Monday, April 23, 2012

Toyota Hits the Exacta at Kansas with Hamlin and Truex Jr

by David Newton

Truex Jr run more impressive than Hamlin's win? (Getty)
KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- While Denny Hamlin celebrated Sunday's Sprint Cup win at Kansas Speedway in Victory Lane, Joe Gibbs Racing president J.D. Gibbs stood on pit road by the second-place car. Gibbs was commiserating with Michael Waltrip Racing general manager Ty Norris and MWR crew members over what happened to the 56 car, which dominated until the final 30 laps. Gibbs was looking for a path past reporters to pat driver Martin Truex Jr. on the back, just as if Truex drove for his team.

It's not totally unusual for team executives to make such a gesture after a race, particularly when they work with the same manufacturer, but it seemed unusual in this case. After all, Gibbs has been hearing for weeks how MWR has caught -- or maybe passed -- JGR as the top Toyota team.

And if everyone was honest, until late last season JGR appeared to look at MWR as the weak sister, a Toyota brethren in name only. There wasn't much sharing, and there certainly wasn't much sympathy for a MWR car being a close second.

Hamlin was almost apologetic Sunday, talking about how he would love to see one of Michael Waltrip's cars win.

 "At the end, it's a no-lose situation for myself because I'm a fan of Martin's and I'm a fan of Michael Waltrip, and they've really done some great things with that program," Hamlin said.

Mark it down. This was big. Maybe bigger than the win was for Hamlin. It symbolized the bond that JGR and MWR have formed to help them compete for a championship against Hendrick Motorsports and Roush Fenway Racing.

It showed that six crew chiefs and six drivers, as HMS has with Stewart-Haas Racing and Roush has had with Richard Petty Motorsports, are better than three. It showed a commitment among Toyota teams never seen before.

Read MORE of Netwon's article here... 

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