The Four Drivers Of Joe Gibbs Racing Set For Daytona

The Daytona 500 ushers in the start of a new NASCAR Sprint Cup season on Sunday (Noon ET, Fox). With the strong presence of Joe Gibbs Racing, named for and run by the former legendary head coach of the Washington Redskins, the Sprint Cup circuit can be fairly described as where Redskins fans go to experience winning on Sunday. There are four drivers for Joe Gibbs Racing, all prominent contenders. Here’s a look at each one:

*Denny Hamlin: He began racing full-time in the Sprint Cup circuit in 2006, and his best year was 2010, when he won eight races and finished second at the end of the season in November.
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Hamlin has been in the top ten every year except one since 2008. And that one exception came in 2013 when he missed a month of racing with a broken bone in his back.
*Carl Edwards: The new acquisition on the team, he was lured away from Roush Fenway Racing (owned by the Red Sox ownership team). Edwards has been driving since 2005 and has finished second twice, in 2008 and 2011.
After a bit of a slide for a couple years, Edwards began to trend back upward last season when he finished ninth.
*Matt Kenseth: Consistency is the name of the game for Kenseth since he began in 2001. He doesn’t win a lot of races, but few are better than just steadily piling up points throughout the year.
Kenseth did this to such an extreme in 2003 that he won the championship while only winning one race in the 36-race schedule. It inspired a change in the rules to emphasize outright wins more. Kenseth has finished in the top ten 11 of the last 13 years, and as to the winning—he has won at Daytona.
*Kyle Busch: Often confused with his brother Kurt, Kyle has been on the circuit since 2005 and finished in the top five twice, in 2007 and 2013, though he tends to settle in around 10th by season’s end. There are select tracks throughout the year that he owns, more so than any other NASCAR driver outside of six-time champion Jimmie Johnson.
On a week-to-week basis, the betting odds for each race usually have Busch right with JJ when it comes to wagering the outright win. But a lack of consistency often does Kyle in for the big picture.

Busch also has the reputation as a whiner, one I think is justified and a reason he’s the one driver on Joe Gibbs Racing that I won’t root for. I prefer to substitute Dale Earnhardt Junior. He doesn’t drive for Gibbs, but Junior is a diehard Redskins fan and if you see him interviewed on the topic, he has a tremendous knowledge of the football team top to bottom. He deserves the support of Gibbs Nation.
Earnhardt has been racing longer than any of the above four, since 2000, but he’s never achieved anywhere near the success of his late, legendary father. Junior got as high as third in 2003, but has been off the radar in quite a few seasons.
There does seem to be a growing sense that Dale Earnhardt Junior’s time has come. He made a significant investment in upgrading his engineering team, had a good year last season and is the betting favorite on Sunday in Daytona, at 9-1.
Hamlin, Kenseth and Busch are all slotted at 10-1, which is where conventional favorite Johnson also sits. Edwards is at 12-1 in a race notorious for its unpredictability.
If we look at the season as a whole, the drivers of Joe Gibbs Racing are chasing both Johnson and last year’s champion, Kevin Harvick. JJ Is the 9-2 favorite to claim the championship in Miami this November, with Harvick at 6-1. The Gibbs’ drivers start on the 12-1 line, with Busch, Edwards and Kenseth. Hamlin is a 15-1 shot, where Junior also sits.
If nothing else, though of us who love the Washington Redskins and remember fondly the Joe Gibbs era, can at least find some Sunday outlet for that with a chance for success.