Saturday, 18 January 2020

NASCAR: Leavine-Toyota enhancement creates 5-car Joe Gibbs Racing team – Beyond the Flag

NASCAR: Leavine-Toyota enhancement creates 5-car Joe Gibbs Racing team – Beyond the Flag
29 Sep

The enhanced technical alliance involving Leavine Family Racing, Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing for the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season has effectively turned Joe Gibbs Racing into a five-car team.

NASCAR Cup Series teams are capped at four full-time cars, but Joe Gibbs Racing are practically a five-car full-time operation for the 2020 season.

Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Erik Jones and Martin Truex Jr. are all set to return to the four-car Joe Gibbs Racing team next season for their third consecutive season as teammates. Meanwhile, Joe Gibbs Racing Xfinity Series superstar Christopher Bell is also set to be promoted to the Cup Series.

Bell is set to drive for Leavine Family Racing, which formed a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing ahead of the 2019 season after switching manufacturers from Chevrolet to Toyota.

The team signed Matt DiBenedetto to drive the #95 Toyota, but DiBenedetto confirmed last month that the team would not retain him for the 2020 season, at which point Bell officially became the lead candidate to drive for the team.

The improvement that DiBenedetto has shown throughout the season driving for Leavine Family Racing in their first season as a Joe Gibbs Racing-aligned team has been quite impressive. In the season’s first 15 races, he recorded a top finish of 12th place and an average finish of 24.47. In the 13 races that have taken place since then, he has recorded six top eight finishes, including a career-high finish of second, and an average finish of 12.77.

But with Bell, Leavine Family Racing could be formidable, and not just because of how elite Bell has proven to be with his series-high 14 Xfinity Series victories since becoming a full-time driver last season.

To put that in perspective, no other driver has won more than seven Xfinity Series races during this time.


Because the technical alliance between Leavine Family Racing, Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing is set to be enhanced ahead of the 2020 season.

According to Toyota Racing Development (TRD) president David Wilson, this enhanced technical alliance will be “akin to what we had between TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing and Furniture Row Racing a couple of years ago”.

Joe Gibbs Racing and Furniture Row Racing had a technical alliance with one another from the 2016 season through the 2018 season, during which time Martin Truex Jr. won 16 races for the now defunct team. The only driver who won more races during this three-year span was Busch, who won 17.

Truex advanced to the Championship 4 in two of these three seasons, and he won the 2017 championship.

Leavine Family Racing aren’t as powerful of a team as Furniture Row Racing were when they formed a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing, but their improvement throughout their first season with the team illustrates that they are ready to take that next step.

Joe Gibbs Racing have won 15 of the 28 races that have been contested so far in the 2019 season — and that’s with only four cars, including three that have combined to win 14 of these 15 races.

Add Bell into the picture in a now heavily Joe Gibbs Racing-affiliated Leavine Family Racing Toyota, and they have effectively turned a powerhouse of a four-car team into an even bigger powerhouse of a five-car team.

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How will Joe Gibbs Racing and Leavine Family Racing fare in the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season in their second season with a technical alliance and their first with that technical alliance being enhanced? What will Christopher Bell accomplish in his first season in the Cup Series?



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