Editor’s Note: Today’s Joe Gibbs Racing preview continues NASCAR.com’s countdown of team previews for the 2024 Cup Series season.
JOE GIBBS RACING
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: Perennial powerhouse and Toyota flagship program Joe Gibbs Racing returns with the same lineup as last season, a year removed from its biggest shakeup in some time following two-time champion Kyle Busch’s departure to Richard Childress Racing. Not only does this four-man roster have a year of gelling under its belt entering a pivotal season, each member of the quartet enters 2024 with something to prove after each came up just short of their respective goals in 2023. More on each of those later, but expect JGR – equipped with a revamped Toyota Camry XSE for 2024 competition and a deeper manufacturer pool with Legacy Motor Club now in the automaker’s stable – to come out firing from the jump and perhaps quickly emerge as the team to beat.
DENNY HAMLIN, NO. 11 TOYOTA
Experience: 18 full-time seasons in the NASCAR Cup Series; 650 total starts
2023 stats: Fifth in final Cup Series standings; 3 wins, 14 top fives, 19 top 10s, 4 poles
2024 championship odds (DraftKings): 8-1
Outlook: After yet another season where it appeared Hamlin was set for a date with the Championship 4 and another shot at that elusive first title but ultimately fell short, he’s back and focused on another potential championship in his Age 43 season. The thing about Hamlin – who has an outside shot at breaking into the top 10 in all-time Cup Series wins this year – if things go exceptionally well – is that he’s arguably the best driver in the sport, so it’s always possible he rides to the title. The future Hall of Famer has all the right pieces in place to make it happen this year, with a continually deepening bond with crew chief mastermind Chris Gabehart providing the steady backbone of the team as Hamlin, himself, elevates to the de facto top dog in the garage with Kevin Harvick’s departure to the NASCAR on FOX booth. Even more eyes are now on the mercurial superstar – especially after his standout appearances in the Netflix docuseries ‘NASCAR: Full Speed,’ so perhaps if a championship were to come now, it’d be perfect timing. There’s no question he’s ready for it.
MARTIN TRUEX JR, NO. 19 TOYOTA
Experience: 18 full-time seasons in the NASCAR Cup Series; 657 total starts
2023 stats: 11th in final Cup Series standings; 3 wins, 9 top fives, 17 top 10s, 3 poles
2024 championship odds (DraftKings): 10-1
Outlook: From Regular Season Champion to 11th-place points finish, becoming a playoff punchline along the way. Yeah, we’re thinking MTJ will emerge from the winter months hungrier than a hibernating bear waking up from a deep slumber. Has a beast awoken on the race track as well? We’ll see – it’s just a matter of if Truex and Co. can regain and build on its early 2023 momentum when it rode three regular-season wins to the top playoff seed before sputtering out almost immediately once the postseason began. The 2017 Cup Series champion looked poised to compete for a second title for much of last season so we’re inclined to think that’s the version – and then some – that we’ll get, but the New Jersey native also went winless and missed the playoffs entirely in 2o22. Truex showed himself to be capable of still putting elite races together on many occasions last year, but as the oldest driver remaining in the Cup Series after Harvick’s aforementioned retirement and a truly stunning postseason collapse, it’s becoming fair to question how much longer that’ll be the case.
CHRISTOPHER BELL, NO. 20 TOYOTA
Experience: Four full-time seasons in the NASCAR Cup Series
2023 stats: Fourth in final Cup Series standings; 2 wins, 10 top fives, 19 top 10s
2024 championship odds (DraftKings): 9-1
Outlook: Two years of the NASCAR Cup Series showcasing its Next Gen racer at the sport’s highest level of competition – and two years of Christopher Bell racing for a title in the Championship 4 as the only driver to stake that claim. Bell isn’t the first driver one typically thinks of when reading the letters J-G-R consecutively, yet he’s been undeniably the organization’s best championship hopeful in the Next Gen era. With Hamlin and Truex on the back nine of their respective careers and Bell, at a fresh 29 years old just now entering his prime, there’s little reason to think that won’t be the case for the next decade-plus, too. Armed with one of the small handful of active championship-winning crew chiefs in Adam Stevens (who’s actually a two-time championship-winning crew chief, even rarer) and every conceivable resource at his disposal, it’s entirely possible we see the understated Bell announce his Cup Series supremacy in a big way this season, despite having already done that to a degree the past two years. Let me be clear: there is absolutely no ceiling here, and Bell might just be emerging as a generational talent.
TY GIBBS, NO. 54 TOYOTA
Experience: One full-time season, plus one partial season in the NASCAR Cup Series
2023 stats: 18th in final Cup Series standings; 0 wins, 4 top fives, 10 top 10s
2024 championship odds (DraftKings): 28-1
Outlook: And here’s perhaps your biggest wild card of 2024. Now, with almost exactly a season and a half’s worth (51 starts) of Cup Series starts in top-tier equipment under his belt, it’s time for the 21-year-old phenom to elevate to the next stage of his career: NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs contender. Gibbs was close last year, ultimately settling in 18th in the final standings after narrowly missing the cut to make the 16-driver field – in his rookie season. Despite not qualifying for the playoffs, Gibbs sure looked the part at the Bristol Night Race – you know, the Round of 16 elimination race – by nearly winning, riding 102 laps led to one of his four top fives on the season. Gibbs erupted onto the NASCAR scene in 2021 by unexpectedly winning his first national series start on Daytona International Speedway’s road-course. He’s done nothing but surpass expectations laid out for him since, all the while rising above the doubters who claim nepotism as he’s the grandson of team owner Joe Gibbs. He very clearly belongs in that seat behind the wheel of the No. 54 and JGR appears to have perhaps the best 1-2 punch of the next 10-plus years in its arsenal with Gibbs and Bell. Don’t expect that zero in his win column to still be there at season’s end.
BOLD PREDICTION: Putting all four cars in the 2024 NASCAR Playoffs isn’t a lock by any means, but it feels like too much of a realistic possibility to stake that claim as a “bold prediction,” so here’s one for you – Joe Gibbs Racing will put three cars in the Championship 4, and one of them wins it all. If I really wanted to take it a step further, I’d name the driver and say Hamlin finally seals the deal, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It’s February.
NASCAR.com 2024 team previews schedule
Jan. 15: Legacy Motor Club
Jan. 16: Spire Motorsports
Jan. 17: Kaulig Racing
Jan. 18: Wood Brothers Racing
Jan. 22: Rick Ware Racing
Jan. 23: Richard Childress Racing
Jan. 24: Stewart-Haas Racing
Jan. 25: Front Row Motorsports
Jan. 26: JTG Daugherty Racing
Jan. 29: Trackhouse Racing
Jan. 30: RFK Racing
Feb. 6: 23XI Racing
Feb. 7: Joe Gibbs Racing
Feb. 8: Hendrick Motorsports
Feb. 9: Team Penske