Gibbs may knock off Hendrick

Published 6:53 pm Friday, June 18, 2010

Has Joe Gibbs Racing become the team to finally knock Rick Hendrick Racing off the pedestal as NASCAR’s best team?

I don’t think you can say that, without a doubt, until Gibbs wins a few more championships, but, if results from the 2010 season mean anything, it’s getting real close.

Last week at Michigan, Gibbs driver Denny Hamlin won for the fifth time in the last 10 races. By mixing in Kyle Busch’s three wins, Gibbs driver have won almost half of the 15 races so far this season. The third Gibbs driver, Joey Logano, is winless so far, but that could change at any moment, and probably will before the season is complete.

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By comparison, Hendrick drivers have won three times this season, all of those coming from Jimmie Johnson. Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are all winless.

Busch, Hamlin and Logano are second, third and 17th in the points standings respectively. Busch is only 22 points behind leader Kevin Harvick, while Hamlin is 47 points behind.

Johnson is sixth, Gordon seventh, Martin 12th and Earnhardt stands 14th in the points standings. It is not out of the realm of possibilities that all six of these drivers will be in the Chase after the 26th race, that is half the field.

Here’s something to ponder. All of Johnson’s wins, three of the first five races, came while the race cars were still equipped with the “wing.” Since NASCAR mandated the change back to a rear spoiler on the race cars at Martinsville, JGR drivers have won seven of those 10 races.

Not being on the leading edge of changes with the race cars is not something Hendrick is used to, but it is evident that the spoiler has those teams bumfuddled. Chances are, it’ll get figured out, but it better be soon.

All signs are pointing toward Hendrick’s new driver for 2011, Kasey Kahne, driving the No. 09 James Finch-owned Chevrolet next season. Although Hendrick has said the opportunities for Kahne next season are more numerous than he first imagined, this arrangement with Finch is most likely the most comfortable.

It is so comfortable that is sponsoring the Finch’s car with road course ringer Jan Magnussen driving at this week’s race at Sonoma.

Speaking of ringers, the numbers seems to be down from previous years, but include Brandon Ash, P.J. Jones, Boris Said and Brian Simo.

Sonoma is the first of only two road course races on the NASCAR schedule and the bane of some of the drivers, but a great opportunity of others to post a great finish.

Right in the middle of California wine country, Infineon Raceway is a 1.99-mile course with 12 turns. Gordon is the active career win leader with five wins, and Tony Stewart is a distant second with two career wins.

Because of the difficulty in passing cars under green flag conditions at this track, qualifying well and great pit strategy is vital to good finishes here.

My pick to win this week, and pick up his first career win, is the Aussie Marcos Ambrose.