Busch, Hamlin need to focus late

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Jeff Hammond

Jeff Hammond is a former NASCAR crew chief who led Darrell Waltrip to two of his three Sprint Cup championships. The duo also teamed up to win the 1989 Daytona 500. Prior to that, Hammond was the jackman for Cale Yarborough for all three of his Cup championships. He has 43 Sprint Cup wins as a crew chief. Follow him on Twitter.


Editor's note: As we get closer to the 2010 season-opening Daytona 500 (Feb. 20 on FOX), takes you along for the ride during the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway.

From Monday through Thursday, we will provide an inside look at several NASCAR Sprint Cup teams taking part in the tour, including expert analysis from members of the NASCAR on FOX team.

Joe Gibbs hates to get beat. We all know that. He hated losing when he coached the Washington Redskins in the NFL and he hates it as a NASCAR owner.

To come as close as Denny Hamlin did in 2010 to winning another NASCAR Sprint Cup championship for this organization and for it to slip away in the final race of the year had to be a bitter pill to swallow.

I think Gibbs will take what has happened the last couple years and find a way to re-energize and refocus his three teams to hopefully be the thorn in the side of Hendrick Motorsports. JGR will once again be a serious title contender.

It already has Hamlin and Kyle Busch, who are both ready to win the Sprint Cup championship. If you talk to veteran crew chief Greg Zippadelli, he will very quickly tell you that his young driver, Joey Logano, is ready to win more races and make some noise himself in the championship race in 2011.

Let’s face it, JGR has the right leadership. It has the right motivators. We know the teams have the talent and they have the speed and resources to get it done. It’s like anything else, however, you have to be able to put the period at the end of the sentence. That’s the only place that whole organization has come up short.

A few years ago, Busch entered the Chase for the Sprint Cup as the odds-on favorite and fell on his face. Last year, Hamlin had it in his grasp, but let it slip away.

That is the one area JGR has to work on – closing the deal. It needs to eliminate the mistakes because the teams are good enough to win it all multiple times. Those have to learn to finish. Like Coach Gibbs will tell you – you have to play all 60 minutes to win, but unfortunately, right now his race teams aren’t doing that.

You have to give Kyle Busch a lot of credit. He started his own Truck team last year and then went out and won the owners championship in his team's very first year of existence in that series. Becoming a businessman, and also getting married as Kyle did at the end of last year, will go a long way in getting a man focused.

In years past, Kyle was all over the place, running short-track races, Truck, Nationwide and Cup races. He was spread too thin. I think in the end it caused distractions to him when it mattered the most.

Now, you can tell there is a maturing process going on. This will help make him a better leader and owner. The buck stops with Busch as an owner. He is paying the bills. He has to be able to pump up a crew member when he is down. He has to know what to say, or in some cases what not to say, in certain situations. In the end, he is the one that is responsible. The acceptance of those responsibilities is a great way to learn to win a championship.

It’s not out of the realm of possibility that he steps to the front as the lead dog at Joe Gibbs Racing this year because of all this.

Things, for the most part, are settled down in his life, so now all he has to do is go race. We already know the talent is there. We see it all the time from Kyle. He simply has to be more consistent and he has to finish. He has to be able to put a period on his season for once. That’s the only thing keeping Kyle from winning multiple championships in our sport.

Inside Joe Gibbs Racing


Behind every NASCAR driver, there's a support team.

Team No. 11

Driver: Denny Hamlin (Finished second in the 2010 Sprint Cup standings, 16 career Cup wins)

Crew chief: Mike Ford

Primary Sponsor: FedEx (Check out their 2011 ride)


Team No. 18

Driver: Kyle Busch (Finished eighth in the 2010 Sprint Cup standings, 19 career Cup wins)

Crew chief: Dave Rogers

Primary Sponsor: M&M’s/Interstate Batteries (Check out their 2011 ride)


Team No. 20

Driver: Joey Logano (Finished 16th in the 2010 Sprint Cup standings, one career Cup win)

Crew chief: Greg Zipadelli

Primary Sponsor: Home Depot (Check out their 2011 ride)

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