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Are all three Joe Gibbs teams on the same page? If not, then why?

  Would the Gibbs guys be doing better if Kyle Busch had more time for Sprint Cup debriefing? Is Busch's extra racing hurting the operation? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern


   KANSAS CITY, Kansas
   Denny Hamlin had the championship in his hands in the final days of 2010, and it slipped away.
   He was boss for so many weeks, and then Phoenix, and gas mileage….and for much of this early season Hamlin and crew chief Mike Ford have seemed still off their game.

   Yes, they ran well enough to win Richmond, finishing second to teammate Kyle Busch. And they ran well at Darlington, and ran well at Charlotte.
   Still Hamlin and Ford are still winless this season, and much of the year they've been less than competitive, and almost, well, irrelevant, lost somewhere in the sport's shadows.
   But now it's June, halfway to the playoff cut – and Hamlin and Ford have finally clawed their way back into the top-12, for only the second time this season.
   Yes, Toyota teams have had some mysterious engine problems (Hamlin lost one at Daytona and one at California). And Ford rivals appear to clearly have an edge under the hood, and maybe in chassis too.
   But the heart of the problem over at Joe Gibbs' seems to be that the three-team operation has been running essentially as three separate teams, not one team with three drivers: Hamlin and Ford, Busch and Dave Rogers, Joey Logano and Greg Zipadelli.
   That was perhaps most clearly seen at Charlotte last Sunday when the rival Richard Childress bunch hooked up together to help push low-on-gas Kevin Harvick around the track to save some fuel. Watching Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton pushing Harvick under yellow was a vivid display of teamwork.
   It's hard to imagine Gibbs' three teams hooking up like that.
   And at Rick Hendrick's, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have much of the time seemed almost like brothers, as closely as they're working together.

   To put it bluntly, is there a lack of leadership at Joe Gibbs'?
   Childress is firm in making the point that he is the boss, and his crews all know that and toe the line.
   Hendrick, though, in a different way, is also clearly the boss, wrangling his men.
   But Gibbs and team general manager J.D. Gibbs, his son, have long seemed much looser in the way they wield the reins on their teams. That was of course most vivid during the Tony Stewart years. But at least Stewart won championships for the Gibbs….
   Is that 'loose reins' approach keeping the Gibbs operation from playing up to its potential?
   Sometimes 'creative dissension,' as Jack Roush used to call it, may work to fire up crews. But in today's NASCAR that looks to be so much 'yesterday.'
   Teamwork clearly helps Childress' men, and Roush's men, and Hendrick's men.
   And lack of teamwork may be hurting Gibbs' three.

   Hamlin, who has had a few run-ins with Busch (http://bit.ly/mR1q34 ), says the operation's three crew chiefs work well together, particularly in debriefings. But Hamlin says that Busch's busy driving schedule – which includes Truck and Nationwide races – has kept Busch from adding that much to the drivers' debriefings.
   "I feel like communication, for certain, could be better between all of us," Hamlin says. 
    "We've discussed that over the last couple of weeks, trying to make sure….
    "Last year I really fought for all of us to make sure we have our meetings.  It's just so tough with Kyle running so many different series to get him pinned down for five minutes to have a conversation with him. 
    "I'm there debriefing with my crew chief and his crew chief and Joey's. 
    "I don't run a whole lot of Nationwide races because I feel like it helps my Cup side (not to run them), and it helps me have better communication and more time to communicate on the Cup side by not running Nationwide. 
    "But we (Joe Gibbs Racing) need those Nationwide teams (and sponsors) to help us make money, so we can pump more money into the Cup side. 
     "So it's a double-edged sword. 
      "You don't see really a lot of those Childress guys or Hendrick guys running a lot of Nationwide races.  They do run some, but not as much as what our guys run. 
     "It is a little bit tougher…
    "And obviously it appears last week -- with Childress, those guys helping each other under caution -- somebody brought them together and said 'This is what we need to do to help this one car win the race.'
    "You admire that.  That's what you look for. 
     "We're not at that level yet it seems. 
     "We do try our best to get good communication. 
       "I know there is great communication between our crew chiefs. 
      "Obviously you wish you had a little bit more -- I wish we had a little more -- between us drivers."

  Denny Hamlin: leader of the pack? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


While there clearly are

While there clearly are communication issues inside JGR as noted in the piece, the big issue seems to be engines - JGR has mysteriously had a lot of trouble with engines this year.

You seem to forget the end of

You seem to forget the end of last season. Busch worked hard to keep Harvick away from Hamlin so Hamlin could race for the title. Harvick deliberately wrecked Busch as a result and bragged about it to try and rattle Hamlin.
Sound a lot like teamwork.

I think that Busch has more

I think that Busch has more talent than Hamlin and Logano put together. And one must wonder how long Home Depot will be throwing their money down the toilet for their barely mediocre talent.

Is something wrong with

Is something wrong with Denny? He spends too much time blabbing to the media about his opinions of why Kyle is the problem with everything. You are the self appointed leader of the team. You create the better car and help your lesser team mates make their cars better. Those comments were very constructive. Way to talk about teamwork while tearing down your team at the same time.

With all due respect, If Kyle

With all due respect, If Kyle Busch has more talent than Hamlin and Logano put together then why has Hamlin outrun him for the better part of two seasons in the same equipment? The bottom line is they are three extremely talented drivers with strengths in different areas and more substantial communication could help them overcome any deficit that might lie between them and Hendrick or RFR at the moment. Kyle Busch has an extraordinary amount of talent, handles a loose setup better than almost anyone, and drives very deep into the corner. Hamlin is a smooth driver, saves his stuff, and is a short track and flat track ace. Logano is also an emerging talent and has shown the ability to run up front. With efforts pooled there is as much talent in this trio as in any in NASCAR, I for one would love to see JGR unify their efforts for the betterment of the team.

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