1.5-mile magic tough to recapture in 2014 for Joe Gibbs Racing

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Last season, Joe Gibbs Racing seemed to have the Midas touch on the 1.5-mile ovals.

Matt Kenseth may have lost the battle for the 2013 Sprint Cup championship, but his success on 1.5-milers – four of his seven wins in ’13 came on those tracks – kept his bid for a title going all the way to Homestead.

Additionally, Kyle Busch earned two of his four wins on 1.5-milers and Denny Hamlin won the season finale on Homestead’s own 1.5-miler, a happy ending to a largely disastrous season for him.

But what was JGR’s strong suit last year has not been the case for them in 2014.

In the most recent 1.5-mile race prior to last night’s 5-Hour Energy 400 at Kansas, JGR put up a decent showing of third (Busch), seventh (Kenseth), and 13th (Hamlin) in Texas.

But the trio took a step back in Kansas, as Kenseth led their group with a 10th place finish. Busch and Hamlin finished 15th and 18th, respectively.

Altogether, it was a quiet night.

“If I knew exactly [what the problem was], I’d just fix it,” said Kenseth, who felt he was “lucky” to eke out a Top-10 finish.

As for Busch’s crew chief, Dave Rogers, he felt the team needed to remember the basics of what makes a car quick in the first place.

“Everyone is this sport knows what they are: You’ve got to handle well, have good power down the straightaways and you have to have good aerodynamics,” Rogers said.

“You just have to have a good race car. You are never off in one area. You’re never going to change one thing and fix it. I just think we’re off a little bit in all the fundamental areas and we just have to go back and work on it.”

Hamlin, who had been hoping to keep his momentum going after winning last weekend at Talladega, echoed Rogers’ comments by saying that “every piece and part on the car has got to get better.”

“We were a ‘knife to a gunfight’ deal,” he added. “We just had nothing for the top-10 guys. Just really struggled with speed — we were a half-second off, at least in practice and that much in qualifying and that much in the race.

“A half-second in our sport is miles…Got to get better, or else we’ll be in trouble. We’ll just keep working through these summer months.”

Gabby Chaves to sub for Joao Barbosa at Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen

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Gabby Chaves is set to return to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Watkins Glen International later this month.

The Columbian-American driver, who last competed in IMSA in 2016 – with the DeltaWing outfit – will sub for the injured Joao Barbosa – he hurt his wrist in a cycling accident earlier in June – in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen.

Chaves will partner Filipe Albuquerque and Christian Fittipaldi in the No. 5 Cadillac.

Chaves expressed gratitude for being asked to fill in, but kept his enthusiasm muted, noting that he is getting the opportunity ultimately because another driver got hurt.

“The first thing is of course that you never want to have an opportunity because someone got hurt, so this is an unfortunate circumstance with Joao having his injury,”said Chaves. “But I appreciate the opportunity to join the championship-leading team. Mustang Sampling Racing has had a strong start this year and hopefully I can help the team continue to have those kinds of results.”

Chaves added, “I love Watkins Glen, it is a great track and I am looking forward to racing the Cadillac Prototype there. I’m excited to be going back to endurance racing. With different classes all racing at the same time, there is a lot for the driver to deal with as you work through traffic. So I am looking forward to racing at the Glen again, and I really appreciate this opportunity with Mustang Sampling Racing.”

Chaves’ most recent IMSA event was the 2016 Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, when he finished seventh in the Prototype class.

The No. 5 Action Express Cadillac currently sits tied with the sister No. 31 Whelen Engineer Racing Cadillac of Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr atop the IMSA standings, though Barbosa’s hopes of a driver’s championship are set to take an enormous hit with him missing Watkins Glen.

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