NASCAR & Auto Racing

Joe Gibbs Racing sits at head of NASCAR Sprint Cup class

Kyle Busch with the checkered flag after winning the the Duck Commander 500 on April 10 Texas Motor Speedway. It was one of Busch’s three victories this season for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Kyle Busch with the checkered flag after winning the the Duck Commander 500 on April 10 Texas Motor Speedway. It was one of Busch’s three victories this season for Joe Gibbs Racing.

As NASCAR’s Sprint Cup season nears its halfway point, here’s a report card on the sport’s most prominent teams:

A Joe Gibbs Racing

The Gibbs team really hasn’t missed a beat after Kyle Busch won the last year’s Sprint Cup championship. JGR’s four drivers have won nearly half (7) of the season’s 15 races (Busch, 3; Carl Edwards, 2; Denny Hamlin, 1; Matt Kenseth, 1). The bench is deep, too, with Daniel Suarez (Xfinity) and 18-year-old William Byron (who drives for Busch’s Truck team) having excellent seasons.

A- Furniture Row Racing

Martin Truex Jr. won in dominating fashion at Charlotte, all but clinching Furniture Row another spot in the Chase. Not bad for a one-team outfit based in Denver, far from NASCAR’s hub in Charlotte.

B+ Stewart-Haas Racing

Any team featuring the ever-consistent Kevin Harvick (one victory and the points leader) is always going to be in good shape. But Kurt Busch is also having an outstanding season after winning at Pocono. Danica Patrick continues to be a non-factor and owner-driver Tony Stewart is struggling through his final season as a Cup driver.

B+ Wood Brothers

This iconic team, making its return to full-time racing, has put together a solid season behind rookie Ryan Blaney, who is 16th in points. It’s a non-charter team, however, which means Blaney and his No. 21 Ford isn’t guaranteed a spot in the field each week.

B Team Penske

Brad Keselowski already has two victories and Joey Logano, who won a Cup-high six races last season, finally won last week at Michigan. Logano, it seems, could be ready to break out this season.

C+ Hendrick Motorsports

Jimmie Johnson (two victories) and rookie Chase Elliott (six top-five finishes) are doing their part to help Hendrick try to keep pace with the sport’s other super teams — Gibbs and Penske. But a disappointing season by Dale Earnhardt Jr., who has yet to win, and the continuing decline of Kasey Kahne are holding the Hendrick team back.

C+ Chip Ganassi Racing

Ganassi’s Kyle Larson continues to be one of the best-who-have-never won drivers, and he keeps getting closer. But his No. 42 Chevy failed postrace inspection after finishing third at Michigan, docking him 15 points and dropping him to 21st in the standings. Jamie McMurray, in the meantime, is headed for another Chase berth (14th).

C+ Richard Childress Racing

Austin Dillon is on target for a Chase spot (12th in the standings) and has three top-fives. Ryan Newman, steady and unspectacular as always, is doing just enough (15th) to make the Chase, but his season’s best is just a seventh at Kansas.

C Roush Fenway Racing

A second consecutive ho-hum season is well underway for Roush Fenway, which didn’t have a driver in the postseason last year for the first time in Chase history. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (tied for 19th in points) is the best hope to get the team back in the Chase.

C JTG Daugherty Racing

AJ Allmendinger, this Harrisburg-based team’s only driver, was as high as 12th in points after finishing second at Martinsville. He’s dropped to 19th, but he’s a road-course ace and Sonoma and Watkins Glen are coming up.

D Richard Petty Motorsports

No victories, or even anything close, for Aric Almirola or rookie Brian Scott.

On the grid

Sprint Cup

Save Mart 350

2 p.m. Sunday, Sonoma, Calif.

Track: Sonoma Raceway, a 1.99-mile road course in Sonoma, Calif.

Distance: 110 laps/219 miles

TV: FS1. (Friday’s practice, 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., Saturday’s qualifying, 1:15 p.m., FS1)

Other races

Drivin’ For Linemen 200: Camping World Truck Series, Gateway Motorsports Park, Madison, Ill., 7:30 p.m., Saturday, FS1

Summit Racing Equipment Nationals: NHRA, Summit Motorsports Park, Norfolk, Ohio. (TV: FS1, 7 p.m. Friday; 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. Sunday)

Worth mentioning

Kyle Busch’s victory last year at Sonoma was the first in a remarkable run after he returned from an injury that saw him miss the first 11 races. … He went on to win the Cup championship.