MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Joe Gibbs Racing, which dominated the first half of the 2016 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, is winless in five races to start the current season.
So is Hendrick Motorsports, the juggernaut that carried Jimmie Johnson to his record-tying seventh championship last year.
Instead, Kyle Larson delivered Chip Ganassi Racing its second victory in as many years last Sunday at Auto Club Speedway, and Ryan Newman broke a 127-race drought with his strategic win at Phoenix International Raceway.
But don’t think for a minute that Busch is worried heading into Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway (2 p.m. ET on FS1).
“I don’t think it should be alarming,” Busch said on Friday at Martinsville, where he broke through with his first victory at the track in last year’s spring race. “I think it’s probably a good thing, to be honest with you. There needs to be more parity in our sport. There needs to be other teams that have the opportunity to get up there and run well and win races.
“You see RCR (Richard Childress Racing) has done that (with Newman). You see Ganassi has done that. Those would be two teams that probably haven’t won in the last couple years. I know Larson won a race last year, but not regularly, let’s say, like the JGR bunch or the HMS bunch. Our time is coming. We know that. We’ll turn our program around. We’ll get it up to speed to where we need to.”
Busch has acknowledged that JGR perhaps hasn’t kept up with other Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams in adapting to the new lower-downforce aerodynamic package introduced full-time this season.
“I think we’re playing a little bit of catch up right now, to be honest with you,” Busch said. “We do have great partners with the guys at Furniture Row that have been running really good. They’ve been strong and up front each week.
“They have been helping us as well, getting our program to where we believe we know it can be. They’ve shown us. They’ve had the potential each week. We just have to get there with ourselves.”
Three drivers who already have won races this season were the three fastest in Saturday’s first practice. Atlanta winner Brad Keselowski topped the speed chart at 94.406 mph, followed by Phoenix winner Ryan Newman and Las Vegas winner Martin Truex Jr…
Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Daniel Suárez, who backed his No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota into the Turn 3 wall in Friday’s opening practice, had trouble getting his backup car up to speed on Saturday morning. Suarez ran 75 laps in Saturday’s first session and was 34th fastest at 92.056 mph…
In warmer conditions during final practice, Keselowski was fourth fastest behind Clint Bowyer, who led the session at 93.863 mph, Kyle Busch (93.567 mph) and Jamie McMurray (93.530 mph). Suárez improved to 25th in Happy Hour with a top lap at 92.312 mph.