Joe Gibbs Racing closing in on Hendrick’s star power

08/20/2014 5:47 PM

11/12/2014 9:44 PM

Hendrick Motorsports has the most star power of any team in NASCAR. Nobody, it seemed, would even be in that conversation for years to come.

It’s hard to compete with a team that boasts the most popular driver (Dale Earnhardt Jr.), a six-time champion (Jimmie Johnson) and a four-time champion (Jeff Gordon). There is a slight drop off with the fourth driver, Kasey Kahne, who has had a good, not great, career so far.

But that team will now have some company.

Joe Gibbs Racing certainly put itself in the conversation when it announced Tuesday that Carl Edwards would be joining its Sprint Cup team in 2015. It’s a significant move within the industry and gives JGR an impressive lineup.

Edwards joins Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin to form a team that stacks up with Hendrick Motorsports. They might not have the same credentials of the Hendrick drivers, but they are still four of the more recognizable faces of the sport.

“This is one of the biggest days in Joe Gibbs Racing’s history,” said Joe Gibbs, founder and owner of JGR. “To be able to bring a driver the caliber of Carl Edwards on board to launch our fourth team is just a thrill.”

Edwards, whose new car will be sponsored by a telecommunications company called Arris, told reporters that it was nice to have the move made publicly. The rumblings of it had grown recently.

More important, though, is that Edwards joins a team that has had a track record of success. He leaves a team, Roush Fenway Racing, which has seen a decline in its competitiveness since Kenseth left after the 2012 season and appears to be in a rebuilding stage.

RFR announced earlier this summer that it would move Trevor Bayne into a full-time Sprint Cup ride, along with Greg Biffle and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. That appeared to foreshadow this eventual move by Edwards.

Edwards will now be reunited with Kenseth, who won seven races in his inaugural JGR season last year.

“To be honest, Matt’s success over here — that was a big eye-opener for me,” Edwards said. “It just felt like it was time to change.”

Edwards said his goal is to win championships. He was runner-up in 2008 and 2011, and joins a group of other drivers searching for their first title.

But JGR has had a championship history. Tony Stewart won two of his three titles when he was with the team. Bobby Labonte also won one.

Along with the Edwards announcement, JGR said that Daniel Suarez will join the organization to drive full-time in the Nationwide Series.

TMS tickets

Tickets for the AAA Texas 500 tripleheader weekend Oct. 30-Nov. 2 at TMS went on sale last week. They start at $30 for adults and $10 for children. The truck series race, as well as Sprint Cup qualifying, will take place Friday; the Nationwide Series race is scheduled for Saturday; and the Sprint Cup race is Sunday.

Series updates

Sprint Cup

Stewart skipping Bristol: Tony Stewart will not race Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway, the third Sprint Cup race he’s skipped since his car struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr. during a sprint car race. Jeff Burton will once again replace Stewart in the No. 14 Chevrolet. Burton also drove Stewart’s car at Michigan last week. Stewart has been in seclusion since the Aug. 8 incident at an upstate New York dirt track.

Camping World Trucks

Wednesday’s UNOH 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway was rained out and will be run today at 9 a.m. The race will be televised on FOX Sports 1. Kyle Busch, the defending race winner, won the Keystone Light Pole Award for the race. Entering the race, he has four wins at Thunder Valley in the eight career Truck Series starts at the track.

Quotable

“No matter how many times I go to Bristol Motor Speedway, I still get goose bumps. Bristol has a different type of atmosphere. It really does feel like you are a gladiator fighting in the last standing coliseum. Bristol is not only one of my favorite race tracks, but it is also where I won my first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. To this day, when interviewers ask do I have a favorite win, my response is always, ‘How can I not say my first win is my favorite win?’ I’m excited to be back at Bristol this weekend.” — Elliott Sadler, driver of the No. 11 Toyota in the Nationwide Series

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