2008 Team Reviews: You Gibbs Yourself Away

What Happened: A manufacturer switch from Chevy also-ran to Toyota’s Top Dog reaped great horespower for the three Gibbs cars. It was evident from the first weekend at Daytona where Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart all shared time at the front. Kyle Busch enjoyed a dominant regular season in his first year with Gibbs, winning 8 Cup races and leading the points for almost the entire summer. Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart both won races and made the Chase. Tony Stewart also announced a deal to move to Haas Racing in 2009 to become part-owner, ending a ten year run Cup with Gibbs.

What Went Well: The jump to Toyota was mutually beneficial for both parties. Gibbs’ engine builder Mark Cronquist improved all of the Camry teams’ fortunes by supplying more power. For Gibbs it was a chance to break away from the logjam of top teams at Chevy. Busch’s season was a dream for the first 26 races. Not only did he win lots of races, he managed to improve his public image beyond an immature malcontent. While losing Stewart was a surprise and will be hard to replace, at least Gibbs has a ready-made phenom in Joey Logano to try and replace him.

What Went Wrong: Stewart and Hamlin both ran very well at times during 2008 but never found the consistency that Busch enjoyed. Then in the Chase all three cars found trouble, especially Busch who enjoyed a disastrous Chase filled with parts failures, engine woes and bad finishes. Busch had 4 finishes worse than 15th in the first 26 races and then matched that number in the final ten. In his limited Cup exposure Logano struggled (2 DNQ’s, no finish better than 32nd).

The Current State:

Like almost every year JGR sits in really good shape. They have three young drivers with fully sponsored cars. Toyota will almost certainly be even more dominant in 2009 in lieu of the other manufacturer’s struggles and Gibbs will again lead that line. Stewart is an immense loss to the organization, but if you are trying to replace a legend then you might as well try to find the next superstar of the sport.”