The Joe Gibbs Tour heads to Joe Gibbs Speedway in Chicago this week.
If anybody else is racing right now, you can’t tell it.
We’ve seen these cycles come and go for a couple of years now, which would lead you to believe that the Rick Hendrick-Chevrolet cycle is still out there somewhere, but nothing we’ve seen lately would suggest it’s going to be anytime soon.
Jimmie Johnson, for those keeping score at home, has never won at Chicago.
You’d think Kevin Harvick and the SHR boys might have a shot at this race, but Harvick, who won the first two races at Chicago, hasn’t won since. He also hasn’t won a race this year.
JGR, with its powerful threesome of Martin Tuex, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin, has almost lapped the field, and if not for the Penske Fords, this season would be all but over.
Toyota has figured something out, and no one else can match it. Having won seven of the last 10 races, and 10 of 16 overall, Gibbs and Toyota are on an historic run. And having won the last four races at Chicago, there’s no reason to think anything is going to change this week.
So what in the world has happened? And why hasn’t NASCAR stepped in to do something about it?
That’s the way it used to work. A certain team or manufacturer would get on a roll, and all of a sudden a new rule would come out or some secret adjustment would be made or Ford or Chevy would all of a sudden show up at a track faster than ever, and the streak would be over.
They used to whisper about it, back in the day of Bill France Jr. They referred to it as “the call.”
Some team, usually that of a superstar owner or driver, would get “the call,” and suddenly dominate the field, much to the dismay (and rolling eyes) of the rest of the tour. Without naming names, it was sometimes obvious who would get “the call.”
But that’s the thing about NASCAR. It’s one thing to let an illegal car slip through inspection, but you still then have to go out and race it for 300 or 400 laps at high RPMs surrounded by 40 other cars, and expect every single car part and pit stop to work perfectly all day long,
Fixing a NASCAR race is harder than fixing any game in any sport.
So somewhere along the way, NASCAR stopped doing it. Or so the legend goes. Now, it’s almost impossible to get a car through inspection with even the slightest deviation from templates and computers and extremely qualified and suspicious inspectors.
Yes, its taken some of the fun out of the sport. And it’s allowed for teams to find an edge and keep that edge for longer periods of time.
Toyota has it now, and it’s not going away.
And NASCAR’s not going to do a thing about it.