Consider, for a moment, this piece of speculation:
Joe Gibbs Racing has a new lineup for the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season and that might, just might, be the catalyst that brings the team its first championship since 2005.
Incidentally, that title was won by Tony Stewart, which was followed by the dominance of Jimmie Johnson, who ran the table for the next five consecutive years.
Ironically, it was Stewart that broke Johnson’s stranglehold in 2011, but he was no longer with Gibbs. He has his own organization, Stewart Haas Racing.
While it is very true that Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports held sway for five years – and Stewart Haas turned the trick in 2011 – no one can say that during that time the Gibbs organization had been a doormat. Hardly.
With multiple drivers it won 57 races. It had at least one driver in the Chase, often more.
Good stuff. But then, there is the thought that this year, that good stuff could be even better.
There’s a new Gibbs lineup for 2013 and it features veteran drivers, including one who has already won a championship and two others who – let’s face it – should have.
Matt Kenseth moves over from Roush Fenway Racing to Gibbs and joins established drivers Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch.
Gone is Joey Logano, the youngster who raced with Gibbs for four seasons. He’s settled in at Penske Racing.
With absolutely no disdain for Logano – a winner who will win again at Penske – for him to be replaced by Kenseth simply creates an older, more experienced, seasoned Gibbs lineup.
It’s one that matches, oh, say, the Hendrick squad of Johnson, Gordon, Kahne and Earnhardt Jr.
Which would seem to bode well for JGR.
Why? Kenseth has something to do with it.
“I think that when I started winning multiple times in the course of a year, it started when Kyle came over in 2008,” said Hamlin, who finished sixth in the final 2012 point standings. “He pushed me. I remember going to a test and him pushing me to be faster. I was like, ‘He knows my game.’
“And I think Matt is going to do something very similar to that for our race team. We’ve never had all three cars running good at the same time. We’ve always had one team that would struggle and another would be running up front and maybe two up front at the most.
“So, I think we’re going to have all three cars in the Chase and we’re going to have a very, very good year as far as Joe Gibbs Racing is concerned.”
Busch would agree. Fact is, his 2012 campaign with Gibbs was hardly reflective of what he had done earlier. He won only once and failed to make the Chase, giving way to Jeff Gordon at Richmond in September.
Prior to last season, Busch and Hamlin combined to earn 42 of Gibbs’ 57 victories since 2005.
“We just need some luck on our side,” said Busch, who won eight races in 2008, matched by Hamlin in 2010. “Realistically, most times you win a championship you have to have it all together. You have to have good equipment. You have to be a good, smart racer. You have to have your crew chief making good calls, but you also have to have some racing luck go your way.
“You look at the Chase last year – Brad Keselowski had some racing luck. He missed my wreck at Kansas. He missed the wreck that Gordon and (Clint) Bowyer were in right there at Phoenix and some other instances also.
“You’ve got to have some of that go your way in order to win these things and it’s not something that you can control. It’s just a matter of the racing gods looking down on you.”
That may be true. But then, luck aside, how does the addition of Kenseth, for Busch, affect performance?
“Matt’s a great competitor and I’ve known him for years,” Busch said. “Now that it gets to be more on track, we get to work with one another. Matt’s really good at the feel of the car and explaining the car and things like that.
“Hopefully, he can really tell us what some of the significant differences are from the Roush stuff to the Gibbs stuff, which has been good so far.
“We’ve had some communications about that here since we’ve had a couple test sessions and I can only look forward to working with him throughout the race weekends.”
Both Hamlin and Busch made it abundantly clear Kenseth’s experience should be of immense value to Gibbs, especially in terms of technological improvement.
Which means there would appear to be a sizable burden on Kenseth’s shoulders – it seems he has to make Gibbs better.
He thinks he can.
“The goal after you win a championship is to always win another championship,” said Kenseth, the 2002 champion who won 24 races with Roush and was seventh in the 2012 standings.
“I was really intrigued by this opportunity when it came up for a whole bunch of reasons. One of them I felt like was, I wasn’t starting a fourth team, I wasn’t starting with a crew chief that has never done it.
I wasn’t starting with someone who has never been over the wall. It is an established team that has won races and has won championships.
“I felt like I was putting myself in the best position I could to win races and hopefully run for a championship.
“I always feel like you help each other as much as you can during the off-season, you help each other as much as you can throughout the weekend and once the green drops on Sunday, it’s one against 42.
“I really think you help each other as much as you can during a week testing, try to learn from them and help them, do all that stuff. Then you try to put the best three race cars on the race track every week.”
Given the numbers it would appear Gibbs is indeed in a position to put its best three race cars on the track every week.
And men who know how to win and contend for a championship will drive those cars.
Of course, that guarantees nothing.
But it does indeed suggest tremendous potential.