Monday, April 1, 2013

Strange Bedfellows at JGR

Brian Vickers
There must be something about Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) that makes for strange bedfellows.

It’s now apparent there was no love between teammates when Joey Logano was at JGR along with Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin.  A war of words – tweets really – erupted between Logano and Hamlin following this year’s Daytona 500 and eventually led to crashing and bashing between the two at Bristol and then California, with Hamlin getting the worst of it.  As a result, Hamlin will be watching for the next five weeks while recovering from a broken back after he tangled with Logano at Cali.

With Hamlin sidelined, JGR turned first to Mark Martin to drive the No. 11 FedEx car in his place.  In fact, Martin will be in the car this weekend at Martinsville.  But a plan for him to run the rest of the races Hamlin will miss was quashed by Martin’s regular sponsor at Michael Waltrip Racing.  Maybe it was all those commercials Aaron’s has paid for starring Martin.  Hmmm.  Go figure.  Anyway, Martin will back in the Aaron’s car after Martinsville.

That moved Brian Vickers into the seat.  Vickers drives for JGR on the Nationwide circuit and has been a Toyota driver since the manufacturer entered Sprint Cup.

Here’s where it gets interesting.  Vickers has a history with another of JGR’s Cup drivers, Matt Kenseth, who joined the team this year.  But back in 2011, Vickers was driving for Red Bull and Kenseth for Jack Roush. 

The drivers ran into each other at the Martinsville fall race.  Many times.  Kenseth, who was within striking distance of the championship leader Carl Edwards at the time, got frustrated trying to pass Vickers and eventually spun him.  Vickers vowed revenge and got it later at Phoenix, dumping Kenseth late in the race and basically ending any hope Kenseth had the Sprint Cup title.

Here’s what Kenseth said at the time.

"When we had our problem at Martinsville, it was heat of the moment and he hit me eight or nine times and [I hit him] once.  Hindsight, I should have let him go and left him alone, because you realize who he is and what he is and all that ... I would never sit down there and wait for somebody and take a cheap shot like that. You can hurt someone like that, and that isn't sportsmanlike and that isn't something I would do."

Both drivers now say the past is past.  Here’s Vickers in a recent interview with ESPN.

"That definitely wasn't one of my prouder moments. It's kind of like what happened at the end of last year with Jeff and Clint. There's usually something else bothering you that leads to it. I just had a lot of frustration with things happening.”

We'll see.  Being teammates doesn't necessarily mean nothing will happen.  Ask Kenseth about Edwards.  Ask Jimmie Johnson about Vickers.

We'll see. 

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