One of the biggest talking points this week was how every commentator believed Hendrick Motorsports to be the best team in the Cup Series right now, with little to no debate. It seemed to be all but decided that Hendrick was a dominant force this year. I guess having two drivers win the first four races of the year will help you jump to conclusions.
Martin Truex Jr. getting his first win yesterday at Pheonix also gives Joe Gibbs Racing two wins on the season to tie Hendrick on the year. Even before this race, analysts were ridiculously underrating JGR. Three of the four drivers are championship contenders and while Christopher Bell isn’t in that class yet he’s driving at a level on par with all the drivers at Hendrick.
Just to compare:
Top Fives: 5
Top Tens: 11
Average Finish: 13.9
Average Standings Position: 9.3
Joe Gibbs Racing:
Top Fives: 8
Top Tens: 12
Average Finish: 10.7
Average Standings Position: 7
Each of these two teams has outlier drivers in Alex Bowman and Kyle Busch. Each of them has been having bad years so far, the only difference is one has earned the right to work out his rough stretch. Busch is going to eventually find his way out of this slump, but Bowman has not proven to be a consistent threat.
Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin are arguably 1 and 2 in any power rankings that you could create. While Hamlin has yet to win a race this year, he is averaging a 5th place finish on the season and leading the Cup standings.
While Kyle Larson is leading the way for HMS, he’s still just below both Truex and Hamlin in my opinion on performance as a whole. Chase Elliott is having a good year, but he hasn’t truly caught his footing on the season yet. It’s coming, nothing to worry about for Elliott Nation, but as it pertains to this specific argument, he’s not there at this point yet in the season.
Christopher Bell and William Byron are having almost identical seasons so far, but Bell has a small advantage on his performance. He has a slight advantage in every category, sitting 8th in the standings while Byron is in 9th; but Bell has an average finish of 10.6 where Byron’s is 15.2.
The true strength of JGR comes from the fact that right now they have two guys running at a championship-caliber pace, and another who could breakthrough at any moment. Kyle Larson is the only HMS driver currently running at that level. We know Elliott will be a factor in the championship as the year goes on, but I don’t expect Byron or Bowman to be there this year.
When looking at the full body of work of each team, there is no doubt that JGR is currently the powerhouse of the Cup Series. An argument could be made that even before Truex’s win they were at least on par with Hendrick.