INDIANAPOLIS – It wasn’t quite the 1-2-3 finish they might have hoped for, but it was almost just as good for Joe Gibbs Racing’s three drivers in Sunday’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Kyle Busch finished second to winner Jeff Gordon, followed by Denny Hamlin in third and Matt Kenseth was fourth.
It was the best overall JGR finish in nearly four years, when Hamlin won in Richmond in September 2010, followed by Busch (second) and Joey Logano (fourth).
“It was a great day for Joe Gibbs Racing here finishing two, three, four,” Busch said. “I’m real proud of that.
“I can’t say enough about everybody at Joe Gibbs with all the hard work and everything they’ve done this year. They’re helping give our program a boost and moving forward a little bit. … I know that we have more work to do, but there’s still an opportunity to gain speed and we obviously got beat by speed today.”
Added Kenseth, “It was a good day for JGR. All our Toyotas were pretty quick today. We were all top-10 cars, kept guys out and got good finishes. I wish it was a one-two-three (but) another good day for us.”
A good day is what JGR needed, but more so, what Toyota the manufacturer as a whole desperately needed.
Gordon’s win Sunday makes it 10 for Chevrolet in 2014, and broke Ford’s four-race winning streak. Overall, Ford has eight wins in total this season, while Toyota has a paltry two.
Busch and Hamlin have Toyota’s only wins in 2014. Kenseth, who led the Sprint Cup Series in 2013 with a career-high seven triumphs, is still in pursuit of his first of this season.
“I feel like we’ve been gaining on it,” Kenseth said. “I thought at Kentucky we were all pretty good. At Loudon, we were all really good. I thought we were all top-five cars (but race-winner) Brad (Keselowski) had us.
“Here (at Indy) we were more like third to eighth-place cars. When we had track position we were pretty quick.”
But there could be a problem brewing.
After all 43 cars went through technical inspection following Sunday’s race, Hamlin’s car was found to have several rear firewall block-off plates “we could have possible issues with,” NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said.
“We’re going to take them back to (NASCAR’s Resdarch and Development Center in Concord, N.C.), look at them closer and if we have to do anything further, we will,” Tharp added.
If there indeed is an issue, Hamlin, crew chief Darian Grubb and team owner Joe Gibbs could all face possible sanctions. Tharp did not elaborate on the scope of the issue or how serious any potential violation might be.
Hamlin led 18 laps of Sunday’s race around the 2.5-mile oval.
Overall, two of JGR’s drivers improved in the overall Sprint Cup standings. While Kenseth remained in fourth-place, Busch improved two spots, going from eighth to sixth.
“Today’s performance was good,” Busch said. “We want to win and I think this is my second second-place finish here. It’s frustrating in that respect, but it’s rewarding because we’ve been a little behind this year and it seemed like we had some good speed this weekend.
“There was no catching the 24 (Gordon), it was in a league of his own. He was able to make passes and the guys that could make passes like that have the best cars here. There was no doubt that he should have been the winner.”
Kenseth trails points leader Gordon by 56 points, while Busch is 108 points back.
Hamlin, meanwhile, climbed from 12th to 11th (145 points behind Gordon) – pending, of course, if any penalties are issued by NASCAR Tuesday or Wednesday if the firewall plates are found to be against the rules.
As for the other Toyota Sprint Cup team Sunday, Michael Waltrip Racing, Clint Bowyer finished 16th and Brian Vickers 19th.
NASCAR America: Joe Gibbs Racing heating up at the right time
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