When Matt Kenseth made the move to Joe Gibbs Racing, many were not sure if it would even work. Those questions were answered on Sunday when Kenseth pulled into victory lane.
It has been a while since that car and that team has seen consistent success. Joey Logano tried to fill the shoes of Tony Stewart, but high expectations and low results saw Logano’s exit the best option for everyone.
Kenseth, though is low key. Only in the waning laps like on Sunday do you hear the anxiety in his voice. There are still things to be worked out in terms of the team’s communication. Their win on Sunday though was big for this team and this organization.
Kenseth’s teammates in Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin both will have plenty of success this season but for Kenseth getting this first win early in the season was huge. "I'm not a huge goal person, but my goal was to win, and to win early," Kenseth said.
JGR has shown a lot of speed early on this season. They have had the fastest cars on most weekends but they had yet to find victory lane.
Engines woes are still a worry especially on the larger tracks. It is something that Hamlin spoke about at Phoenix but he noted it would not impact how he races. “The drivers will not change any way that they drive to try to help reliability because if we do that, then we're altering our chances to win, and we're not going to do that,” Hamlin said.
If those issues can be fixed and with the sheer speed these cars have on a week to week basis, all three drivers from JGR should make the Chase, and all will be factors.
Kenseth will lead this organization. He’s a leader in every sense of the word. His veteran experience will be a huge benefit for an organization that hasn’t had a veteran driver since Tony Stewart.
Hamlin and Busch will reap the benefits from Kenseth joining them at JGR. The information he gathers is invaluable and the way he likes his cars is similar to Hamlin.
For Kenseth, Sunday’s win was a validation of the move to JGR. From the outside, the move has already paid off for JGR. Now with his first win behind him the pressure is off.
"Nobody has put any pressure on me except for myself, but I also know that Coach hired me to come in there, climb in that car and win races. You certainly want to do that, and you don't want to disappoint people. I'm glad we got a win, but it's still only Week 3. I feel like this is the beginning" Kenseth said.
Kenseth hopes to bring Coach Gibbs his first title since Stewart.