Joe Gibbs Racing is rounding into NASCAR form

Team is off to seemingly slow start but in position to show progress quickly

March 17, 2010|By Tania Ganguli On auto racing

The NASCAR Sprint Cup points standings might lead one to the hasty conclusion something is wrong at Joe Gibbs Racing.

It has no drivers in the top 12. Second-year driver Joey Logano leads the team in 14th place, followed by Kyle Busch in 15th. Meanwhile, Denny Hamlin, the preseason favorite to challenge for Jimmie Johnson's crown, is in 22nd place.

Take a deep breath and ignore the standings.

Four races in - including one at the always unpredictable Daytona International Speedway - JGR has plenty of time to become a 2010 force. All signs point to the team doing just that.

First, Logano has improved tremendously since his rookie season.

His development was clear even last year and had nothing to do with his victory in New Hampshire.

Remember early last year, when Logano was frustrated at the way he was being treated?

"People don't give people a chance," he protested, after weeks of practically being called a bust.

He entered this season much calmer and more knowledgeable of his team, the cars and the race track.

"Two top-10 finishes and a top-five is pretty exciting for me and the whole Home Depot Team," Logano said. "I think last year for them was really tough. We're starting to figure it out."

If Logano hadn't been caught up in the Brad Keselowski/Carl Edwards mess in Atlanta, he would have finished much better than 35th in that race.

The newly engaged Busch, meanwhile, has shown a consistency he didn't have last year.

That was always his biggest problem.

A lack of consistency was why, despite winning often, Busch didn't make the Chase last year.

"Our year has been pretty consistent I guess - 14, 14, 15," Busch said in Atlanta before finishing 25th there.

Then there's Hamlin who talked big before the season. Very, very big.

Last season he finished second in back-to-back races at Bristol and Martinsville.

In 2008 he finished sixth at Bristol and followed that with a string of four top-fives including a victory at Martinsville.

JGR will be fine. It will show that in the coming weeks.

tganguli@tribune.com

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