Analysis: Joe Gibbs , Bill Belichick cut from same competitive cloth
RELATED: Full race results " Chase Grid BRUCE: About that JGR strategy ... " NASCAR: JGR did not violate rules Love it. Hate it. Understand it. Disagree with it. The strategy play by Joe Gibbs to have three of his four cars -- the three that were in solid shape based on points of Kyle Busch , Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth -- ride around in the back for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Round of 12 finale at Talladega Superspeedway to avoid any potential calamity has brought out a variety of opinions. Denny Hamlin , who needed a strong finish to advance, spent most of the day at the front without the benefit of his teammates drafting with him. Hamlin finished third and advanced to the Round of 8 on a tiebreaker over Austin Dillon . That propelled all four JGR cars into the Round of 8, just as mastermind Joe Gibbs drew it up. Was it cunning? Sure. Was it gamesmanship? Yes. Was it risky? Potentially. Was it within the rules? Absolutely.
Meet Chris Lambert, Denny Hamlin's spotter
Related: Meet Elliott's spotter Editor's note: This is the second in a series of interviews with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series spotters. Chris Lambert, Spotter for Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota HOW DID YOU GET STARTED SPOTTING? "In 1996, I worked for Mike Herman Jr., who actually spots for (Ricky) Stenhouse Jr. now at the Sprint Cup level. We went to school together and he was racing Late Models around North and South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee area. I worked for him fulltime in the shop, keeping up his cars. One night his cousin, who had done all the spotting, we ran on a Friday night, he coached high school football so he couldn't be there. Me being a full-time employee, I basically got thrown into the fire. We won that night. I started spotting Late Models after that." WHAT OTHER DUTIES DO YOU HAVE WITH THE TEAM? "Here at Gibbs I don't do anything else but spot for Denny." DO YOU SPOT IN OTHER SERIES? "I do Erik Jones in the XFINITY Series car, and Timothy Peters (Red Horse Racing ) in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. I have a pretty full schedule, doing about 106-110 races a year. I do a lot of Modified stuff and ARCA stuff for Venturini Motorsports; I do the No. 25 car for them. I do the 24 Hour race at Daytona every year with Action Express Racing . I do the Snowball Derby. I stay busy. If somebody calls and wants me to come do something and it fits, this is how I make my living. There are a few of us fortunate enough to just spot. When I was at Red Bull Racing , I worked in the shop building cars and spotting. When I came to JGR, I just focused on spotting." HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WITH DENNY? "I started with Denny in 2012 so this is year five. It was Darian's (Grubb, crew chief) first year. I've spotted for Erik this year; I did some with him last year because the 20 ( XFINITY ) car was split last year with him, Denny, Matt (Kenseth). I was doing Jason Leffler when the drove the 18 Truck for Kyle Busch Motorsports (in 2012). When they let him go mid-year, (Tony) Hirschman, who spots for Kyle now, went to do that. He was spotting for Timothy so basically we just swapped. I’ve been with him ever since." WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST RACE AS A SPOTTER? "The first actual points race would have been at Chicago in '07. I got out of the sport for a while full-time but got back in at the end of '06, the start of '07. I went to MB2 when (former owner) Bobby Ginn bought in to that deal. Doug Randolph hired me; I was doing all the races with Regan Smith , the XFINITY stuff. I was doing Kraig Kinser in the Trucks at Morgan-Dollar (Motorsports). Sometime around the end of June, first of July they let T.J. Majors, who was spotting for Sterling Marlin, go. I did Sterling's stuff for two weeks -- that's when they shut down and had the merger with DEI and all of that. I did the 150s in '07 at Daytona; we were trying to get Regan in the Daytona 500 in a fourth car for Ginn. It was a little different, just working with Slugger (Labbe), who was the crew chief at the time, and Sterling. Here it was my first race. What do you tell Sterling? A lot of good stories there. … "That year I went to Daytona for testing and I was like a deer in the headlights. I had never done a plate race. I'd done a few mile-and-a-halves, some ARCA stuff, but I was just in awe of what you had to do in a plate race." WHAT'S THE MOST BIZARRE THING YOU’VE SEEN WHILE SPOTTING? "On track or off? Honestly, probably the truck that caught fire in the parking lot at Kentucky earlier this year. We see the smoke but we're under green, so we can't do anything. When the caution comes out we all make a beeline over there to see what it is and you see a truck with a grille in the back and the truck is just engulfed. There was a fire either at Kansas or Chicago one year down in Turn 1, the grass had caught fire. And you obviously see a few things with people in the crowd that are feeling pretty good about themselves. The tops come off and stuff like that. But the truck fire at Kentucky? Even the guys in the cars were commenting on it, they could see the smoke." WATCH: Truck fire behind track at Kentucky WHAT’S BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE AS A SPOTTER? "Definitely the (Daytona) 500 this year. Being born in Kannapolis, right in the heart of Earnhardt country, stock car country. I was at the race track when I was three months old. My mom passed away, she had cancer, when I was three so I lived with my aunt for a while. I was in and out with my grandfather and my aunt. Her son raced dirt cars so I was at the shop all the time. To grow up in the heart of the sport, to know Dale Jr. and Dale Sr., winning the 500, on a professional level, was the top. "First getting with Denny, getting with a top-tier driver and having success right out of the box with him. When you get in this sport, you obviously want to win a championship but there are certain races you want to win. The All-Star race, which we won last year, Daytona, Indy. Having that 500 ring and trophy at the house (is special). Especially if you're a spotter because you feel like you have more involvement in the plate races. We’re never driving the race cars obviously, but you feel like you have your hand on the cars. … Winning a plate race is fulfilling itself, but winning the 500 and the way we did it … outside of getting married and having my two boys, it was probably my most memorable day in my entire life. You have little things you go through, you strive for … to know you've just won the biggest race in your industry and to know you had a hand in it, it was pure elation. … Once everything settled down and he got into Victory Lane, I just took my radios off and just sat there for a minute taking it all in. It was like 'wow.' As a Cannon Mills lint head from Kannapolis, that's just won the biggest race in our sport … I look at the ring now and all that and tears still well up. It's just 'wow, it really happened.' " WHAT'S THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF YOUR JOB? "The long days. Not really for the race itself. Just the practice days on Friday and Saturday, doing all the series. There are certain times, at Richmond for instance on Friday when they'd run XFINITY and (Sprint) Cup. You get up there at 8 in the morning and you won't get a break until 4 in the afternoon. Even though we're just standing around or sitting around, you're in the sun, you're in the elements; it's hot. And a lot of us don’t just spot anymore. I’m up there with a stop watch and I’ll do split times. I’ll pick a spot on entry to Turn 1 to the center and get a split time, then center out. So I'm always working, trying to figure out who is fast, where we might be getting beat. … So I'm constantly working, doing something whether it's watching cars and their lines or whatever. Then you do qualifying and then the race at night. So it's long days, no shade, a lot of times we have to go down two or three flights of stairs just to go to the bathroom. "And during the race there is so much going on in our headsets, listening to NASCAR, having a second radio, scanning myself to make sure that I'm transmitting correctly and I don't have a problem. Having that much going on and having to concentrate on what I'm doing. There will be times when Wheels (crew chief Mike Wheeler) will be talking to me on Channel 2, I'm spotting and we're in the middle of three wide and he's telling me something. As soon as I get Denny cleared, I'm '10-4, I heard you.' It might be a lap later but just trying to keep up with everything that's going on. "When I first started, I never listened to myself. They said 'hey, you really need to do that. That way you'll know if you have a radio issue.' I hated it. I would just turn it down very faint. Now, I don't know that I could go do a race without scanning myself." WHAT CURRENT DRIVER WOULD MAKE A GOOD SPOTTER? "Honestly, I don't know. Every time I think of somebody, I remember a comment that they made where they've been on the spotters' stand and either tried it, whether it was Jimmie (Johnson) spotting for his brother in an off-road race or something, Denny spotting for Jordan in the Better Half Dash … when I worked for Brian Vickers at Red Bull and he was out the first time for (health problems), I had Casey Mears and Reed Sorenson in the car. BV came up to the roof with me a lot of times. I always think it's great for them to come see my vantage point. See what I see, especially under racing conditions with binoculars and everything else. Then you'll get a better idea of why when you know you're clear by a foot and I'm still saying 'inside;' you're going away from me and the angle is bad. And I'm going to be sure you're clear before I clear you. "Probably somebody like Matt (Kenseth) would be good. I did a handful of XFINITY Series races with Matt and then he talked me into going to Chicago last year for the stand-alone race when Ross (Kenseth) ran the 20 car. … I know he's spotted for Ross some in the Late Model car. Somebody like him; David Ragan probably has experience doing short track stuff." WHICH TRACK IS YOUR FAVORITE? "Darlington, just because of the history. That's another race that's on my bucket list that I want to win. And any track that I can sleep in my own bed is great. The plate races -- I used to hate them when I started because I didn't feel like was giving the driver everything that he needed. Now that I come here with Denny and we've had so much success in the plate races. Whether it's me, the car or the way you have to race those races now, I really enjoy feeling like I'm that involved and that on top of things. Daytona obviously is the pinnacle of our sport so that's one, but Darlington is by far my favorite." WHAT IS ONE THING ABOUT WHAT YOUR JOB ENTAILS THAT THE AVERAGE FAN MIGHT NOT KNOW? "Just how involved we are now. I think the TV, the media exposure over the years has brought it to light some. When I tell people that don't know anything about the sport what I do, that I'm in the driver's ear, getting him through wrecks and all that, they think it's pretty cool. It used to be that you just threw a body up there, and it would be the last person on the team that wasn't doing anything. They'd just throw them up there to make sure somebody was there. But with the full-containment seats and headrests, their peripheral vision is next to nothing. When we ran the cars jacked up in the rear, they couldn’t see out of the back. So we're really their second set of eyes, know what's going on and see everything that’s around them. "It used to be that we just showed up and if we could get them through the wrecks then we were fine. But then it got to the point where if you weren't giving them a competitive advantage, you weren't going to have a job. … If I'm not feeding him information about what I see when guys pick up time or whatever, then he's not going to keep me around. "Ultimately our job is still, at the end of the day, to make sure the car rolls on the hauler in one piece and our driver is safe. That's our main goal. But if you're not giving them what they feel like is a competitive advantage, you're not going to have a job here."
H2H: Chase tension hits a rapid clip at Martinsville
RELATED: Meet the Chase's final 8 " Martinsville entry list The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs grinds on, with four races to go and one more elimination before the Championship 4 is determined for next month's season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway . With Talladega Superspeedway behind us and the final three-race series staged and ready for the Sprint Cup Series' return this weekend to Martinsville Speedway , our Holly Cain and Zack Albert tackle three pressing topics for the season's homestretch: 1. After a hectic day at Talladega, the Chase's Round of 8 is finally set. Any surprises at who's in, who's out? Cain: I think obviously not having this season's winningest drivers in the final eight is a major upset. I would have expected Martin Truex Jr . and Brad Keselowski to easily advance and frankly felt either might have visited Talladega's Victory Lane, not end their day in the track's garage. The four-car Joe Gibbs Racing sweep into the next round also defies odds, but more power to the team. They will have their hands full, however, with Chevy's Kevin Harvick and a certain six-time series champion, Jimmie Johnson . Albert: Agreed, the omissions of Truex and Keselowski counted as at least mild jolts, but at this phase of the process, there's only so much water that can go into the funnel. All of the final eight drivers have visited Victory Lane at some point this season, with all but one -- Kurt Busch -- making multiple trips. The only thing we're missing is a true underdog (see: winless Ryan Newman in 2014, a much more lightly regarded Truex in 2015), and that also qualifies as a subtle surprise. 2. NASCAR announced rules Wednesday designed to limit Sprint Cup drivers' participation in other national series starting in 2017. What's the net effect? Cain: The obvious upside to this is improved opportunity for up-and-coming drivers to truly show their wares against similar talent as they ascend the NASCAR ladder. More trophies, more winner's checks, more attention. They also will have to showcase their personalities more, however, to keep the story lines interesting in absence of the popular Cup drivers that more naturally fill newsfeeds. This is great opportunity, but it will require great work, too. Albert: Besides the increased opportunity overall, I believe the greatest impact will be felt once the playoffs roll around. With both XFINITY and the Camping World Truck Series just now dabbling in their first ventures into Chase waters, those series now have a greater chance to establish their regular drivers' stardom when it counts -- in the postseason. 3. Four races remain in the championship battle, with Martinsville Speedway next up on the schedule. Whether it's a Chaser aiming for a free pass to the Homestead finale or a non-Chaser hoping to play spoiler, who's your winning pick for the weekend? Cain: This is truly shaping up to be one of the most compelling Martinsville races in a long line of fantastic Martinsville races. Denny Hamlin is buoyed by the dramatic entry into this round of the Chase and has an enviable and proven track record here. But my pick is Jimmie Johnson , who will remind everyone of his massive talent and determination in pursuit of a record-tying seventh Cup in 2016. Albert: Record-tying seventh championship? Sounds like a storybook tale. But how about the chances of a Jeff Gordon sunset-riding repeat of his Martinsville victory in 2015? How about Denny Hamlin finally getting another shot at making good on his childhood promise to Coach Joe Gibbs that he'd drive to a title for him someday? The heart's pick at Martinsville goes with Gordon; the brain's vote takes Hamlin on the tricky sliver of a race track that still packs 'em in.
Joe Gibbs Racing enjoying the view from the top
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Championships are nothing new for Joe Gibbs Racing . The organization won three premier series titles during a six-year stretch with drivers Bobby Labonte (2000) and Tony Stewart (2002, '05). But domination? Now, that's something different. "It's one of those deals where you pinch yourself to try and find out if it's real," said Jimmy Makar, Senior Vice President of Racing Operations for the four-team outfit on Tuesday. Makar, along with driver Kyle Busch and other team principals, was on hand at the NASCAR Hall of Fame to unveil the No. 18 team's throwback paint scheme for this year's Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. The look harkens back to 1993, when driver Dale Jarrett earned the organization its first win with a victory in the Daytona 500 . But while the focus was on the past, the present couldn't be ignored. JGR folks tread lightly around the subject. But the numbers say what officials won't -- that since the midpoint of the 2015 Sprint Cup Series season, no organization has been as consistent or as successful as Joe Gibbs Racing . The four-team effort with drivers Busch, Denny Hamlin , Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth won 11 of the final 21 races of the '15 season, a year that ended with Busch claiming the championship. Through this year's first 12 races, those drivers already have won seven times, including six of the last seven. As a result, all four drivers are all but guaranteed a spot in this year's 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup . It's no overnight success story, Busch said, noting that the organization didn't sit idle in early 2013 while engine supplier Toyota Racing Development (TRD) sorted though various engine issues. "We worked on our cars, we worked on our setups, we worked on driver-crew chief communications," he said. "We worked on all that stuff to get our cars better. And when the engines came, then it was all there. We had the total package. "I feel like we've been able to take advantage of all that the last couple of years, of having all the right pieces in place." The 2013 season was the first that TRD began supplying engines to JGR teams. That was also when Kenseth came on board, winning seven times during his debut season in the No. 20 Toyota. Edwards won twice in '15 after the Mooresville, N.C.-based organization expanded to four teams with the addition of the No. 19 entry. For the better part of the past decade, it has been Hendrick Motorsports setting the standard among NASCAR's competitors. So it's not surprising that both Makar and Busch referenced HMS on Tuesday when talk of domination surfaced. "You think about their runs that they have had over the years and how we've always tried to get like that," Makar said. "Here we find ourselves in not exactly the same position but something where we seem to be on top of our game right now and people chasing us. It's kind of fun." Busch was a part of the HMS program while it was the leader of the pack, earning the first four of his 37 career victories with Hendrick. "This sport goes in cycles," Busch said. "Hendrick was on top for a long, long time. I don't want to hear about complaining that we're on top and dominating and bad for the sport because I remember years that Hendrick won 12, 13, 14 races, whatever it was. And they won seven out of eight championships or something like that." Having top-shelf parts and pieces and some of the most talented drivers isn't always a recipe for success. The difference today at JGR, it seems, is the willingness among the four teams to share information as well as opinions. Each driver has a distinct personality, from fiery to subdued, as well as a different approach to racing . "But the thing of it is, they work so well together," Makar said. "That's the one common thing that we've got going on -- they share information with each other, they don't hide things. "The crew chiefs do the same thing. We try to emphasize that. Sometimes you can talk about it all day long but if the guys don't want to do it, it doesn't work." How long will it last? How long can it last? "You always think about, when you're on top, what's it going to take to stay there," Makar said. "It's the hardest thing in the world to stay on top once you get there. Everybody's working even harder to try and beat you. You have to make sure you don't get any sense of overconfidence and quit pushing the limits … that's the only thing you worry about, is if complacency sets in. "Other than that, it's what more can we find? How can we get faster and better, make our cars better and compete better? That's what we do every day … whether you're running 10th every week or first. The whole goal is to get better as a team. Make our race teams better from the inside and keep trying to push ourselves to be better." Gibbs , a Super Bowl-winning coach as well as a championship-winning car owner, perhaps understands the pitfalls better than most. That, and the drive to be on top. "If you get to thinking you're pretty good, that goes against you," he said. "It takes hard work. The other teams are looking at you and they're coming. … There are so many cars that are strong right now." Kenseth's win at Dover on Sunday, he said, was a perfect example of the level of competition. An exciting battle between the veteran and youngster Kyle Larson ( Chip Ganassi Racing ) left the final outcome in question in the final laps. "It came down at the end there, we're (side-by-side) with the 42. Who's going to win? The 42 or us?" Gibbs said. "I do think that's what is exciting about our sport. People love that. It's the greatest reality show in the world because we don't know what’s going to happen." Busch doesn't know what the summer months will bring, but he's confident that the JGR group "is the strongest one." "I say that because I think Toyota is the best manufacturer in the sport," he said. "I feel like all four drivers are probably among the best six or seven drivers in the sport, and we're all on the same team working together. … You've got Joe , who is one of the best bosses in the sport, who pushes all of us, is a real people guy and he knows about putting the right people in the right places. "Then too, the things that we all do to work together, not hide anything, share anything we possibly can." These days, that includes trips to Victory Lane. Editor's note : Table shows victories by organization from the 2015 Coca-Cola 600 through Sunday's AAA 400 (does not include non-points events).
Joe Gibbs Racing changes pit crew coach
Joe Gibbs Racing changed its pit crew coach Wednesday, transitioning longtime coach Mike Lepp to the role of senior athletic adviser and placing Matt Osborn in charge of pit crew operations. Lepp joined JGR at the beginning of 2007, and over the past few years, the JGR pit crews have been the ones to beat. Lepp has amassed more than 113 wins in the NASCAR Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series, combined, as well as other awards. He was part of a Sprint Cup championship with the No. 18 team of Kyle Busch last year and was involved in winning multiple XFINITY Series titles. Lepp has played a major role in bringing the JGR teams to the forefront of the pitting world and has two pit crew championships to his credit, with back-to-back wins in 2010 and 2011 with the No. 11 crew of Denny Hamlin . Over the last nine years, the Nos. 11 and 18 crews have been dominant. One of Lepp's most recent accomplishments was assembling the No. 19 crew of Carl Edwards . That pit crew has been a top-three unit since it started with JGR. With his new job, Lepp will assume an increased role in marketing and public relations duties, including public speaking events and actively searching for sponsorship opportunities. "This is the right time for me to make a change and I'm excited about my new role in the organization," Lepp said in a team release. "I'm proud of what we've accomplished on pit road and I know Matt will continue to do a great job going forward." For more pit crew news, visit PitTalks.com .
Joe Gibbs Racing confirms No. 18 pit crew replacement
RELATED: No. 18 team fined; two suspended The Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 team was given a P3 penalty Wednesday regarding lug nuts and improper procedures during the last pit stop at Kansas. Included in those penalties were the suspension of crew chief Adam Stevens and front tire changer Josh Leslie. The big question on pit road is who will replace Leslie at Dover, and how that will affect the No. 18 pit crew. JGR confirmed to NASCAR.com and PitTalks that Brian Eastland will replace Leslie. Eastland was the front changer on the No. 78 of Martin Truex Jr . early in the year before being replaced by Chris Taylor. Eastland still is at JGR as a backup and should fill in nicely. The No. 18 crew was tops on pit road at Kansas and will still be very good at Dover. Yes, they will potentially have some chemistry and timing issues, but they still are a talented crew and Brian Eastland is a very good tire changer. For more pit-crew news, visit PitTalks.com .
Joe Gibbs Racing announces crew chief changes
RELATED: What drivers and crew chiefs are on the move for '16? Joe Gibbs Racing announced its driver/crew chief lineup for the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series on Monday, with key changes coming for drivers Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin . Dave Rogers, most recently Hamlin's crew chief with the No. 11 JGR Toyota, shifts over to the No. 19 Camry to pair with Edwards. Mike Wheeler, who served last year as crew chief for JGR's No. 20 team in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, replaces Rogers to call the shots for Hamlin next season. Darian Grubb, crew chief for Edwards' first season with JGR, is "currently exploring several opportunities" for 2016, according to a release provided by the team. The orginization's other two Sprint Cup teams keep their pairings intact. Adam Stevens returns as crew chief for the No. 18 Toyota and reigning Sprint Cup champion Kyle Busch . Jason Ratcliff is back atop the pit box for the wheelman of the No. 20 Toyota Matt Kenseth . Team owner Joe Gibbs called its 2015 campaign "probably the strongest season we have ever had" after all four drivers qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs, but that changes were made to keep the company competitive. "I think every year you evaluate each of your teams however and sometimes during that process you find that a change might be in the best interest for all involved," Gibbs said in the team's news release. "Mike Wheeler is obviously someone that has a long history with Denny (Hamlin) and that No. 11 team. After seeing what he accomplished as a crew chief in our XFINITY Series program last year we felt the timing was right to move him back into our Cup program. "Dave Rogers has also been successful in every role he has had with us and we think he will work well with Carl (Edwards) going into 2016." Wheeler, a longtime lead engineer for Hamlin, embarks on his first full season as a crew chief in NASCAR's premier series. He served as interim crew chief for six Sprint Cup races in 2014, taking over the No. 11 during Grubb's suspension for a P5-level penalty. Wheeler helped spur the JGR No. 20 Toyota to eight Coors Light Pole Awards and four victories in the XFINITY Series last season, achieving three wins with Hamlin and one with Erik Jones . Rogers, a 15-time winner in Sprint Cup competition, will start 2016 working with his third JGR driver in three seasons. Rogers teamed with Busch from 2010-14 before taking the helm with Hamlin last year. Grubb joined Joe Gibbs Racing in 2012 after three seasons and one championship with Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner Tony Stewart . Grubb worked primarily with Hamlin in his first three years with the Gibbs organization before shifting to Edwards' team in 2015.
Joe Gibbs Racing
Joe Gibbs Racing history, full crews of Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch
Stewart-Haas, Joe Gibbs Racing secure fourth Charters
RELATED: Who has the 36 Charters? " Fast facts about charters DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Stewart-Haas Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing have each obtained an additional Charter for their respective teams, a move that will guarantee NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Kurt Busch (SHR) and Carl Edwards (JGR) a starting spot in all 36 points races each week. Officials with both teams made the announcements separately via social media (Twitter) Saturday afternoon. Securing the Charters was expected. Michael Waltrip Racing co-owner Rob Kauffman said earlier this week that Charters awarded to his organization, which ceased operations at the conclusion of the 2015 season, would likely be purchased by the Stewart-Haas and Joe Gibbs organizations. No purchase price was announced. NASCAR unveiled the new system Feb. 9, announcing a nine-year arrangement that not only will assure Charter teams a starting spot in the field but there will also be financial benefits generated by the move. Based on criteria developed by NASCAR and with input from the industry, Charters were awarded to 36 teams, each of which had attempted to qualify for all races since the start of the 2013 season. It was also announced that beginning this season Sprint Cup Series fields would feature 40 cars rather than 43 as had previously been the case. As a result, there will be four remaining positions in the field each week to be filled by Open (non-Charter) teams. Those will be determined as they have been in previous years, based on qualifying speeds. SHR was awarded three Charters for its Nos. 4, 10 and 14 teams; the No. 41 team did not debut until 2014. Likewise JGR was awarded three Charters for its Nos. 11, 18 and 20 teams, and sought a fourth for the No. 19, which debuted with Edwards last season. Charters may be sold or leased (a one-time transfer), with NASCAR approval, and HScott Motorsports owner Harry Scott opted for the latter in order to obtain a Charter for his No. 46 team with driver Michael Annett . Scott announced Friday that he had reached an agreement with Premium Motorsports owner Jay Robinson for use of that team's Charter for the 2016 season. HScott, a two-team organization, was awarded one Charter, assigned to the No. 15 team of Clint Bowyer , meaning Annett would have to qualify for all races this season. Premium Motorsports will continue to field a Sprint Cup entry. Cole Whitt will attempt to qualify the team's No. 98 Toyota in the field for next week’s season-opening Daytona 500
Joe Gibbs Racing set to honor longtime driver Tony Stewart
RELATED: 'Smoke' through the years Three-time NASCAR premier series champion Tony Stewart is set to retire from full-time Sprint Cup Series competition following the 2016 season, and -- much like we saw last year with Jeff Gordon -- the tributes will be coming fast and furiously over the next 10 months. Joe Gibbs Racing , where Stewart spent the first decade of his career, picked up 33 of his 48 career wins and the first two of his titles, kicked off the stroll down memory lane Wednesday with their first in a series of tributes that will run on the 20th of each month through the 2016 season. On the 20th of every month we'll pay tribute to our friend @TonyStewart who is retiring after 2016. #TonyTribute20 pic.twitter.com/3B6AiwGSMt — Joe Gibbs Racing (@JoeGibbsRacing) January 20, 2016 In 1999, as a rookie in our 20 car, @TonyStewart won his 1st Cup Series race at Richmond! #NASCAR #TonyTribute20 pic.twitter.com/qJ0zbPwYiS — Joe Gibbs Racing (@JoeGibbsRacing) January 20, 2016