CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Story by Race Chaser Online Senior Editor Tom Baker — Bob Leverone/Getty Images for NASCAR photo —
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year or so, you are well aware that Kyle Busch rebounded from serious leg injuries sustained in a February crash at Daytona International Speedway and won the Sprint Cup Series championship for Joe Gibbs Racing.
This, after spotting his competition 11 race starts while he recovered and other drivers wheeled his M&Ms Toyota.
If confidence and positive energy are any kind of a harbinger of future results, it appears the entire JGR organization is ready to win early and often in the 2016 season. At a press conference held on Tuesday at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour presented by Technocom, all four Sprint Cup drivers along with Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez were laughing, smiling and very excited about their prospects.
A crew chief shuffle over the offseason resulted in new pit bosses for both Denny Hamlin (Mike Wheeler) and Carl Edwards (Dave Rogers), while Jones moved full-time into the No. 20 car in the NXS to join Suarez, who will wheel the No. 18 once again.
Matt Kenseth got a laugh from the stage and the audience as he informed the media that “Coach” Joe Gibbs had borrowed Matt’s plane to go to the recent Washington Redskins NFL playoff game, but hadn’t invited his driver to go along. “I can’t imagine why Matt would be upset about that,” Gibbs shot back with a laugh.
Kyle Busch paid a compliment to crew chief Adam Stevens, saying he looked forward to another season working with him. “We really worked so well together last year that it made my job easy,” Busch said. “I am completely confident in what we can accomplish with a full season to work together in 2016.” Busch also mentioned with a grin that it “will be nice to race in the Daytona 500 this year instead of watching it on TV.”
When we heard from this organization at the 2015 Media Tour, one of the stated goals was to improve their results on the “intermediate” tracks, especially at Charlotte. Last year’s two Charlotte winners? Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards. This year, they are looking to defend the championship and have all four cars in the chase.
With Furniture Row Racing and driver Martin Truex joining the Toyota family this year to replace the departed Michael Waltrip Racing organization, you can bet that Joe Gibbs Racing and the Toyota camp have every confidence that they can produce a second straight Sprint Cup Series championship for the manufacturer along with the potential of an XFINITY Series title to go with it.