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Joe Gibbs Racing on upswing as drivers produce strong Atlanta results

Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin all finished in the top five in Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, which could be a sign of things to come for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Normally a heavy favorite to be leading when the green-white-checkered flag falls, Truex finally earned his first two stage victories of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season in the 325-lap event at the 1.54-mile Georgia oval, leading 65 laps in the process.

The No. 19 Toyota was at the front throughout much of the race, but faded to third behind race winner Kevin Harvick and teammate Busch in the closing laps.

RELATED: Official race results | Martin Truex Jr. sweeps Atlanta stages

“I’ve been happy with our cars,” Truex said after the race. “I felt like we had a shot at winning the Southern 500, the Coke 600, a chance to win here. We’ve been knocking on the door, we’ve just been ‑ it just feels like it hasn’t been our season yet, but we’re right there.  The guys are doing a great job, and our cars are fast, and we just ‑ we’ve got to put it all together one of these days coming soon.”

Busch was hot on Truex’s tail, finishing second in Stage 1 and third in Stage 2 before earning a second-place result. Both Busch and Truex have yet to break into Victory Lane this season, while Hamlin has two victories to his credit so far this year — the Daytona 500 and the rain-shortened second race at Darlington Raceway.

But while it seems like Joe Gibbs Racing may be turning a corner that could leave the competition sweating in the coming weeks, Busch feels there is still more room for improvement if they want to reach their dominant ways again.

“Atlanta is kind of its own beast,” Busch said. “Well, Atlanta and Homestead are pretty significant high downforce tracks, and we tend to run well here. Truex definitely tends to run well here. He did last year, and I think Denny has won here a couple times, so it’s a place that we should have good results at, and it’s nice to come out of here with a good solid run, run up front all day long and have a good outing. Hopefully, we can keep that momentum rolling.”

Erik Jones appeared to have the car to compete for a top-10 finish when a tire issue forced him to bring the No. 20 Toyota down pit road unscheduled stop in the final stage.

The series heads to Martinsville Speedway for a Wednesday night showdown under the lights for the first time at the .526-mile short track (7 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), where the four drivers have a combined eight victories, led by Virginia native Hamlin with five triumphs.