Joe Gibbs Racing made a big change ahead of the Cup Series trip to Texas Motor Speedway and swapped pit crews for teams #11 and #18. Now Denny Hamlin has responded.
The veteran driver met with members of the media on September 24 and discussed changes to his team. He explained that two crew members were already on his squad during the 2021 season, so he’s familiar with them. Hamlin also noted that the change could certainly help with some of the consistency concerns.
“Yeah, I mean, it’s definitely hard for these guys,” Hamlin said. “And I hate it because I love their style, the bravado, everything about my 11 team. And you know, sure, they are as important to this tournament as anyone else, but we had to do something different.
“Definitely the results at the end of the day, you know, consistency was tough, but that’s kind of a JGR decision and they felt that was the best way to get the fastest results in the shortest amount of time was just to put an entire team against one person or another.”
The decision came to the qualifiers
Joe Gibbs Racing announced the exchange after the trip to Bristol Motor Speedway. This was the race that marked the end of the Round of 16, and it was the race that eliminated Bosch from the qualifiers.
The driver of the first three races at No. 18 faced surprising issues. Engine issues derailed races in Darlington and Bristol, which dropped him below the cut-off line. Hamlin, by comparison, was able to work his way up to the round of 12.
There were moments during the 2022 season when Hamlin’s team struggled with consistency. There were slow stops, loose wheels, and unexpected penalties that kept him from winning some races where he looked like he was in competition. Switching kits was supposed to eliminate these issues during a pivotal part of the season.
The changes happened before Texas Motor Speedway, and resulted in the old Hamlin team turning to a faster pit stop while working on the #18 Toyota Camry. This helped Busch reach the top 10 during the first stage, but a hard wreck soon after meant their day was over. Bush took #18 to the garage and finished last in the field.
Hamlin shifted into another ranking of the top 10 players
The pit crew swap was a story heading towards Texas Motor Speedway, but it wasn’t yet his first stop of the day. The crew calmly went about their business and came to a hard stop during the race that featured 16 record-breaking warnings, most of which were due to inflated tires.
Hamlin owned a fast stock car, and used it to secure the second most points during the first stage. He then put himself in a position to fight for victory during the final stage, but lost nearly 12 positions after William Byron deliberately chased him through the infield turf.
Hamlin was able to recover after this trip, as well as a close call later on the stage. He made his way past some of the other drivers and eventually finished 10th in the race. He wasn’t able to fight for the win, but he left Texas eight points off the cut-off line instead of just four.
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