Editor’s note: Today’s Joe Gibbs Racing preview concludes NASCAR.com’s countdown of team previews for the NASCAR Cup Series season, ranked in order of best finish in last year’s owner standings.
JOE GIBBS RACING
Engine: Toyota Racing Development
Drivers: Denny Hamlin (No. 11), Kyle Busch (No. 18), Martin Truex Jr. (No. 19), Erik Jones (No. 20)
Crew chiefs: Chris Gabehart (No. 11), Adam Stevens (No. 18), James Small (No. 19), Chris Gayle (No. 20)
What’s new: The lone major change for the organization is a switch at crew chief for the No. 19 team, with James Small moving from lead engineer to replace the departed Cole Pearn. The other primary driver-crew chief pairings stay intact in an effort to keep the winning combinations rolling. JGR’s affiliation with Leavine Family Racing’s No. 95 team continues, but the organization has promised a stronger technical alliance that coincides with the call-up of Christopher Bell to the big leagues for his rookie season.
Team strength: Short track, intermediate, superspeedway or road course, JGR won on all of them last season to corral 19 of the 36 points-paying victories — a single-season record. If there is a weak link (and it’s a minor one), it’s a slight lag in qualifying performance that had Joe Gibbs Racing chasing Team Penske, Hendrick Motorsports and Stewart-Haas Racing in poles and starting position average.
The Action Network’s Best Bet: JGR drivers combined for 19 wins last season, including a Daytona 500 victory from Denny Hamlin and the season championship from Kyle Busch. In all honesty, this team is so fast everywhere it’s tough to pinpoint valuable betting opportunities at this point of the offseason, since it’s likely Busch and Martin Truex Jr. will be the favorites, or among them, at most races. With that said, Truex could be a solid fade candidate in Daytona 500 matchups considering his finishes of 35th, 20th, 22nd and 26th at the superspeedways last season. – PJ Walsh
Racing Insights’ Number to Know: 19. Won 19 races in 2019 — the most ever by a team during one season in the modern era (1972-2020). 2019 was the third time in the last five seasons JGR had all four drivers win at least one race. Joe Gibbs Racing did not go more than four races without a win in 2019. JGR won the most races in the 2010s, 99 of 360. Kyle Busch won 40 races in the last decade, the most of all drivers.
DENNY HAMLIN: No. 11 Toyota
2019 stats: Fourth in final standings; six wins (Daytona-1, Texas-1, Pocono-2, Bristol-2, Kansas-2, Phoenix-2), three poles, 19 top fives, 24 top 10s
2020 championship odds: 8-1
Fantasy Live picks: Richmond, Martinsville, Phoenix, Charlotte, Darlington
Outlook: Denny Hamlin cemented a career year in 2019 with a well-rounded campaign that yielded a half-dozen wins. It’s already a high ceiling for a driver who reached the Championship 4 last season, but the potential to replicate that level of performance is strong, especially as the chemistry builds for year two with Chris Gabehart as the No. 11 crew chief. Gabehart showed in last year’s final he’s not afraid to tape, er … take risks. Swinging for the fences has its rewards.
KYLE BUSCH: No. 18 Toyota
2019 stats: First in final standings; five wins (Phoenix-1, Auto Club, Bristol-1, Pocono-1, Homestead), one pole, 17 top fives, 27 top 10s
2020 championship odds: 6-1
Fantasy Live picks: Phoenix, Richmond, Martinsville, Auto Club, Kentucky
Outlook: Speaking of high ceilings, there’s nowhere to go but down for the defending Cup Series champ. But with a core that returns unchanged for a fifth consecutive year for Kyle Busch and Adam Stevens, the likelihood of another march through the regular season and playoffs is there. The Cup Series hasn’t had a back-to-back champion since Jimmie Johnson concluded his run of five straight titles in 2010. Busch might be the most powerful candidate in a decade for a repeat.
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: No. 19 Toyota
2019 stats: Second in final standings; seven wins (Richmond-1, Dover-1, Charlotte-1, Sonoma, Las Vegas-2, Richmond-2, Martinsville-2), 15 top fives, 24 top 10s
2020 championship odds: 6-1
Fantasy Live picks: Las Vegas, Dover, Charlotte, Sonoma, Watkins Glen
Outlook: Scrutiny will follow the elevation of James Small to crew chief, primarily to see if the No. 19 team skips a beat with the change atop the pit box. A seven-win season that came just one position short of clinching the title trophy is a tough feat to follow; so is 24 wins over the last five years with a driver-crew chief relationship that dripped with chemistry. Martin Truex Jr.’s new era starts with a shining spotlight.
ERIK JONES: No. 20 Toyota
2019 stats: 16th in final standings; one win (Darlington), 10 top fives, 17 top 10s
2020 championship odds: 20-1
Fantasy Live picks: Pocono, Watkins Glen, Texas, Kentucky, Darlington
Outlook: Erik Jones has one win in each of the last two seasons, and they’ve come at historic tracks — Daytona International Speedway and Darlington Raceway. The challenge for 2020 is finding the week-in, week-out potency his teammates possess, where winning isn’t a once-a-year phenomenon. Jones qualified for the playoffs last season, but a horrendous first round led to an early exit. Stockpiling wins and playoff points would help sustain his postseason cause and his career.
NASCAR.com 2020 team previews schedule
Jan. 20: Teams outside the top 30
Jan. 21: Go Fas Racing
Jan. 22: Front Row Motorsports
Jan. 23: Richard Petty Motorsports
Jan. 24: Germain Racing
Jan. 27: Leavine Family Racing
Jan. 28: Richard Childress Racing
Jan. 29: JTG Daugherty Racing
Jan. 30: Wood Brothers Racing
Jan. 31: Roush Fenway Racing
Feb. 3: Hendrick Motorsports
Feb. 4: Chip Ganassi Racing
Feb. 5: Team Penske
Feb. 6: Stewart-Haas Racing
Feb. 7: Joe Gibbs Racing