Joe Gibbs Racing hopes Kyle Busch’s All-Star Race win sparks turnaround

Photo by Harold Hinson Photography

By Yvonne Jones, Staff Writer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Monster Energy All-Star race might just be what Joe Gibbs Racing needs to jump-start things.

All season JGR has been trying to find Victory Lane. Any Victory Lane. It did Saturday night as Kyle Busch won the 70-lap exhibition event at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“Well, we’ve had such a time this year,” team owner Joe Gibbs said with a smile. “I told everybody I forgot where winner’s circle was here, it’s been so long since we won a race.”

The powerhouse team hasn’t a won a points race since November 2016 at Texas behind Carl Edwards, who stepped away from the sport in January. Through the first 11 races last season, JGR had six victories.

Now after bagging $1 million in prize money from the all-star event, JGR hopes this will get it going in the Coca-Cola 600 next Sunday in Charlotte.

“This couldn’t come at a better time for us,” Gibbs said.  “As we all know, we got off to a slow start.  Huge deal for all of us. “

Rookie Daniel Suarez also won a stage in the Monster Energy Open, the qualifying event that preceded the main event.

But as for Busch, this is his first ever win at Charlotte in a Cup car. The driver of the No. 18 Toyota took control on the final restart with 10 laps to go.

“Yeah, it means a lot, first of all to finally win at Charlotte for one, then to win the All‑Star Race,” he said.  “It’s an exciting race.  This race was kind of born off of exciting events that were in the race, bold moves, things like that.  We did one of those tonight to win the race.

“Thirdly, taking home a million bucks, that’s not such a bad payday.  I know Joe [Gibbs] gets to keep most of it.  That is always good for the owner.  But more importantly to get the team into Victory Lane finally.  My guys have been here with me for a long, long time.  I’m sure they feel the same goose egg that I do.  It’s extra special to finally get rid of that.”

Busch has won eight times in the Xfinity Series and seven in the Camping World Truck Series, including Friday night. But he is winless in 26 points-paying races at the top level despite leading 908 laps.

“It was very, very frustrating to be that good in Xfinity and be that good in the Truck Series here,” he said.  “When you race against eight or 10 other Cup guys in the Xfinity Series, you win that many times here, you know that you can do it because you’re racing against the same guys you’re going to be racing against on Sunday.”

So what’s preventing him from winning a regular-season event at Charlotte with the big boys?

“This place is tough,” crew chief Adam Stevens said. “This place changes probably more with track temperature than about anyplace we go.  And it doesn’t necessarily reward driving hard.

“Hopefully this is a little bit of momentum, a little bit of wind in our sails, something we can build on for next week.”

Added Busch: “The Cup car just never is put together the whole way it needs to be. You just never get to Victory Lane.

“Finally we’re able to kind of close the chapter on that one.  Now it’s time to go get a points win here.”

 

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