Joe Gibbs Racing very well could be king.
The Toyota-backed team has won three of the four crown jewel races this year, and there’s a chance it could be the first organization ever to complete the royal sweep in a single season. Denny Hamlin was victorious in the opening Daytona 500, Martin Truex Jr. survived the Coca-Cola 600 in May and Erik Jones just hoisted the Southern 500 trophy last Monday. All that’s left to conquer is the Brickyard 400 this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
And it just so happens the one JGR driver who hasn’t claimed a 2019 crown jewel already has two Indy trophies from previous seasons – recent ones, too.
Two of the last four Brickyard 400s saw Kyle Busch in Victory Lane (2015 and 2016). The driver of the No. 18 also earned two of the last three Busch Pole Awards at the 2.5-mile oval. That third one he started first anyway after weather canceled qualifying.
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Busch has led 263 of 497 laps at Indianapolis in the last three years, good for 53%. In 2016 alone, en route to the checkered flag, he led a track-record 149 laps, which accounted for 88% of the action that day.
Overall, Busch owns five top-five and 11 top-10 showings in 14 Indy starts. He boasts a 10.7 average and holds the longest top-10 streak (2010-16) at the track.
The 2015 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion is currently in the middle of an 11-race win drought. During that time, though, there have been three top-three, five top-five and eight top-10 runs. He’s also No. 1 in the championship standings at 983 points, which is 64 points more than No. 2 Joey Logano. Busch has four wins on the season, tying Hamlin and Truex for most by one driver.
JGR is the only team to have had all its drivers win this season.
Back to this weekend at the Brickyard.
Hamlin statistically is the next best bet at Indy. His strongest finish in 13 starts so far is third, and he did so in 2008, 2014 and 2018. The No. 11 averages a 12.8 finish, with five top fives and seven top 10s.
Truex’s numbers are a little rougher. His highlight in 14 starts is fourth, and he averages a 20.9 finish. This will be his first trip to Indianapolis in the No. 19 car, though.
Jones and his IMS history are tough to evaluate because he has only raced there twice in the Monster Energy Series. He finished 31st in 2017 and second in 2018. That sample size is too small to really trust his average finish (16.5).
Westgate in Las Vegas unsurprisingly has Busch as the Brickyard 400 favorite, opening at 3-1 odds. Hamlin is 6-1. Truex and Jones are both 8-1.
Busch could be the one to get JGR the crown-jewel sweep, but the team’s chances don’t end there.
Unrelated but related: William Byron could pull off a different sweep at the Brickyard 400. The driver of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet won the Busch Pole Award at the Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600 and Southern 500. No driver has won every crown-jewel pole in the same season, and Byron has the opportunity to this year.