Joe Gibbs Racing sends a message with strong two weeks in Charlotte

Team owner Joe Gibbs celebrates after Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 19 Subway Toyota, wins the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty I

In the last 10 days, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has suddenly gotten a lot more interesting.

When Jimmie Johnson won at Kansas Speedway two weeks ago — his third victory in the first four races at 1.5-mile tracks this year — the conventional wisdom was that he’d crush the competition in the two weekends of racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where he was the only four-time winner of the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and a seven-time winner in points races, including last year’s Coca-Cola 600.

And if Johnson somehow didn’t get the job done, surely Kevin Harvick would. After all, the defending Sprint Cup champion came into Charlotte race weeks having finished first or second in seven consecutive points races at 1.5-mile tracks dating back to late last year.

Johnson and Harvick.

Harvick and Johnson.

The undisputed heavyweight champions of 1.5-mile tracks over the last 20 races or so.

But they and all the rest of the field got their respective clocks cleaned over the last two weekends at Charlotte.

NASCAR Power Rankings: Coca-Cola 600 victory has Carl Edwards on the move

Last weekend, Denny Hamlin gave Joe Gibbs Racing its first-ever all-star race win. Considering JGR began racing in February 1992 — before guys like Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney and Erik Jones were even born — Hamlin’s victory was huge. It was huge as well for Toyota, which had never won the event before.

Then, in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, Carl Edwards gave JGR its first victory in that race since Bobby Labonte won it in 1995. Say what you will about Edwards winning a fuel mileage race, all four JGR Toyotas finished in the top 11, while the only Hendrick Motorsports driver to finish better than 12th was third-place Dale Earnhardt. Neither Harvick, nor any of the other three Stewart-Haas Racing drivers finished in the top eight.

Last year, JGR won only two points races all season long. So far this year, Hamlin, Edwards and Matt Kenseth already have won races for the team, and the just-returned-from-injury Kyle Busch will be one of the favorites to win next weekend at Dover.

The last two weekends have provided a ton of encouragement and momentum.

"We’ve been way off on intermediate stuff," said team owner Joe Gibbs. "It’s really been a disappointment for us for quite a while.  We’ve worked extremely hard. It shows you how hard our sport is because we’ve had a hard time catching up. I’m not saying we’ve caught up, but for the last two races here it’s a big deal for us for all those reasons." Indeed.

Then there was Greg Biffle of Roush Fenway Racing, a team that since the start of the 2014 season as been as irrelevant to challenging for a championship as Michael Bickelmeyer is to challenging for the Republican nomination to run for President.

Biffle, historically one of the best racers at intermediate tracks, had a stellar run Sunday night, finishing second to Edwards and frustrated that he didn’t win.

Gas gamble: Carl Edwards captures fuel-mileage win in Coca-Cola 600

"We’ve met our first goal or at least my first goal was run in the top 10," said Biffle. "We haven’t been able to do that for a year and a half, and run there, not take two tires and get a 10th-place finish. I mean actually run the whole race. So we ran 600 miles virtually right in the top 10, so that’s a huge improvement for us, so now we’ll just work on trying to get in the top five and then the wins will come after that."

If JGR and Roush Fenway can both get back in the hunt to win races consistently, it truly will be an exciting season.

The big wild-card in all this, of course, Is how many drivers actually win races over the final 14 events in the Sprint Cup regular season. Last year, there were eight different winners at this point in the schedule and ultimately 13 different drivers wound up winning races in the regular season.

So far this year, nine drivers have won. Of those who haven’t yet won, there are some obvious favorites to look at: Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Biffle and Jamie McMurray certainly have great chances to find Victory Lane soon.

But whatever ultimately happens, the emergence of JGR and possibly Biffle has made the potential storylines a whole more compelling.