he 2016 season for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series was one for the record books. The team kicked of their 25th season with winning the Daytona 500 to winning a second consecutive championship. The team formed a technical alliance with Furniture Row Racing, but that did not stop the success of the organization. Drivers for the organization were Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, and Matt Kenseth.

 

Hamlin kicked off the season at Daytona with a close finish in the Daytona 500 edging out Martin Truex Jr. by .008 seconds. Hamlin’s season was plagued with numerous penalties on pit road. Hamlin was in contention to win numerous races over the season. Hamlin had four DNF’s throughout the season with three resulting from accidents and one engine issue. After winning the season opening race, Hamlin scored victory at Watkins Glen and Richmond, where he started on the pole. With his three wins, Hamlin was able to make the playoffs. Hamlin made it to the third round by the skin of his teeth edging out Austin Dillon by .006 seconds at Talladega. In the third round, Hamlin scored three top-10 finishes, but was able to advance to the final round at Homestead Miami Speedway.

 

Busch picked up in 2016 where he left off after his championship in 2015. His season started out with a third place finish at Daytona. In the following week, Busch won the pole but had to forfeit the pole after his time was disallowed due to failing post-qualifying inspection. Despite losing the pole, Busch captured the pole at Phoenix. Busch captured his first victory of the season and first victory at Martinsville leaving Charlotte and Pocono as the only tracks where he hasn’t won at.  He followed up the victory in Martinsville with a win at Texas Motor Speedway. However, Busch was in an accident at Bristol which resulted in his first DNF on the season. However, the rebound came quickly with second place finishes at Richmond and Talladega, and a victory at Kansas Speedway. However, that comeback was short lived with DNF’s at Dover and Charlotte, a 31st place finish at Pocono, and engine issues at Michigan. Busch stayed consistent over the next seven races with a victory at Indianapolis. Bristol was another DNF for Busch as he suffered a crash. Going into the playoffs, Busch started off strong with a win at Chicago that moved him into the next round. In the second round, Busch had strong finishes at Charlotte and Kansas, but was conservative with Kenseth and Edwards to secure a spot in the “Round of 8”. Busch made his way through that round with three top-five finishes in a move to return to the Championship Round at Homestead-Miami. However, Busch came up short on a back-to-back championship, but left the season with strong momentum going into 2017.

 

For Edwards, 2016 would be his last as a driver in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competition. His 2016 season started strong with two top-five finishes at Daytona and Atlanta. After an 18th place finish at Las Vegas, Edwards scored two poles at Texas and Bristol as well as two wins at Bristol and Richmond. His first DNF of the season came at Talladega. His second DNF came two weeks alter at Dover. Edwards was able to recover after Charlotte with three top-10 finishes and a pole at Sonoma. His third DNF came at Daytona, but came into Kentucky with a  second place finish. After terrible finishes at New Hampshire and Indianapolis, Edwards posted five top-20 finishes including two poles at Watkins Glen and Bristol. Going into the playoffs, Edwards did not have the momentum, but had the consistency. He scored the pole at New Hampshire in the first round, but no wins. He made it into the second round with finishes of 12th and second at Charlotte and Kansas, and went conservative at Talladega to keep his hopes going into the “Round of 8”. With a win at Texas, Edwards clinched his spot into the Championship Four at Homestead-Miami. Edwards was less than 10 laps away for clinching his first championshi, but greed for position ensued from behind leaving Edwards with a wrecked vehicle.

 

Kenseth rode in 2016 very quietly. In the first few races of 2016, he was without his veteran spotter, Chris Osborne, after he suffered injury from an accident in the offseason. Kenseth was about a half a mile away from winning another Daytona 500, but a gutsy move pushed him out of the draft and resulted in a 14th place finish. The season did not start off strong for Kenseth; His first top-10 finish in the first eight races came at Phoenix. His second top-10 came at Richmond. His first DNF came at Talladega after an accident on the backstretch. However, the next four races resulted in a top-10 finish including a win at Dover. His next run of top-10 finishes began at Kentuck with three top-10 finishes including a win at New Hampshire. After Indianapolis, Kenseth only had two top finishes before the playoff began. When the playoffs began, Kenseth became more consistent with his top-10 finishes. In the opening round of the playoffs, Kenseth had three top-10 finishes. In the second round, Kenseth won at Kansas to move to the third round. Kenseth came just short in the third round to move to the Championship Round. Kenseth ended the season at Homestead with a seventh place finish.

 

2017 will be a year of change at Joe Gibbs Racing. With Edwards going into retirement, Daniel Suarez will move on up and have his chance in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Despite not having Edwards, JGR will continue to be the dominate powerhouse in the Cup Series. It will be interesting to see how Hamlin, Busch, and Kenseth will lean on Suarez and vice versa. JGR is the team to watch going into 2017.

Carl Edwards will start from the pole position in the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday evening with a time of 14.602 seconds, equalling the previous track record. This is Edwards’ 21st pole in his career. This is also his fourth time at Bristol to start from the pole.

 "We didn’t make a mock run. That tells you how great of teammates I have. They’re so fast and they helped us a lot, so we’ll start where we started earlier this year. Hopefully we can put STANLEY in victory lane, but this is going to be a heck of a race. Those are fast laps. That’s a lot of fun. Just proud of my guys – they worked really hard. We rolled the dice and it was fast," said Edwards post-qualifying. 

The first round of qualifying started under partly cloudy conditions. After spinning earlier in practice off turn four, Greg Biffle spun off of turn two during this round of qualifying. NASCAR allowed for Biffle’s team to change their flat spotted tires because they were not on a competitive lap at the time of the spin. Denny Hamlin set a new track record at 14.573 seconds around the half-mile concrete oval. Clint Bowyer also spun trying to hit the throttle early to improve on his time from earlier in the session. At the end of the session, Hamlin was fastest at a speed of 131.668 mph, Kyle Busch was second at 131.003 mph, Joey Logano was third at 130.221 mph, Matt Kenseth was fourth at 130.168 mph, and Ryan Blaney rounded out the top-five at a speed of 130.123 mph. The top-26 in this opening round posted times of under 14 seconds around the track. No drivers were sent home. Some notable drivers did not advance to the second round including Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (p25), Tony Stewart (p27), Jamie McMurray (p28), Bowyer (p31), and Biffle (p34).

 

At the beginning of the second round, shade was creeping onto the concrete oval. Hamlin was the fastest in this round with a speed of 130.295 mph, Kenseth was second at 130.300 mph, Martin Truex Jr. crept into the top five in the third position at 130.247 mph, Blaney was fourth at 129.842 mph, and Carl Edwards rounded out the top-five at 129.833 mph. Some notable drivers who did not advance to the third round were Austin Dillon (p13), Kurt Busch, (p14), Jimmie Johnson (p16), and Kevin Harvick (p24). Chris Buescher, who is trying to make the chase, qualified 12th in this round to advance to the final round. 

 

The third round of qualifying saw shade increase. The session started out with Chris Buescher being the first car on track. However, Edwards ended up on top at a speed of 131.407 mph, Hamlin will start second at a speed of 131.200 mph, Ky. Busch was third at a speed of 130.931 mph, Blaney was fourth at a speed of 130.637 mph, and Kenseth rounded out the top five at a speed of 130.619 mph. 

 

The Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race will be on NBCSN beginning at 7:30 pm eastern on NBCSN. Performance Racing Network will have the radio broadcast beginning at 7 pm eastern. 

 

As NASCAR hits the twist and turns of Watkins Glen International, Carl Edwards is confident in the direction that Toyota is going.

2015 marked Edwards’ first season with Joe Gibbs Racing, and the first time since coming into the Cup Series in 2004, he wasn’t driving a Ford. Through the struggles of 2015, it made the No. 19 team stronger.

This season, Edwards says his confidence is at an all-time high. Arguably, he will have to beat his JGR teammates for the championship as Toyota has won 10 of the 21 races. For the No. 19 team, it’s all about maintaining momentum going into the Chase.

“Right now, we’re just gearing up for the Chase and making sure that we are ready for those final 10 races,” Edwards told Speedway Digest. “That’s what we’re here to do. I feel like I’ve got the best team and the best shot of winning a championship that I’ve ever had and I just want to make the most of it.”

Through the first 21 races this season, Edwards has two wins, coming at Bristol and at Richmond, where he moved his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate and reigning Sprint Cup champion Kyle Busch out of the way on Turn 4 of the final lap. The No. 19 car has 13 top-10 finishes this season, two shy of his 2015 total and one fewer than his total from his final year with Roush Fenway Racing in 2014.  

In his second year at Joe Gibbs Racing, getting used to the system that Joe Gibbs has implemented within JGR has been an adjustment for Edwards. This season, he is working with veteran crew chief Dave Rogers, who replaced Darian Grubb atop the pit box. Since the pairing was announced over the offseason, his confidence level has skyrocketed.  

“Everyone is different,” Edwards said on the differences between Rogers and Grubb. “Dave and I communicate the same way. Dave and I were joking that we don’t get along with everybody, but we get along with each other really well. I think that’ the best way to put it. The communication is effortless and I think that’s just the way sometimes it works out for people.”

Over the last five seasons of competition, Edwards has worked with five different crew chiefs. Bob Osborne was a guy who he had worked with for nine years, and the guy that might be most similar to Rogers.

Edwards wants Rogers to be the last crew chief of his Cup Series career. In year one, the duo sits fifth in the standings, eight points behind Busch. They both credit each other’s success on one another. Based on the way last year finished and this year has gone, the duo is confident heading into the Chase.

“I was new to the system and I was trying to prove myself,” Edwards said of 2015. “It was tough. I thought last year everybody pulled together really well, and we almost had a shot at the championship. I’m really proud of everyone’s performance. Looking back on it, it was really spectacular what we were able to do.”

Edwards’ No. 19 team finished fifth in the standings last year, satisfying the organization in his first year with the crew.

Self-admittedly, Edwards had a lot to learn coming over to a new organization last season. The Missouri native had new primary sponsors in ARRIS and Stanley, after working with Aflac and Fastenal for the majority of his Cup Series career. He is known as being a marketable guy, always thanking the sponsors, so working with new ones was a transition.

 He had new faces to learn after being at Roush Fenway Racing for 12 seasons. But a key variable was working with Matt Kenseth, someone that he knew well from RFR.

“I think Matt has really been the person that I’ve leaned on the most,” Edwards said. “He really facilitated all of the initial talks when I first signed up. He was in charge of the initial meetings. We had lunch last together week and he’s just someone that always tells me what he thinks and he’s helped me a lot.”

With five races remaining before the Chase begins at Chicagoland Speedway, Edwards believes his team is where it needs to be. The 36-year-old believes that the field will need to go through JGR to win the championship.

“I would like to win a couple of these races,” Edwards said of his goals before the Chase begins. “Our main goal is to be prepared for the Chase. I’ve won plenty of races, now I want to win a championship. That’s our mission.”

Leading up to the Chase, Edwards has won on four of the five tracks. He is the defending winner of the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, and most recently, he won the aforementioned races at Bristol and Richmond this year. At Michigan, he has two victories, with the last one coming in 2008.

A victory between now and Chicago would give Edwards three extra bonus points for the first round of the Chase. With 12 winners this season thus far, every point is critical as last year, Busch’s four victories prior to the Chase edged him into the second round of the Chase by a few points.

 “If the fans like it, it’s good,” Edwards said. “It is difficult to pace yourself and to figure out when to give your best effort. This is the point of the season where what happens right now doesn’t really affect the outcome of the season, but you still put all of this pressure on yourself and so it’s a balance of going racing every week and preparing for the Chase.” 

While Toyota has ruled the sport this season, Edwards has remained one of the most consistent drivers at JGR. This season, he has outperformed Kenseth and Denny Hamlin, who has yet to win since the Daytona 500.

The JGR alliance with Furniture Row Racing seems to be beneficial throughout the Toyota camp, as Martin Truex, Jr. has led 1005 laps this season, the most of all drivers in the series. Edwards feels as though he is in the right position and that his No. 19 team is the best team in the garage.

While staying in qualifying trim throughout the opening practice, turning just seven laps, Paul Menard led the way at 177. 438 mph in opening practice at Pocono Raceway Friday afternoon. 

It's the first practice session that the No. 27 car has been atop of in 2016 season. Menard is coming off his second top-10 finish of the season at Indianapolis, which he placed 10th. This week veteran Danny Stockman took over as the crew chief for the team, replacing Justin Alexander, who was in his second season atop the pit box. 

The next trio of drivers were all from the Joe Gibbs Racing stable, led by four-time Pocono winner Denny Hamlin (177.406 mph). Looking for his first win at the track, Kyle Busch was third in practice at 177. 019 mph. Carl Edwards was fourth at 176.977 mph. 
Kevin Harvick was fifth on the board at 176.620 mph.

2015 winner, Martin Truex, Jr. was sixth on the speed chart (176. 602 mph), Joey Logano seventh (176.495 mph), rookie Chase Elliott was eighth (176.484 mph), Ryan Newman was ninth after leading the session early on (176.391 mph) and his Richard Childress Racing teammate Austin Dillon rounded out the top 10 at 175.984 mph.

Spring winner, Kurt Busch was just outside the top 10 in 14th. In his return to Pocono, Jeff Gordon was 22nd on the board, over eight-tenths of a second off the top time. Defending winner Matt Kenseth put up a lap that was 24th quick. 

Only two drivers made a run of 10 or more laps, led by Danica Patrick (171.094 mph). Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. was the other driver on that list, running 22 laps in the practice session, the most of all drivers. 

Qualifying is set to begin shortly after 4:00 p.m. ET. Brad Keselowski won the pole for the spring race eight weeks ago.

Carl Edwards will start from the pole in tomorrow’s Toyota Save Mart 350 from Sonoma Raceway with a speed of 95.777 mph. followed by, AJ Allmendinger (95.676 mph), Martin Truex Jr. (95.672 mph), Kurt Busch (95.654 mph), and Kyle Larson (95.362 mph). This was Edward’s third pole of the season. 

 

“I just can’t say enough about my guys. This car is fast,” Edwards said. “This place is so much fun, it’s just so cool. After that first lap, I thought ‘Man, I could really screw this up’ because the first one was so good.

 

In the first round of qualifying, teams were talking about waiting for a few minutes to see how the track was since the NASCAR K&N West Series laid down different rubber in their qualifying session earlier in the day. Tony Stewart went off track in the first round, but qualified P5 to advance to the second and final round. Carl Edwards was fastest with a speed of 96.201 mph, followed by, Martin Truex Jr. (95.823 mph), Kyle Busch (95.806 mph), Joey Logano (95.765 mph), and Tony Stewart (95.621 mph). Some notable drivers who did not advance are Dale Earnhardt Jr. (P13), Jimmie Johnson (P15), and Kevin Harvick (P25). Cody Ware failed to qualify, and will not make his Sprint Cup debut this weekend. 

 

The second round of qualifying went clean and green throughout the 10 minute session. Brad Keselowski was the bottom marker in the second round with a speed of 94.967 mph.

 

All on track activity for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is complete for the day. Coverage from Sonoma Raceway begins tomorrow, June 26, on Fox Sports 1 at 1:30 pm Eastern  with NASCAR RaceDay. Performance Racing Network will be on the air starting at 2 pm Eastern.

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