Joe Gibbs Racing Outlook: Will the JGR Toyotas contend for the Sprint Cup in 2015?


After Matt Kenseth’s win at Bristol you’d think it would be safe to say that the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas are legitimate championship threats. They have two wins in the 2015 Sprint Cup season (the other being Denny Hamlin at Martinsville) and all four Toyotas have had strong runs in 2015.

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But looks may be deceiving. With Kenseth’s win, he moves to eighth in points while Hamlin sits in 12th. Carl Edwards, in his first season driving the No. 19 Toyota, has only one top-10 (10th at Texas) and sits 15th in points. Then there’s David Ragan substituting for Kyle Busch, sitting 18th in points with a season-best fifth at Martinsville.

These are the strongest Toyotas in the garage, however, they’re not performing as strongly as they usually do. In 2013 Kenseth led the series in wins (seven) while ultimately claiming second in points at season’s end. Hamlin placed third in points last season despite sitting out Fontana and winning only once at Talladega. Busch has never really been much of a championship threat but the Winner’s Circle is not unfamiliar to the No. 18 Toyota.

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However, we’re seeing much of the same out of JGR this year as we did last year, where they won a measly two races (Fontana, Talladega) early in the season. With that being said, their struggles aren’t due to the absence of their star driver; Busch won the Fontana event in 2014 and JGR still struggled.

Granted, we’re about a quarter of the way through the season (Richmond will be the the official quarter mark of the 2015 season) and as the old adage says, “Anything can happen.” Hamlin may take Richmond, for example. The JGR short track program has been stellar this season and they are currently 2-0 on the short tracks this season.

Also, Kenseth could back up his Bristol win with a Kansas win. In 2013 Kenseth’s No. 20 Home Depot Toyota dominated the 1.5-mile speedways, so he is a favorite to win there. Ragan could very well follow up on his 2013 Talladega win with another one, thus solidifying his chances of making the Chase this season. Point being, anything can happen.

But the truth of the matter is that the JGR Toyotas are performing below expectations and the changes needed to turn the team’s fortunes around aren’t going to happen overnight. So until then, it’s a safe bet that the JGR Toyotas won’t be winning many more races in 2015, if any at all.

Two wins in the first eight races does not make a title threat. Kenseth and Hamlin may luck into a top-four spot come Homestead, much like Hamlin did last season. But as for putting the rest of the garage on guard, it’s not likely.

That is my take on JGR moving forward this season, what is yours? Do any of the JGR drivers have what it takes to make the final-four? If so, which ones? Are any of them a threat to win a title this season and rain on the potential Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick parade? Comment below on whether or not the JGR Toyotas could compete for the 2015 Sprint Cup championship.

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