“I Just Felt Bad for Him” – NASCAR Insider Weighs In on the Disaster Joe Gibbs Move, Exposing His Driver’s “Worst” Enemy

Published 09/10/2023, 4:07 PM EDT

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USA Today via Reuters

The NASCAR Cup Series playoffs are now in full swing, and the action is headed to Kansas Speedway. With just hours to go before the race, experts expect an all-out war between the Hendrick Motorsports’ Chevys and the Joe Gibbs Racing’s Toyotas. Hendrick Motorsports driver Kyle Larson is the favorite after winning at Darlington Raceway last week. However, Joe Gibbs’ driver still has things to figure out.

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Despite Joe Gibbs Racing’s stellar qualifying run, a former HMS crew chief and NASCAR commentator has been critical of his pit crew. Backing the Toyotas to win, he got brutally honest about the need for Joe Gibbs’ driver to figure out his “worst” enemy if he wanted to win at Kansas.

Steve Letarte gets real about Joe Gibbs’ driver’s ‘worst’ enemy

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NBC commentator Steve Letarte has been the crew chief of some of the sport’s greatest, including Dale Earnhardt Jr. With the playoff action heading to the intermediate mile-and-a-half-long tri-oval at Kansas, Letarte gave his predictions.

He has Kyle Larson and the consistent Toyotas as the favorites. And the veteran’s prediction was proven right by Joe Gibbs Racing’s 28-year-old sensation, Christopher Bell. The #20 driver set the track on fire with a blistering pace to secure the pole for Sunday’s race with a time of 29.954 seconds.

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However, it looks like all is not well for Bell. Letarte exposed the driver’s never-ending dance with bad luck. Mentioning the inefficient pit crew that held him back on several occasions, he said, “The poor guy has one of the worst pit crews known to man on pit road for some reason this year. I don’t know why, I’m not gonna say why, doesn’t matter.

Though the team boss, Joe Gibbs, made a prompt adjustment, swapping his grandson’s privileges with the #20, things still don’t add up. Reflecting on the team’s bleak setup last day, he said, “So they swap him, swap him and Ty Gibbs. My man sits on the pole, #1 pit stall. Magic day. Comes down first pit stop. Jack up jack down, jack up jack down, jack up jack down. Right side, left side. 15 and a half seconds… like I didn’t know what to say on the broadcast. I was like now I just felt bad for him.” 

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. gets critical of Gibbs’ team crew

Racing is indeed a team sport with several factors coming into play. While the pressure is ultimately on the driver to see through to win, pit strategy, and the crew’s efficiency all add up. And that’s one aspect where the top Toyota camp, Joe Gibbs Racing, has trouble with.

Last week’s race at the “tough to tame” Darlington is a prime example. While the stage winner, Denny Hamlin got his day turned around after a pit confusion, prompting him to pit a second time, the #20 team also encountered trouble. Though, Gibbs switched the crew from #54 to #20, bad luck still followed Bell as he finished the race 23rd despite showing speed.

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Citing veteran NASCAR driver Jeff Burton’s take, Dale Earnhardt Jr relayed the obvious that even the best of the crew can falter under pressure. He said, “Jeff Burton held his hand up, he goes, hey this could go the completely opposite way. They could start screwing up now that they’re under this microscope right? First stop, drop the jack, goes from leading the race to losing positions. And then it kind of spiraled from there.”

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Written by:

Kishore R

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Kishore is a NASCAR Writer at EssentiallySports. With a degree in engineering, Kishore's love for automobiles, particularly the roaring naturally-aspirated V8s, naturally led him to NASCAR. Kishore's writing is characterized by his intense passion for the sport, as well as his ability to conduct in-depth research and analysis.
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Vishav

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