Almost perfect: Gibbs drivers claim 4 of the top 5 spots at Kentucky
As good nights go, they don't get much better than the one Joe Gibbs Racing enjoyed in Saturday night's Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway.
In addition to JGR driver Kyle Busch going to Victory Lane and significantly boosting his chances of making the Chase for the Sprint Cup, JGR drivers grabbed four of the top five finishing positions as Denny Hamlin (third), Carl Edwards (fourth) and Matt Kenseth (fifth) all recorded stellar results. The only non-JGR driver in the top five was second-place finisher Joey Logano of Team Penske.
How nervous was veteran team owner Joe Gibbs watching his drivers battle it out for the win in the closing laps at the 1.5-mile Kentucky track?
About as much as you would expect.
"I'm (usually) the most nervous when there's two of our cars up there," said Gibbs, a three-time Super Bowl-winning coach with the NFL's Washington Redskins. "Today we have four of them up there. I was scared to death. Let me just put it that way."
Gibbs was particularly on edge when Edwards and Hamlin made contact while jockeying near the front on a restart on Lap 225 of 267. Thankfully for the whole organization, both drivers continued on unscathed.
"On that last restart I thought I could go around Denny and get around him and Joey (Logano)," Edwards said. "I thought, 'Man, I'm going to go as hard as I can and still save it,' and Denny got on the outside and I got a little loose and that was it. Just an awesome race."
Hamlin, who battled back from two laps down after a tire issue and penalty for speeding on pit road, had no hard feelings toward Edwards after their close battle.
"Carl was trying to win for his team; I'm trying to win for my team," Hamlin said. "Luckily, a Joe Gibbs car won it but we're all trying to race for a win. I was just shifting from third to fourth (gear) when he got to me and hit me. He wasn't trying to hit me; he was trying to move to the outside and stick us three wide so he could get position and try to take the lead, and when he clipped us it spun the rear tires and I lost the spot to the 22 (Logano) and him and a bunch of other guys, and it all worked out for the good. We had all of the (JGR) cars in the top five, but what a fun race."
Hamlin was especially happy after rallying from his early adversity for a solid result.
"For us to be able to come back from two laps down and really pass a ton of cars, that's just encouraging to me that we've finally got something that we can really work on and pass guys when your balance is better," he said.
Kenseth saw JGR putting four cars in the top five as a testament to the strength of the company. JGR has made huge strides over the past six weeks or so after struggling early in the season -- particularly on the mile-and-a-half tracks similar to Kentucky.
"It was a great night for Joe Gibbs Racing," said Kenseth, the 2003 Sprint Cup Series champion. "It shows what that place is all about. There's a lot of great people over here that make this happen, so it is great to be part of that. We all finished in the top five. I just wish I would have been first instead of fifth."