The 2014 ride has been bumpy for the Joe Gibbs Racing trio. Matt Kenseth- after winning seven last season- is oh-for-2014. Denny Hamlin has a win and a wild card spot, but he’s a very un-Hamlin-like 20th in the points- and a race-by-graph of his season would look like a roller coaster, with good races followed by bad ones. It’s been a summer of sorrow for Kyle Busch. He holds the other wild card spot, but look at his recent finishes: 42nd, 4oth, 39th and 36th.
Atlanta comes at a good time for Kenseth, Kyle and Hambone. Among active drivers, all three are among the top ten in driver rating at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Busch has visited victory lane twice at AMS, and has four top fives and five top tens for good measure in 14 starts. Hamlin has chalked up a win, two top fives and five top tens in 14 races. Kenseth has never won in the Peach Tree State, but in 25 AMS races, Matt the Brat has eight top fives and 14 top tens- not exceptional numbers, but quite respectable.
Busch and Hamlin are all but in the Chase, but even their detractors will admit both are getting results far below their considerable talents. No one wants to go into the Chase stumbling, and a win would provide a boost in their Chase seeding AND provide a nice boost of badly needed momentum.
Kenseth ranks tops among winless drivers at appears somewhat safe. His comment that he hadn’t envisioned remaining winless after 24 races speaks a great deal about the disappointment the campaign has been, generally speaking.
While he has a reputation for being mercurial, it’s hard to blame Busch for his outbursts over the car radio. A number of his problems are not of his doing. Ditto for Hamlin, who fell victim to a miscue by Kevin Harvick at Bristol. Kenseth’s team is showing signs of life, and among the three, looks well poised to win at Atlanta.
Now if they can just keep their cars together.