Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Joe Gibbs Will Win The Big One in 2008

Don't be fooled by the title of the article, we all know Joe Gibbs NFL football coach has retired. But most of us seem to forget that Joe Gibbs NASCAR team owner is alive and well. Gibbs heads into the 2008 season with arguably the best stable of drivers in all of NASCAR.
The Gibbs racing staff is anchored by two time Cup winner Tony Stewart. Stewart's fire and fierce competitiveness make him, not only a perennial Cup favorite, but also one of the most talented racers in the entire world. Most of the time, Stewart's worst enemy is himself. He gets frustrated easily behind the wheel, and is prone to making overly aggressive moves that at best irk other drivers and at worst are a constant safety hazard.

Flanking him are two of the most talented, young racers in all of NASCAR in Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin. Formerly of Hendrick Motorsports, Kyle Busch enters Joe Gibbs racing with an already very impressive NASCAR resume. Entering his fourth season as a full time Cup driver, Busch's brash, aggressive driving style often rubs other drivers the wrong way. Busch has been called everything from immature, to down right reckless at times on the racetrack. He has often been accused of not following some of the unwritten rules of NASCAR etiquette on the racetrack. It was probably these things that fueled Hendrick Motorsports, to replacement him with Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Denny Hamlin, on the other hand is more laid back and certainly doesn't have the reputation of his counter part. Hamlin, entering only his third full season as a Cup driver, and has already made it to the Race for the Chase championship twice. He certainly will once again be a formidable driver once again this season for the Joe Gibbs Racing team.

The biggest problem the Joe Gibbs Racing will face in 2008 is Hendrick Motorsports. Hendrick Motorsports, certainly had one of the most dominating seasons in NASCAR history. It wasn't enough for Hendrick to boast Cup champs Jimmie Johnson, and Jeff Gordon on their roster, they proved to be light years ahead in the research and development of the Car of Tomorrow. Add to that the addition of the aforementioned Earnhardt Jr. and one would figure that a Hendrick driver would be a shoe in for a repeat Cup championship.

Aside from the obvious challenges that may arise from Hendrick Motorsports, the other major Gibbs Racing roadblock on the way to the Cup will be their switch to using Toyota cars. The Toyota made its debut last season as a Cup car, and it proved to be mediocre at best. The cars didn't have many catastrophic failures, like the DEI cars did, instead they were just consistently mediocre. Despite all this, I find it hard to believe the Gibbs racing team (that is in constant competition for a championship) would move to a car they found to be unreliable, or just a substandard product in general. If they are putting their trust in the Toyota product, they must know the car must be built well enough to help them contend for a championship.

This is why I believe the influence and calming leadership of Joe Gibbs will have to be the difference maker, in order to the Gibbs Racing drivers to fulfill their full potential. There is certainly a lot of attitude and competitiveness with Stewart and Busch, and Denny Hamlin will go into next season as hungry as ever. This could be the perfect recipe for disaster, if Joe Gibbs wasn't the chef stirring the pot. Gibbs showed last season how much his drivers respect him when Stewart and Hamlin were having serious issues with each other, following an ill fated crash that Stewart blamed Hamlin for causing. It seemed the two drivers would be more a collision course than a course to a championship. But then Joe Gibbs showed up, and defused the situation to the point that the two drivers were seen laughing and rough housing after the meeting. I feel the combination of Joe Gibbs reasserting himself as the boss and the off season to fine tune necessary changes to their Car of Tomorrow car, should propel a Joe Gibbs driver to the top seed of the Cup championship next season.

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