When a driver is in a drought and isn’t able to reach victory for a prolonged period of time, doubt sets in whether they have the ability to perform at a successful level any longer.
Even the best over the course of a career went through these droughts. Dale Earnhardt went winless for most of 1996, and all of 1997, before winning the Daytona 500 in 1998. Jeff Gordon went through all of 2008, then took only one victory in 2009. One year later he again went winless for just the second time in his career.
It’s odd that an entire team would go through most of the season with not one victory from any driver. In 19 races, no driver from the Joe Gibbs Racing organization went to victory lane.
Sure, the All-Star Race is a victory, but it means nothing towards a championship.
Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, and Daniel Suarez, all quality drivers with extremely talented teams, went 0-for-19 all season. Frustrating at times, none of them yielded. Already feeling the shift when Carl Edwards, who was nearly a champion last season, decided to suddenly hang up the helmet prior to 2017, it just seemed as though they were close, but never could close the deal.
It wasn’t until this weekend when Joe Gibbs Racing finally got to say “We did it.”
All four teams for JGR were strong from the drop of the green flag at New Hampshire, and never yielded. Had it not been for penalties, all four teams likely would have finished in the top-10. Instead a pair of them went to a top-five run, but more importantly, one of the teams under the Gibbs roof finally could hand the former Super Bowl champion coach a victory lane trophy.
When Hamlin pulled in to celebrate with his team, blown tire and all, it was the conclusion of a frustrating year that saw every driver run so hard, and so well, where the entire organization could celebrate.
One win is in the books, and with how strong Toyota has been all season, this could be one wicked run over the latter part of the summer. Who knows, Gibbs and his group could go on a long stretch of wins during the next month leading into the playoffs.
One may be the loneliest number that we’ll ever know, but it sure feels nice to see a team get number one accomplished.
STAGE 1 WINNER: Martin Truex Jr.
STAGE 2 WINNER: Kyle Busch
RESULTS: 1-Hamlin 2-Larson 3-Truex Jr. 4-Kenseth 5-Harvick 6-Suarez 7-Bowyer 8-Kurt Busch 9-Keselowski 10-Johnson
NOTABLE FINISHES: 14-Stenhouse Jr. 15-Dillon 18-Earnhardt Jr. 19-Blaney 27-Newman 37-Logano
CAUTIONS: 7 for 34 laps. Lap 37-40 (Competition Caution); 42-46 (#77 incident-T3); 69-73 (#72 incident-T1); 77-83 (Stage 1 Conclusion); 90-92 (#3, 17 incident-T4); 152-157 (Stage 2 Conclusion); 263-266 (#31 spin-T2).
LEAD CHANGES: 11 among 6 drivers. M. Truex Jr. 1-78; Kyle Busch 79-153; D. Hamlin 154-173; M. Truex Jr. 174-217; Kyle Busch 218-237; K. Larson 238; D. Earnhardt Jr. 239-245; M. Truex Jr. 246-260; M. Kenseth 261-263; D. Earnhardt Jr. 264-266; M. Kenseth 267; D. Hamlin 268-301.
TIME OF RACE: 3 Hrs, 36 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 105.800 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 0.509 Seconds
POINT STANDINGS (Points/Behind Leader [Playoff Points]): 1. Truex Jr, 758 ; 2. Larson, -38 ; 3. Kyle Busch, -108 ; 4. Harvick, -119 ; 5. Hamlin, -169 ; 6. Elliott, -171 ; 7. McMurray, -186; 8. Keselowski, -194 ; 9. Johnson, -206 ; 10. Bowyer, -232; 11. Kenseth, -234 ; 12. Blaney, -272 ; 13. Logano, -286 ; 14. Kurt Busch, -303 ; 15. Stenhouse Jr, -317 ; 16. Newman, -330 ; 20. Dillon, -395