By: Ashley McCubbin
While Denny Hamlin has been successful this season with multiple trips to victory lane, it’s no secret that Joe Gibbs Racing isn’t matching expectations across the board as of right now. After all, Kyle Busch and Erik Jones have yet to win a race with the No. 20 currently outside of the playoffs.
The lack of success is not shed away from, either, as Hamlin recognized that in his sentiments about their year thus far.
“It’s not been a dream season by any means by JGR this year,” he said. “It was a tough team meeting after Texas with Joe (Gibbs). He gave us some motivation to go out there. We needed to get our act together and start winning some races.
“We don’t feel like we’re on top by any means. We still got a lot of work to do. But today was encouraging because we saw all of our cars towards the front. That really is a good sign that you have a bigger box to work with when it comes to the speed in your car.”
It boils down to one thing, according to the driver of the No. 11 Toyota.
“I think we need a little bit of speed, to be honest with you,” he told POPULAR SPEED. “On the restarts, I really had to fend off the Penske cars. They were extremely fast. I really couldn’t hold a lead. Once I did get the lead on a restart, eight laps I’d be passed.
“I just feel like I need some more speed. However I can get that… That’s so many different departments, aerodynamics, motor, it’s all kinds of different things that we need to improve on just slightly and we’ll be right there where we need to be.”
While a bunch of people have wondered if they should hit the panic button, Hamlin does not feel that is the case. After all, he says they typically get better as the year normally goes.
Thus far, the team has only amassed six wins in the 19 events this season, with Hamlin winning five of those while Martin Truex Jr. visited victory lane at Martinsville Speedway.
In contrast, they won 19 of the 36 races last season, with 10 of those wins coming in the first 19 events. For 2018, it was nine victories, with six in the first half of the schedule.
However, when the wins come did not matter those seasons as it was watching their drivers appear in the Championship 4 that made the difference. Taking up three spots with Kyle Busch taking home the title last year certainly is all that is remembered from the 2019 campaign.
So should they hit the panic button? Maybe not quite yet, as Busch is known to be able to get the job done. However, don’t take your hand too far from there if the checkered flag does not wave soon.