PIT NOTE No. 2: Joe Gibbs Racing Looks to Back Up Banner Year
The first team to take the stage at the 34th annual Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour presented by Technocom on Tuesday was Joe Gibbs Racing. And with 14 wins among four drivers, including the Championship Race season finale that crowned Kyle Busch as the Sprint Cup Series champion, Joe Gibbs Racing is coming off arguably the best season in its history. Add Erik Jones’s 2015 Camping World Truck Series championship and Daniel Suarez’s 2015 XFINITY Series Rookie of the Year honor to that total, and JGR is certainly hoping to ride that momentum into this season.
“We had four (Sprint Cup) drivers with multiple wins last season; I don’t think another organization can say that,” said Matt Kenseth, who tied Busch with five wins in 2015. Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin each won twice. “Last year was just an incredible season for Joe Gibbs Racing.”
Busch will try to become the first driver since Jimmie Johnson (2006-2010) to repeat as Sprint Cup Series champion.
“I compare it to the Golden State Warriors having to play one or two months without Steph Curry and then having him come back and they go on to win the championship,” said Kyle Busch, when asked about winning last year’s title in spite of missing the first 11 races with a broken leg. “This is a team sport. There’s one driver behind the wheel, but it takes a complete team to win a title. We did that last year and we are absolutely focused on doing that again in 2016.”
Jones will join Suarez as a full-time driver in the XFINITY Series this season.
“(Last year) was a busy year, but an exciting year,” said Jones, who made his first three starts in the Sprint Cup Series in 2015, while running 23 XFINITY Series races and a full-time schedule in the Camping World Truck Series. “It will be nice to be full-time with the same group of guys, running for the XFINITY Series championship. I can’t wait to get started.”
NEW SEASON, NEW SPONSORS
When the green flag drops for Martin Truex Jr. and the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing car in 2016, they will be adapting to new sponsors, including Toyota and Bass Pro Shops.
Furniture Row Racing President Joe Garone, crew chief Cole Pearn and professional bull rider Luke Snyder joined Truex on stage to share their enthusiasm for the upcoming 2016 Sprint Cup season.
Garone explained his excitement for their sponsorship with Toyota by praising their efforts to improve the No. 78 Toyota.
“Toyota has been more of a partnership than a sponsorship for us,” Garone said. “They have been down in the dirt and are doing whatever it takes to help improve the car from top to bottom.”
Truex and Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris have been hunting and fishing partners for years, making Truex proud to have Morris’ name on his car. Partnering with a company he already shares similar interests with has made it easy for the team to keep a steady relationship.
A successful 2015 season has given Truex and team a sense of confidence and urgency to build upon their momentum in 2016. The new partnership with Toyota means that Furniture Row Racing will be working closely with Joe Gibbs Racing. Pearn believes the Ideals of JGR and Furniture Row Racing go hand in hand, making for an easy transition.
“I obviously feel more confident going into this season than I did the last,” said Truex. “It was interesting going from our worst season to our best. We have a lot of expectations to live up to and some great new sponsorships with Toyota and Bass Pro Shops. I really admire what they have put into our racing program and believe we can pick up where we left off equipment- and car-wise.”
The Furniture Row Racing’s Bass Pro Shop No. 78 Toyota will make its debut Feb. 21 at the Daytona 500.
GORDON JOINS FOX CREW
“I can’t wait to get to Daytona” is a statement that Jeff Gordon made numerous times during his 24 years as a NASCAR driver. Tuesday, however, provided a first for Gordon, who uttered those words in preparation of his first Daytona 500 as a NASCAR analyst.
Gordon will join Darrell Waltrip, Andy Joy and Larry McReynolds in the NASCAR on FOX broadcast booth for the 2016 season.
“I always thought there was an opportunity for me in TV, if they were interested in having me,” Gordon said. “My biggest concern was stepping out of the race car and finding out how to replace that competitive environment. It’s (broadcasting) an adrenaline rush and has challenges, but I get to work with a great team.”
NOTES & QUOTES:
“I used his plane and didn’t invite him. Why would he be mad about that?”
~ Joe Gibbs, on borrowing Matt Kenseth’s plane to watch the Washington Redskins play the Green Bay Packers (Kenseth’s favorite team) in the NFL playoffs.
“You don’t have a helmet or a uniform, but you do have a nice tie and makeup to take its place.”
~ Darrell Waltrip, on Jeff Gordon’s transition from driver to broadcaster for the 2016 season