CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- When Joe Gibbs publicly addressed the illegal part found in Matt Kenseth’s engine, the team owner was respectful of NASCAR’s inspection process but adamant about the importance of not sullying Joe Gibbs Racing’s reputation over an infraction he insisted was not intentional.
When an appeals board last week reduced most of the penalties NASCAR levied against JGR, Gibbs did not celebrate winning his case. His reaction was reserved, almost subdued, and nothing close to the celebration one might have expected over an issue that was so important to him.
Perhaps it’s because JGR chose to do its celebrating on the race track.
JGR came roaring back from two rocky weeks fighting NASCAR by blowing the doors off the competition at Darlington Raceway, where it swept last weekend’s races. Kenseth won the Sprint Cup race on Saturday night, Kyle Busch won the Nationwide Series race on Friday night and nobody came close to challenging the organization.
Busch routed the field in the Nationwide race and led JGR drivers Elliott Sadler and Brian Vickers across the finish line. Kenseth wound up fifth to give JGR first, second, third and fifth in the first race of the weekend.
In the Cup race, it looked like it was going to be Busch again as he led a race-high 265 laps. But a flat tire in the homestretch caused Busch to fade to a sixth-place finish. Sailing past him was Kenseth for his series-leading third win of the season and teammate Denny Hamlin, who made it a 1-2 JGR finish in Hamlin’s first full race since suffering a compression fracture of a vertebra in his lower back.
When asked to explain JGR’s performance at Darlington, team President J.D. Gibbs downplayed any magic formula.
"I just think our whole team -- we’ve just got a great team from top to bottom, drivers, crew chiefs, guys that travel, guys back at the shop," Gibbs said. "I think that really pays off on the weekend. It pays off in Nationwide. That’s kind of our training ground for our guys to move up to Cup. Then it pays off in Cup. We have guys that work hard, long hours. They enjoy it. They enjoy winning races, too."