NASCAR Insider Reveals Opposite Tales at Joe Gibbs Racing as Young Gun Takes the Driving Seat

Published 10/02/2023, 3:13 PM EDT

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The playoffs are a thrilling battleground in NASCAR. And for Joe Gibbs Racing, the story couldn’t be more contrasting. As the postseason unfolds, the tale of this team is a study of opposites. While the #11 and the #20 teams are cruising smoothly in the playoffs, the regular season champion from the Joe Gibbs stable is facing a bumpy road.

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Denny Hamlin, the veteran for Joe Gibbs, is enjoying one of the best playoff runs of his career. With his experience and skill, he’s navigating the postseason with finesse. Meanwhile, the young gun, Christopher Bell in the #20 car, has been impressive, currently sitting comfortably in 4th place with a 22-point cushion above the cutline.

Jordan Bianchi talks about the contrasting fortunes in the playoffs at Joe Gibbs Racing

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Hamlin and Bell are the great guns in the playoffs. But, on the flip side, the regular season champion, Martin Truex Jr, has been grappling with a challenging playoff journey. Since securing the NASCAR Cup Series regular-season championship at Daytona, it’s been a rough ride. Truex, who had three victories in the first 26 races of the season, has struggled to finish inside the top 10 in the past seven or eight races.

His playoff performance has been characterized by survival rather than dominance. In the Round of 16, Truex narrowly advanced, relying on the 15 bonus points he earned for winning the regular season. Although he’s carried that advantage into the Round of 12, his recent finishes have been less than stellar. At Talladega Superspeedway, Truex managed to stay out of trouble but couldn’t secure any stage points, ultimately finishing 18th.

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NASCAR journalists Jeff Gluck and Jordan Bianchi discussed the scenarios facing the team and the upcoming race at the ROVAL. Jeff Gluck remarked on Christopher Bell’s situation, noting, “How do you feel about, you know, [Christopher] Bell gets a piece of that wreck early with [Ross] Chastain, and it looks like, oh geez, this could be bad for him. But now, going to the ROVAL, you know, he got to win there, but he could certainly run well there. If I was Christopher Bell, I’d be like great. I mean, 20-something points going to the ROVAL. I feel pretty good about that.”

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Jordan Bianchi echoed the positive outlook for Christopher Bell but also mentioned the struggles Truex Jr is facing. He stated, “I think he’s [Bell] in a good spot. And this is a team that doesn’t feel like they’re clicking to the level that they could be at. But like his teammate Martin Truex Jr, despite the setbacks, despite all of the issues, they’re still in a good points position going into a racetrack where they won at a year ago.”

Although he’s still in a relatively comfortable 6th spot in the standing, the 2017 Cup Series champ, Martin Truex Jr spoke about his race in the post-race interviews.

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Martin Truex Jr sums up his race in Talladega and shares his outlook on ROVAL

At the start of the playoffs, Truex Jr seemed unstoppable, armed with three wins and a slew of Top-5 finishes. However, as the weeks have rolled by, his fortunes have shifted, and not necessarily in his favor. Talladega, a track known for its unpredictability, proved to be a tough battleground. Truex could only muster a 19th-place finish, later promoted to 18th after Kevin Harvick‘s disqualification.

After the race, he candidly shared his thoughts on the day’s events. “It was all right,” he said. “I mean, I thought our Bass Pro Camry was pretty good and just never could quite get in the right lane at the right time. You know, stuck on the bottom there at the end, I think three to go we were probably almost up to 10th or 12th and, you know, three laps later, we’re 19th. So just, you know, nowhere to make any moves, just everything was clogged three wide, and you just kind of rode there and got what you could. So a tough day, you know.”

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“But I think we’re in good shape going to the ROVAL. We can take care of business from there. Just need a good day,” he concluded.

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Written by:

Veerendra Vikram Singh

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Veerendra Vikram Singh is a NASCAR Writer at EssentiallySports. With a natural affinity for motorsports, he brings a unique perspective to his coverage of everything NASCAR. His love for sports extends way beyond NASCAR, encompassing Formula 1 and MotoGP and a few other motorsports as well.
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Edited by:

Nischal Kandpal

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