 19 times in 36 tries, a series record. They put three drivers in the Championship 4 as well. This season, well they’ve been dismal for their standards.
They led 93 laps in the Daytona 500 but only 15 since. That’s only 15 laps led in 783 circuits turned (2%).
Meanwhile, Chevrolet has led 376 laps this season with Ford pacing the field for 508 laps. Toyota’s only at 108.
Kyle Busch can hang his hat on two straight top three finishes on the year, but both were basically steals. After his runner-up last Sunday at the Auto Club Speedway, Busch wasn’t happy with his No. 18 Toyota. He said that he didn’t have the speed to compete.
Following his third place finish Sunday in Phoenix, he basically said the same thing. Both cars he says were a 5th to 8th place car, not a top three one.
Busch, hasn’t led a lap since the Daytona 500 either.
Denny Hamlin lost control of his No. 11 Toyota early and slammed into Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney on Lap 63. Hamlin, would finish 19th. He was 17th in Vegas and sixth last week.
Erik Jones crashed on Lap 251 and would come home 28th. He was 18th in the ‘500, 23rd in Vegas and 10th in Fontana. Not a great start for him either.
Martin Truex Jr. has had the worst start of them all. He crashed in Daytona and finished 32nd. He was running in the top five in Vegas before a costly pit road issue put him in dirty air as he’d get into the wall there and finish 20th. In Fontana, he had a top five car again but like the week prior, pit road cost him as he’d finish 14th.
In Phoenix, he came from the back for a second consecutive week but there he was finishing seventh and third in the two stages. He even led 11 laps. But, on a late race restart, he was involved in a crash as he’d finish 32nd as a result.
“I just got ran over,” Truex said on the crash, blaming Aric Almirola. “He (Almirola) ran into the back of me earlier getting into (turn) one. I hung on to it. These restarts are crazy, it’s fanned out. The 48 (Jimmie Johnson) was in front of me. I wasn’t sure if he was going to come up in front of me on the short chute or not. Then the 10 (Aric Almirola) ran into us. Can’t finish a race, it sucks.”
This has been a terrible start for JGR as it may not get any better next weekend in Atlanta either.