Joe Gibbs Racing - 25 years of the high-performance competition
Joe Gibbs Racing is one of the most successful NASCAR teams in recent years, with six championship titles (four Cup Series and two Nationwide/Xfinity Series) since 2000. The JGR’s championship-winning drivers were Bobby Labonte (2000), Tony Stewart (2002 and 2005), Kyle Busch (2009 Nationwide, 2015 Sprint Cup) and Daniel Suarez (2016, Xfinity).
The team, which HQ is located in Huntersville, North Carolina, currently runs four Toyota Camrys in the NASCAR Cup Series: #11 for Denny Hamlin, #18 for Kyle Busch, #19 for Daniel Suarez and #20 for Matt Kenseth. In the Xfinity Series, the team also has three cars. In the Truck Series, the JGR drivers compete through cooperation with the Kyle Busch Motorsports.
Joe Gibbs – three-time Superbowl champion and team owner
The story about the Joe Gibbs Racing team started in 1991 when the head coach of the Washington Redskins football team decided to retire and to found his own racing team. With only six employees, including Joe’s son J.D. (Jason Dean), the team was running the #18 car for Dale Jarrett in the 1992 Winston Cup Series.
The Interstate Batteries-sponsored #18 Chevrolet Lumina debuted at the 1992 Daytona 500, crashing out in the race. Jarret finished 19th in the points at the end of the season, with third place at Daytona’s Pepsi 400 as the best result.
Jarrett’s 1993 Daytona victory for Joe Gibbs Racing
The dramatic improvement followed in 1993, with team’s maiden win in the season-opening Daytona 500. Jarret added twelve Top 5 results to finish 4th in the points, which was his career-best result to date. Jarret spent one more season with JGR, scoring one more win at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1994 and finishing 16th in the points.
For the 1995 season, Bobby Labonte became the driver of the #18 car. For Labonte, it was the third full season in the NASCAR Winston Cup. He scored three wins in 1995, sweeping both events at Michigan International Speedway and adding one win at Charlotte. He finished 11th in the points.
Tony Stewart joined the team in 1999
Year by year, Labonte improved his results, scoring nine wins between 1996 and 1999. He was especially successful at Atlanta Speedway, winning four times at the venue. In 1999, Labonte won five times and finished second in the championship behind Dale Jarrett, who was driving for the Robert Yates Racing.
In 1999, JGR’s operations were expanded to the second car, the #20 Home Depot-sponsored Pontiac for Tony Stewart. He won two races (Phoenix and Homestead-Miami) to finish fourth in his debut Winston Cup season, becoming the Rookie of the Year.
2000 – maiden Winston Cup Series title for Joe Gibbs Racing
The season 2000 came and it brought the maiden Cup championship title to the Joe Gibbs Racing team. At season-opening Daytona 500, Labonte finished sixth, but he won the second race of the season at Rockingham. Three more wins followed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Darlington and Charlotte. Labonte won the title with a 25-point advantage over Dale Earnhardt. Tony Stewart was sixth in the points, scoring six wins, the most of any season in his career, even more than in the championship-winning seasons.
Tony Stewart was the 2002 Winston Cup champion
Tony Stewart became JGR’s main driver in 2001, finishing as the championship runner-up behind Jeff Gordon. Labonte was sixth in the points. In the 2002 Winston Cup season, Tony Stewart won three times (Atlanta, Richmond and Watkins Glen), taking his maiden Cup title. After a struggling season, Labonte finished 16th in the points, scoring only one win at Martinsville Speedway.
In 2002, Joe Gibbs Racing ended his operations in the NASCAR Truck Series, which started in 2000 with two cars for Joe’s sons Coy and J.D. They were driving the #20 and #48 cars, but without notable results.
2005 – dream season for Stewart, the worst season for Labonte
After a championship-winning season, Stewart’s switched from Pontiac to Chevrolet for 2003. He reached his second title in 2005, scoring five wins and beating the second-placed Greg Biffle by 35 points. While Stewart had a dream season in the #20 car, for Bobby Labonte it was the worst season since he joined JGR, as he finished 24th in the points. At the end of the season, Labonte’s departure was announced and he was replaced by JGR’s Busch Series driver J.J. Yeley.
JGR expanded to the third car in 2005
Except for the title, the season of 2005 was one of the milestone years because the team entered the third car for the full-time schedule in the Nextel Cup Series. It was the #11 Chevrolet for Jason Leffler. After 19 starts, with 12th as the best result, he was released from the ride. In November, Denny Hamlin was announced for the last seven races of the season and then as the full-time driver for 2006.
Hamlin as the 2010 season runner-up
Since then, Hamlin was the only driver of the #11 JGR’s car and he scored 19 wins between 2006 and 2016. Hamlin’s best season was 2010, when he won eight times and finished second in the points, losing the title from Jimmie Johnson. Hamlin was third in the championship standings two times, in 2006 and 2014.
While the #11 car had only one driver in the last decade, there were a few more changes in other cars. J.J. Yeley was running the #18 car for two seasons (2006 and 2007) without notable results. In 2008, Kyle Busch stepped into the cockpit of the #18 Toyota and since then, it is only his car. Tony Stewart remained in the #20 car until the end of 2008. After twelve years with JGR, he moved to Haas CNC Racing and purchased stakes to form his own team.
Joey Logano stepped into the #20 instead of Stewart
In 2009, the new driver of the #20 Toyota became the 18-year-old Joey Logano, who competed with JGR’s car in the Nationwide Series in the previous year. In June 2009, at New Hampshire Speedway, Logano scored his maiden Sprint Cup win, becoming the youngest ever winner in the series. At the end of the season, Logano was awarded the Rookie of the Year.
2009 Nationwide Series title for Kyle Busch
The season 2009 was also important because of the team’s only Nationwide title, won by Kyle Busch in the #18 Toyota. He won nine races during that season, dominantly taking the title ahead of Carl Edwards.
Joey Logano was driving the #20 car until 2012, when he moved to Team Penske and handed the JGR #20 car to Matt Kenseth. The next change in the line-up happened in 2015, when JGR expanded its Sprint Cup participation with a full-time schedule for the fourth car, the #19 Toyota for Carl Edwards. Prior to that, between 2004 and 2013, JGR had recorded occasional appearances of the fourth car, mostly for development purposes. The numbers of those cars were #80, #02 and #81.
Suarez won 2016 Xfinity Series and replaced Edwards in 2017
At the end of 2016, Carl Edwards announced retirement, after he finished the season in the 4th place, being one of the Championship 4 contenders in the final race at Homestead-Miami. Edwards was replaced in the #19 Toyota by Daniel Suarez, who won the 2016 Xfinity Series title for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Making NASCAR history with Toyota since 2008
Since the foundation, Joe Gibbs Racing was running the General Motors-produced cars, winning two titles with Pontiac Grand Prix cars and one title with Chevrolet Monte Carlo. The big change happened in 2008 when the team switched to Toyota, which entered the American premier stock car the year earlier.
Since then, Joe Gibbs Racing became the most successful Toyota representative in NASCAR, gaining numerous victories and finally clinching the first Sprint Cup title for the Japanese manufacturer in 2015. The championship-winning driver was Kyle Busch.
JGR merged with Toyota Racing Development
As part of JGR-Toyota cooperation, Joe Gibbs started his own Sprint Cup Series engine program, merging with the California-based Toyota Racing Development which currently provides engines to JGR. The team continues to build engines for its own Xfinity Series operations and those of RAB Racing and JGL Racing, the Camping World Truck Series operations of Kyle Busch Motorsports, and the Truck Series and ARCA Racing Series operations of Venturini Motorsports. The team also has a technical alliance with Furniture Row Racing, a single-car team based in Denver, Colorado.
JGR has a strong development program
The Joe Gibbs Racing team is also known for its strong development program for young drivers. Joey Logano was one of them; he won the 2007 Camping World Series East (now K&N Pro Series) before entering the national series. The development program participants in 2016 are Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez, Cody Coughlin and Matt Tifft.
In 2004, JGR also created a diversity program together with the former NFL player Reggie White. Some of the drivers in that program were Aric Almirola, Marc Davis and Darrell Wallace Jr. That program was the base for NASCAR’s own Drive for Diversity program.