As Carl Edwards parked his No. 19 Toyota at the start/finish line at Bristol Sunday afternoon and performed his signature backflip, another name was added to the growing list of Chase-eligible drivers.
And early in the 2016 season, a lot of those drivers compete for the same team.
With Edwards’ Food City 500 victory, he became the third Joe Gibbs Racing driver to secure his spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, joining Daytona 500 champ Denny Hamlin, and Kyle Busch, the winner of two of the last three races.
Edwards’ dominant performance – he led 276 laps Sunday afternoon – repeated a common trend in 2016 so far: JGR cars have been absolutely dominant. From Edwards, Hamlin and Busch to Matt Kenseth, the organization has been pacing the field for a majority of recent races. And there isn’t any signs that this will change any time soon.
However, it’s not just in the races that JGR shines. On Friday at Bristol, all four of the organization’s drivers could be found in the top five in qualifying results. Edwards grabbed the pole, with his teammates in hot pursuit. Then on Sunday…well, you know how that went.
Now it’s time to start thinking about the JGR drivers as serious title threats. Sure, they can win races in the beginning of the season all they want. But it’s winning in the Chase that counts. Can the JGR drivers do that? At this point in the season, it appears as though they can win everywhere, and on any type of track. From the superspeedways, to the mile-and-a-half tracks to the short tracks, it looks like Joe Gibbs might have himself at least one driver primed to make a championship charge. For other drivers and owners, that has to be a frustrating realization.
But for the former Washington Redskins coaching icon, the thought of a second-straight series championship sounds so, so sweet – and at the moment, very realistic.