JGR drivers focus on balancing teamwork with chasing Sprint Cup title

As Jimmie Johnson drove away from the field at Martinsville Speedway last Sunday, and specifically the three Joe Gibbs Racing drivers, Kyle Busch said on his radio that they ‘let the No. 48 car beat us.’

That incident sparked discussion post-race about how all four of the JGR cars operate on the track when they’re racing each other and if they were being too nice by not moving each other out of the way at the paperclip when Matt Kenseth and Busch seemed faster than teammate Denny Hamlin in the closing laps of the race.

While tempers were high following the race, things have cooled down almost a week later as the drivers prepare to race in the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

“You express those frustrations and I guess for me it would have been best to talk to my teammates first and kind of figure out what concept was there and the whole idea to what happened,” Busch said in a press conference Friday. “Looking back on it now, we have to focus forward and make sure we all try to work together best we can because we know the reason we are in this predicament is because of our teamwork and our relationships and our comradery that we have at the race shop.”

Matt Kenseth echoed the same feels as his teammate in the No. 18 did.

“Our teamwork at Joe Gibbs Racing is second to none,” Kenseth said. “I’ve had a lot of great teammates through my career but never any better than now. Everyone is really competitive.

“Our goal was to have all four cars at Homestead but now there’s only three spots left. We all realize when they drop the green on Sunday then it’s one against 39 and we have to get the best finish for our respective teams.”

Understanding that line in the sand was something that appeared to be cloudy for the JGR drivers after Martinsville, but based on what they said this week, they understand what they need to do.

“I think being a good teammate is working hard during the week and during practice, sharing what you learn throughout practice, sharing information on the car,” Kenseth said about what makes a good teammate in NASCAR today. “We’re trying to help each other and all of that, but we realize on Sunday that’s what the sport was built on is one guy against everybody else trying to win.”

Edwards, who wasn’t in the thick of the turmoil at the end of the Martinsville race because a tire issue that forced him out of the race early, he believes that the four JGR drivers have raced each other hard all season.

"If you go back and watch through the year, we race each other hard,” Edwards said. “There’s teamwork as much as there can be, but we race each other very hard. You’re going to have times when people are frustrated. What we have as a group is something very special.”

This isn’t the first time that JGR drivers have had issues. Edwards and Busch had a disagreement about how hard they raced each other as Kevin Harvick went to Victory Lane. Last week, it appeared they didn’t race each other hard enough as Johnson won.

While everything seems fine after a practice session on Saturday, it seems like there’s a pretty good chance that the JGR cars aren’t done stepping on each other’s toes as they all try to win the 2016 Sprint Cup championship.