Team Preview: Joe Gibbs Racing

Joe Gibbs Racing

An offseason of changes has Joe Gibbs Racing hoping for better results in 2012. (Photo: Getty Images)

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MotorRacingNetwork.com counts down to the start of the NASCAR portion of Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway with a series of team previews. Next up is a look at Joe Gibbs Racing.

An offseason of changes has Joe Gibbs Racing hoping for better results in 2012.

Despite seeing two of its drivers make the Chase, JGR wound up with an ultimately disappointing season that prompted crew chief changes with two of its three teams.

Mike Ford and Greg Zipadelli have both left the team with Darian Grubb coming to crew chief for Denny Hamlin and Jason Ratcliff elevated from JGR's Nationwide Series program to work with Joey Logano. While Dave Rogers returns to guide Kyle Busch, team president J.D. Gibbs believes the overall shake-up will reap benefits this season.

"Look we didn't perform the way we'd have liked last year in a variety of ways," Gibbs said. "But we didn't think we needed to completely start over and tear everything down. The core of this race team is very solid and for us these changes will only help us get stronger we hope for 2012."

After guiding Tony Stewart to last year's title, Grubb found himself dismissed from Stewart-Haas Racing. He quickly landed with JGR and is enthused about the next chapter in his career and helping Hamlin return to the championship-contending form of 2010.

“I’m really excited to join Joe Gibbs Racing and the No. 11 FedEx team,” Grubb said. “We’re having lots of fun, we’re having lots of meetings. We’re kind of setting the course for what we want to do. We want to go out there and be competitive.”

Hamlin is trying to put last year's disappointment in the rear view mirror as quickly as possible and focusing on what lies ahead. He thinks the addition of Grubbs and a new perspective will get his team back to one of the premier entries in the sport.

“It will take him some time to understand what I need in my car and for me to tell him what he needs to hear, so that part will be a little bit of a transition, but I think right now we have enough motivation and confidence that that should carry us until that point happens,” Hamlin said.

“The first five or six races are not my strong suit. That’s going to be good because those are the race tracks where I kind need to improve on and that’s where we are going to learn each other’s communication before we get to Richmond and Martinsville and Texas, where we are expected to win. By then, he will have an understanding of what I need out of my car and we’ll live up to those expectations when we come around.”

Busch will also try and put last year behind him and the controversy that swirled around him in the aftermath of his Truck Series incident with Ron Hornaday at Texas Motor Speedway. Busch was parked for the weekend's Sprint Cup Series race for his behavior and reportedly nearly lost both sponsor M&M's as well as his ride because of the altercation.

But he's set to focus on the new year and not dwell on what happened in the past.

"There’s no one to blame but myself,” Busch said. “There’s an opportunity for me to become a better person, to grow and learn from this, and I’m looking forward to those days. I want to be with Joe Gibbs Racing, I want to be in NASCAR, I want to be driving the M&M’s Toyota.

“I have a strong path ahead that I’m excited about and looking forward to, and learning and growing and understanding that the ground that I made last year has been awesome.”

Logano will have Ratcliff as his first Sprint Cup crew chief other than Zipadelli, who left for the Director of Competition role at SHR. He comes into 2012 off a disappointing campaign and many believe the year will be "do or die" for Logano's Cup career.

However, he doesn't see it that way and thinks a fresh perspective and outlook moving ahead with Ratcliff will generate positive results in the coming season.

“I’m really pumped up about having Jason as my crew chief,” Logano said. “He is an awesome guy and we had a chance to work together over on the Nationwide side for three races last season.

“Being able to work with him is a good, fresh start for our team. It’s going to be a good thing for us. It was time to do something after the type of year we had. This was a mutual deal that I think will help us out in the long run. We had to move on and now we need to work hard and go out and start winning."

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