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February 9, 2023

2023 season preview: Joe Gibbs Racing


Hamlin, Truex and Bell chat it up
Logan Riely
Getty Images

Editor’s Note: Today’s Joe Gibbs Racing preview continues NASCAR.com’s countdown of team previews for the 2023 Cup Series season, ranked in reverse order of best finish in last year’s owner standings.

JOE GIBBS RACING

Manufacturer: Toyota
Engine: Toyota Racing Development
Driver-crew chief pairings: Denny Hamlin-Chris Gabehart (No. 11); Martin Truex Jr.-James Small (No. 19); Christopher Bell-Adam Stevens (No. 20); Ty Gibbs-Chris Gayle (No. 54)

Team Outlook: JGR had a season of mixed results in 2022, with Christopher Bell reaching the Championship 4 round (finished third), while Denny Hamlin finished fifth. But two of its other veterans had very rough seasons: Kyle Busch finished 13th, while Martin Truex Jr. failed to make the playoffs and finished a disappointing 17th. But 2023 could be the start of a major rebuilding program within the veteran organization over the next year-plus. Busch has moved on to Richard Childress Racing, and Ty Gibbs, grandson of team owner Joe Gibbs, replaces the two-time Cup champion. And the facelift could continue even more so in 2024 as 2023 may be the final season with JGR for both Hamlin (42 years old) and Truex (turns 43 in June), either through retirement or moving to another team. Look for Bell – perhaps one of the most underrated young drivers in Cup – to potentially have a breakout season in 2023, with a legitimate chance at winning the championship.

DENNY HAMLIN, NO. 11 TOYOTA

Experience: 18th full-time season in the NASCAR Cup Series

2022 stats: Fifth in final standings; 2 wins, 10 top 5s, 16 top 10s

2023 championship odds (BetMGM): 10-1 (tied for third-highest favorite with Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano and Christopher Bell)

Outlook: 2023 could be a very pivotal season for Hamlin. He’s in the final year of his current contract with JGR (and FedEx is also in its final season as primary sponsor, barring any extension). Hamlin has said before he retires, he’d like to race at least one season for the Cup team he co-owns with NBA legend Michael Jordan, namely, 23XI Racing (could that mean 2024?). Hamlin has been one of NASCAR’s most hard-luck drivers; he has all the talent (48 career Cup wins) and skill to have won multiple Cup championships, but alas, he still has yet to win his first. It seems he’s always in the conversation for being a champion but has yet to get it done. If this indeed is his final season with JGR, will he finally break through or suffer through yet another close-but-no-cigar finish?

RELATED: 2023 Cup title odds | 2023 schedule

MARTIN TRUEX JR., NO. 19 TOYOTA

Experience: 17 full-time seasons in the NASCAR Cup Series.

2022 stats: 17th in final standings; 0 wins, 4 top 5s, 15 top 10s

2023 championship odds (BetMGM): 12-1 (tied for seventh-highest favorite with Ross Chastain, William Byron and Tyler Reddick)

Outlook: After a championship-winning season in 2017 and runner-up showings in 2018, 2019 and 2021, the Mayetta, New Jersey native is coming off his worst season since 2014 (finished 24th). Not only did he miss the playoffs, but his best individual race finish was only fourth (Richmond Raceway in April and New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July). It seemed like the further he fell behind, the harder he pushed, with even more unsuccessful results. Truex reportedly considered retirement last season but decided to give it one more go with JGR in 2023. If he does retire at the end of this season, look for it to be a very quiet departure from the sport, with no fanfare or going-away tour, befitting of his low-key personality. Still, his competitive nature won’t let him go out as an also-ran: If this truly will be his final year, he’ll be going all-out for that second Cup championship.

CHRISTOPHER BELL, NO. 20 TOYOTA

Experience: Three full-time seasons in the NASCAR Cup Series.

2022 stats: 3rd in final standings; 3 wins, 12 top 5s, 20 top 10s

2023 championship odds (BetMGM): 10-1 (tied for third-favorite with Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin)

Outlook: Bell was one of the most pleasant surprises of the 2022 season, being the only JGR driver to reach the Championship 4 and finishing a solid third in the final standings. He’s shown great upward progress in each of his first three Cup seasons and appears on target for a major breakthrough campaign in 2023. He’s definitely among the top contenders for the championship, with a strong-winning, competitive nature and few weaknesses behind the wheel. If this is the final season with JGR for both Hamlin and Truex, the 28-year-old Bell would be in the position to become the team’s No. 1 driver in 2024 (barring the team signing a big-name, veteran free agent). He’d help himself immensely with a great 2023 and show he belongs among the series’ top drivers.

TY GIBBS, NO. 54 Toyota

Experience: 15 starts in the NASCAR Cup Series.

2022 stats: 1st in final Xfinity Series standings; 7 wins, 16 top 5s, 23 top 10s (Xfinity); 1 top 10 (Cup)

2023 championship odds (BetMGM): 40-1 (tied for 17th-highest favorite with Daniel Suárez)

Outlook: Gibbs won the Xfinity championship last season in his first full season in one of the top three national series, but at 20 years old, the third-generation racer may have a difficult time against seasoned Cup drivers in his rookie season in NASCAR’s premier series. It may take him 2-3 years to become a bonafide contender. Gibbs is somewhat of an anomaly in that he went directly from ARCA (where he won 18 races in 47 starts in 2 ½ years) to Xfinity, completely bypassing the Truck Series. But the results last year proved he didn’t miss much. Even though he won seven races last season en route to the Xfinity championship, the prospect of wins in his first year in Cup appears unlikely. A more realistic rookie season would likely see Gibbs compile a handful of top-five finishes, with his best chances for success at short tracks like Richmond, Bristol Motor Speedway, Martinsville Speedway and Phoenix Raceway.

NASCAR.com 2023 team previews schedule

Jan. 23: Non-chartered and teams outside the top 30
Jan. 24: Spire Motorsports
Jan. 25: Wood Brothers Racing
Jan. 26: JTG Daugherty Racing
Jan. 27: Front Row Motorsports
Jan. 30: Kaulig Racing
Jan. 31: RFK Racing
Feb. 1: Legacy Motor Club
Feb. 2: Richard Childress Racing
Feb. 7: 23XI Racing
Feb. 8: Stewart-Haas Racing
Feb. 9: Joe Gibbs Racing
Feb. 10: Hendrick Motorsports
Feb. 13: Trackhouse Racing
Feb. 14: Team Penske

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