Kyle Busch on JGR road struggles: ‘Not our strong suit’


Logan Riley |  fake images

Logan Riley | fake images

The beginning of the Next Gen era can probably be summed up in one quick sentence: everyone is good somewhere; no one is good everywhere.


With wins so far at Richmond Raceway, Kansas Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway and significant speed last weekend at Nashville Superspeedway, as well as a win at the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt race, that doesn’t translate anywhere else, Joe Gibbs Racing can count the shortest to intermediate tracks among those he has scored for 2022.

Road courses, however, tell a different story.

The Toyota-backed organization’s results at Sonoma Raceway, where of the six competitors driving for manufacturer Kurt Busch was the best-placed 18th, speak for themselves. The first road course of the season at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, was not much better, with an average finish of 21.0 between them despite Christopher Bell’s P3.

MORE: Full Sonoma Results | COTA results

“We also struggled at COTA to be honest with raw speed and be able to be good there,” Kyle Busch said in Nashville. “In the early stage of the race, I think we were running eighth, we were fading, Chase Elliott spun me into 12th, you know what I mean? So we weren’t great at COTA either, but we were able to get through some of the restarts and get positions on the guys to get up front. Christopher, I think, was third or fourth. I was right with him on the last lap there. And you know, I felt like with everything that happened on the last lap, we would have had a chance to be in the top two or three, for sure.”

But I would say that both road Course events so far this year were not our strong point. Why did we miss it? I don’t know. If I could answer that, we wouldn’t have a problem, we wouldn’t have been bad. But talking to Martin Truex (Jr.), who tested for us at (Watkins Glen International), he certainly didn’t feel like going to The Glen either. They weren’t very fast there.”

For arguably the top organization of the last decade, this is not typical.

Toyota enjoyed a total of 10 wins last year in the final season for the Gen 6 Cup Series racer, spread across virtually every size and shape of racetrack the tour visits, including Bell’s win at the layout of the Daytona International Speedway road course. Part of what has historically made JGR so exceptional is its apparent ability to dump fast on a weekly basis, regardless of what track you’re racing on that weekend.

The silver lining here for JGR and its sister organization 23XI Racing is that they are not alone: ​​all the teams are fighting the same battle in this regard.

The kind of unpredictable nature for teams almost every weekend so far may just be a product of the huge increase in parity across the board that was part of the intent in developing Next Gens.

“A little bit. I would also say the (Team) Penske guys weren’t good at Kansas,” Busch said. “They’ve been super strong on the flatter tracks. They’re very fast at Martinsville, Phoenix. They’ve been good. at Gateway. …it seems like these teams or organizations are good at these particular tracks. And I think as we all continue to learn and grow, the good teams are going to be the good teams everywhere. But you know, it’s a little patchy on this moment just by gaining an understanding around this car.”

With five of its drivers currently on the right side of the playoff bubble and three of them provisionally locked in with their respective victories, there’s no need to sound alarm bells just yet, but the road thing is something that Toyota would like to treat. have been fixed in the next few weeks.

The Cup Series will turn left and right on three weekends over the next two months as the regular season wraps up, beginning with Sunday’s Kwik Trip 250 presented by JOCKEY Made in America at Road America (3 p.m. ET, USA Network, MRN, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio).

MORE: Complete Cup Series schedule

However, if those three races don’t produce the solutions and finishes that JGR, 23XI and Toyota are looking for, it might be time to break a sweat.

The final road course of the season is perhaps the most unpredictable, with the most pressure and implications: the Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Busch, Bell and Denny Hamlin all finished in the top 10 there last year, but at the moment, it seems like a long shot. With the Roval marking the Round of 8 cutoff and calamity could spell catastrophe, you can be sure a lot of emphasis will be placed on Road America, Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s Road Course (July 31) and The Glen (Aug. 21). ).

If there’s any team that has the knowledge, resources and talent to diagnose and correct an issue like this, it’s JGR, but if we’ve learned anything about Next Gen during the first half of the season’s races…it’s not warranty.