Last week, David Caraviello @dcaraviello argued in an article published on NASCAR that Joe Gibbs Racing was the “biggest off season winner” going into 2013. Caraviello points out JGR’s Sprint Cup drivers makes them heavy favorites to win the Chase next year.
Joe Gibbs Racing stable of drivers for 2013 include Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and the newly-signed Matt Kenseth to replace Joey Logano. While Joe Gibbs has a history of success winning championships, one with Bobby Labonte in 2000 and two more with Tony Stewart in 2002 and 2005, these drivers have long since moved on and JGR’s current drivers only boast two championship wins with other race teams. Kyle Busch hasn’t won a championship since 2004 and Matt Kenseth hasn’t won since 2003.
Another interesting fact is JGR has never won a championship with a Toyota race car and moreover, Toyota has never won a Sprint Cup championship. Labonte and Stewart both won their first Championships in a Pontiac Grand Prix, Stewart’s second in a Monte Carlo. Some could argue this point is null considering Dodge won their first championship since 1975 in 2012. Nonetheless, try this on for size. Pontiac, Plymouth and Hudson don’t even produce cars anymore, yet they still have 12 championships combined. That’s 12 more than Toyota.
Since 1990, the longest drought between championships is nine years and that title is held by Tony Stewart who won his first ‘ship in 2002 and his last in 2011. (Terry Labonte did go 12 years between championships, but his first was before 1990). Kenseth has already passed this nine year benchmark and Busch is only one year away. Thus, the likelihood of JGR winning a championship lies in the hands of Hamlin who finished sixth in the 2012 Chase and makes good on promises to win. It should be noted, though, he has not promised a Championship win.
While JGR’s off season moves to add Matt Kenseth are certainly going to make them one of the strongest race teams, they can’t be considered the strongest race team or the “biggest off season winner.” This crown belongs to Hendrick Motorsports, not because they made big moves, but because they did the opposite. Nothing. Since 1990, Rick Hendrick’s race team has won 10 championships. The longest drought between championships for Hendrick Motorsports was four years from 2002 to 2005. They have arguably the best two drivers from the past two decades you may have heard of before, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. Jeff Gordon won four championships between 1995 and 2001. Another Hendrick driver, Jimmie Johnson won five consecutive championships from 2006 to 2010.
Also in the Hendricks Motorsports stable is Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt. Jr. Kahne finished fourth in the Chase, his highest finish ever, and while Dale Jr. has been on a cold streak the past few seasons, he did find the winner’s circle in the 2012 season for the first time since 2008 and make it into the Chase for the second year in a row.
Caraviello broke down the stats of each JGR driver by number of wins, top 5’s and top 10’s, but instead of comparing individual stats, take a look at overall winning percentage of these driver compiled with the help of Jayksi below.
JGR Drivers Winning Percentage
Denny Hamlin – 8.49%
Kyle Busch – 8.19%
Matt Kenseth – 5.08%
Hendrick Motorsports Drivers Winning Percentage
Jimmie Johnson – 15.04%
Jeff Gordon – 12.63%
Kasey Kahne – 4.32%
Dale Earnhardt Jr. – 4.05%
Clearly, the winning percentage advantage is heavily slanted towards Hendrick. Those numbers, however, don’t take into account the supreme performances by Kenseth, Busch and Hamlin the past couple of seasons or the decline of Hendrick Motorsports dominance. Nothing is certain in sports and JGR could emerge as the best team in the 2013 season, but so could Furniture Row Racing or Stewart-Haas Racing or Richard Childress Racing. We’ll just have to wait and find out what happens when the season starts February 24 at Daytona.