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Season of frustration mounting at Gibbs

Season of frustration mounting at Gibbs

Season of frustration mounting at Gibbs
May 29, 2007

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -Tony Stewart made outrageous remarks on his radio show and teammate Denny Hamlin openly criticized his team's performance. Controversial at the time, both incidents now seem rather tame considering how frustrated the two must be.

The Joe Gibbs Racing teammates should probably have a combined six victories this season, but instead are winless through 12 events.

And after both came up empty at Lowe's Motor Speedway on Sunday, when their gas tanks nearly went dry and they each had to relinquish the lead for a splash of fuel, it's a wonder they didn't implode.

The record book will forever show that Hendrick Motorsports won the first nine races of the season. Because there is no stat for races lost - something Stewart and Hamlin have seemingly perfected this year - it will never show that JGR has been just as good as Hendrick so far.

Hendrick drivers have made an art this season of leading the only lap that counts, a practice that has led to five straight wins - nine of 10 overall.

Gibbs drivers, meanwhile, have mastered the art of dominating the meaningless part of the races. Stewart and Hamlin have combined to lead 1,259 laps this season, and they've got absolutely nothing to show for it.

``Sitting where we're at right now, it seems like everything is stacked against us,'' said Greg Zipadelli, Stewart's crew chief. ``There's probably four or five we could've won easily this year and things just didn't go our way.''

Stewart was on pace to win the season-opening Daytona 500, but a fluke crash with Kurt Busch knocked him out of the race. He dominated for 35 laps, but finished 43rd. He was gracious in defeat, though, chalking it up as one of them racin' deals as he left the track with the race still roaring around him.

He was less than thrilled three races later, when he led 121 laps at Atlanta but debris cautions kept eating up his lead. And when Jimmie Johnson passed him for the win following a late pit stop, Stewart expressed his frustration with an obscene gesture.

Bristol the next week was brutal for Stewart. Nobody could touch him there - well, not until mechanical issues took him out of contention. He led 257 laps, but finished 35th and was testy on the radio as he coaxed his car home - a sure sign that all these near-misses were really beginning to bug him.

It festered into Phoenix, where those pesky debris cautions again cost him a shot at the win after leading 132 laps. Two days later, he blasted NASCAR on his national radio show and compared the sport to professional wrestling.

Stewart had been relatively quiet in the month since then, which paved the way for his teammate to take over.

Hamlin could have won Bristol after Stewart fell off the pace, but after leading 177 laps, a late mechanical problem dropped him to 10th. His pit crew blundered on pit road a week later in Martinsville, costing him a shot at running for the win after leading 125 laps.

Hamlin himself lost the race the next week in Phoenix, taking himself out of contention by speeding on pit road. And Darlington? Well, that race was his until another crew mistake sent him spiraling backward in track position.

It brought both drivers into Charlotte aching for a win, and in the closing laps of the 600, it appeared one of them would finally lead the only lap that really matters.

But neither had enough fuel in the tank to make it to the finish and each pulled off the track for a splash of gas that cost them the win. In a bittersweet twist, third teammate J.J. Yeley had plenty of gas and drove his way to a career-best second place finish. Stewart settled for sixth, Hamlin was a disappointing ninth, and both were pretty bitter about it.

``Very frustrating,'' Hamlin said. ``We had the best car at the end. We just didn't have the right fuel tank. We just couldn't afford to come in and top-off like some of those guys did and they lucked out and got a good finish.''

Stewart had no explanation to offer.

``I don't know I'm just a driver. I don't calculate fuel,'' he snapped.

Both drivers now head to Dover, Del., this weekend long overdue. In a sport where momentum is everything and wins now have championship implications, neither can afford to get down about their difficulties.

This upcoming stretch can make or break a season, as Stewart learned last year when a summer slump cost him a spot in the Chase for the championship.

But Gibbs officials think their time is coming, and it won't be too long before they've pushed Hendrick aside.

``The good news is we've got good cars,'' said team president J.D. Gibbs. ``The bad news is we're shooting ourselves in the foot. But I'd much rather be dealing with this issue than with cars running 25th every week.

``We'll work through this.''

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Re: Season of frustration mounting at Gibbs

Stewart is due for a blow up anytime now.  ;D

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Re: Season of frustration mounting at Gibbs

Gibbs will win soon, right?
by Steve Waid

For while there, I looked like a genius.

I had been telling folks who bothered to listen that Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin would have good runs at Pocono. In fact, I said it wouldn’t surprise me if either one of them won the race.

Prior to Pocono, Stewart and Hamlin had done everything but win a race. As has been noted often, they could have had as many as six victories between them.

Because of episodes ranging from mechanical failures to pit road mistakes, neither one of them has been able to pull off a victory.

But surely that couldn’t continue, and Pocono was as good a place as any to change the trend. After all, Hamlin swept Pocono last year in his first two visits to the 2.5-mile track.

For both of them, things were looking pretty good – for a while. Hamlin, who started on the outside of the front row, was particularly strong. He was at the point for most of the race’s early going, at times with Stewart not far off his rear bumper.

But under a caution on lap 65, both of them pitted, although Stewart flirted with the idea of staying on the track. But he decided to play it safe. Hamlin’s team adopted a conservative strategy and took on four tires.

Routine stuff for a race that still had 135 laps to go. Unfortunately for Stewart and Hamlin, it didn’t last that long.

Rain ended the race after 106 laps – just past halfway – and Jeff Gordon emerged the winner.

Stewart finished fifth, Hamlin sixth.

Both of them, especially Hamlin, felt they had Chevrolets capable of winning the race. But once again, they were thwarted by circumstances.

Pocono was the fourth race in which a Gibbs driver has led the most laps.

Gibbs drivers have led the second-most laps in six races. Hamlin has led 661 laps this year; Stewart 650.

Alas, when it comes to a victory, well, it ain’t happened yet.

But it will. I mean, this sort of thing just can’t continue – can it?

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