Much like their fellow NASCAR drivers who are deservedly spending the season's final off-week relaxing on a beach or jet-setting to some exotic location, Landon Cassill and Josh Wise are using the rare downtime to travel and enjoy the scenic Austrian Alps. The difference, however, is that these two Sprint Cup drivers won't be sightseeing or taking leisurely day hikes. They will be experiencing one of the world's most beautiful regions while competing in the elite Ironman 70.3 World Championships at Zell am See-Kaprun outside Salzburg, Austria on Sunday. Their breathtaking views will be just that as they swim 1.2-miles in Lake Zell, bike 56 miles through the glacier-tipped Alps and then finish with a 13.1-mile run along the lakeshore and through the area's small villages in one of the world's most grueling and prestigious physical competitions. "When we looked at the schedule both of us had aspirations to qualify for the 70.3 or Kona (Ironman 140.6 in Hawaii)," explained Wise. "The Worlds happened to fall on our last off weekend and there was a qualifier on the next to last off weekend. "It looked like this is a once in a lifetime chance. It's a bucket list goal just to qualify, but to have opportunity to do Austria was super special and it just felt like it was meant to be." But not without a lot of work. Anyone who still dismisses the athletic ability of NASCAR drivers would have a losing argument when it comes to the training regimen of Cassill, 26, and Wise, 32, who have taken their dedication to fitness and competition to a new level. RELATED: Johnson: 'If you want to be fast, you've got to suffer' More often than not, these two drivers show up at the race track having already swam, biked or run for miles and hours before some of their competitors have even rolled out of bed. Their dedication and commitment means a 5 a.m. wake-up call even on race weekends and using a special "Swim Radar" app to find a public pool near the race track that's open early enough and will allow them to swim. They've done their laps everywhere from the small town YMCA to the pool at Ohio State University. They strategically place their long bike rides as well and that can be tricky -- both finding a safe route close to the track and "not getting lost," Wise joked. They did a 60-mile bike ride after qualifying at Indianapolis this summer and squeezed in a 20-miler between practices at Pocono. Last week at Bristol, the two swam a mile and a half and ran five miles before the night race. Cassill did his World Cup qualifier in Muncie, Ind. during NASCAR's Kentucky Speedway race weekend, flying to Muncie after the Friday night XFINITY race, competing in the 70.3-mile triathalon Saturday morning then returning to Kentucky Speedway for the Cup race that night. "That was a little test of endurance," Cassill said. "Saturday morning I got my qualifying slot and flew back and raced Saturday night (at Bristol). I felt pretty good." Both Cassill and Wise say that competitive spirit lift is an important motivation for both. Driving for small, lower-funded Sprint Cup Series teams, they are admittedly not contending for wins every week. Success in the triathalons not only is a huge fitness benefit to them both, but gives them a sense of accomplishment and success. "I think a big part of the inspiration to do this has to do with obviously with the benefit of what it does for us in the car, but for us, we drive for small teams and we don't have a chance to win every race in a car and when you're doing that for 38 weeks in a row, it can get taxing," said Cassill, the 2008 XFINITY Series Rookie of the Year who now drives the No. 40 Hillman-Smith Chevrolet in the Cup Series and the No. 01 JD Motorsports Chevy in the XFINITY Series. "This is something for us, we can control and it really just helps that confidence in the garage just to know what we're capable of with our bodies and pushing ourselves to the limit. To me, it's a confidence builder." Wise, who scored a career-best 10th at Talladega in May driving the No. 98 Ford, agreed. "It's an amazing competitive outlet," he said. "There's not a lot of things that you can do that you have so much control over. It goes back to the alarm clock. Are you going to get up and get the swim in and the running before you go to work? It's your choice. With the sport we're in, people don't realize all the external factors there are that you can't control." "When our cars aren't driving right or we're communicating with our crew in the midst of battling with someone, I feel the mental gain from the type of work we do off the track even beyond the physical. "I'm far beyond physically where I need to be, but mentally I can still continue to push myself, my body and my brain to dig deeper. When you can overcome every cell in your body shutting you down and you have to mentally force your legs to pick up and move in a run, there is a mental strength that comes from that. "I feel there's a real specificity to what we do that applies to our type of racing." The benefits go beyond just them personally. "My team has so much confidence in me that although they may not see me during the week, they don't have a doubt in their mind that I'm still working; that I’m trying to make myself the fittest race car driver, the best race car driver I can be, focused and prepared," Cassill said. "It's important because when teams are fighting for sponsorship, tough finishes the wheels can come off and you want to instill in your team that you're doing everything you can." Their pursuit is not only recognized by their team members but in the garage and bigger NASCAR community as well. While these two drivers don’t typically generate the same racing headlines as their good friend and frequent training partner, six-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson , they do have his great respect -- especially with this weekend's Ironman in Austria. "My hat is off to Josh and Landon," Johnson said. "They've put in the hard work. I've watched them get very serious about it. They are both faster than me (smiling) and I'm so proud of them." All three drivers are confident that this kind of extreme cross training will be more prevalent on the starting grid in coming years. It's a visibly growing group of cyclists that join Johnson, Wise and Cassill on the bike rides during race weekend downtime or meet up at a nearby public pool for some laps. " Jimmie Johnson , in my opinion, sparked that fire by winning six championships and being the fittest driver the sport has ever seen," Cassill said. "We are in some ways just copycatting what he did. Eventually, a lot of the drivers that have the skill -- and have had the success in the past -- but aren't consistently getting the success now are going to start getting pressure from their owners and sponsors that will say they're sick of getting of their butts kicked from these fit drivers, you need to do something. "I think in the next five to 10 years you're going to see a lot more of our drivers getting fitter and fitter," Cassill continued. "I think our sport is going to go through similar transition that golf saw and I compare our sport to golf because it's a skill sport. It takes a certain skill and technique to swing a golf club and it takes a certain skill and technique to drive a race car. It doesn't necessarily take athleticism to drive a race car or hit a golf ball, but athleticism enhances that skill." This weekend Cassill and Wise will be representing their sport on a world platform and just qualifying for the world championship in the midst of a busy and demanding NASCAR season is already a huge accomplishment. "There are a lot of cyclists in the garage and people that know what's going on. I had a lot of people asking me about this weekend at the Bristol race and crew members wishing me good luck," Cassill said. "Obviously a lot of text messages from my team wishing me good luck." "I'd love to set a new PR (personal record), I feel like I try to do that at every race. But just another finish would be a win. This is a very challenging event and this is a world championship event so the competition is a lot tougher than I've competed against."
Joey Logano, Kyle Busch and Greg Biffle each talk about the success of the changes in the aero package at Kentucky Speedway and the continued tweaks toward better racing.
In episode two of The Dirty Air Podcast, Chuck Bush, Matthew Dillner and Jonathan Merryman review the racing at Kentucky , pick which songs would make their jukebox trophies and talk a little Loudon as NASCAR heads to New Hampshire.
RELATED: Bristol results " Chase Grid " By the numbers since Busch's return With only two races left until the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs, it's time to check in on Kyle Busch , driver of the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing , as he tries to rebound from missing 11 races to early season injuries and make the Chase. He is currently the only driver with multiple wins who has yet to mathematically clinch a spot in the Chase. WHAT JUST HAPPENED: Busch started second in Saturday's Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway , sharing the front row with pole-sitting teammate Denny Hamlin 's No. 11 Toyota. He followed a win in Friday night's green-white-checkered finish in the XFINITY Series with an eighth-place finish in the Sprint Cup race. A green-flag stop for a loose wheel and a penalty for speeding on pit road cost Busch a shot at winning the race despite leading the most laps, 192 of 500. WHAT HE NEEDS: Staying out of trouble remains a priority. Busch must remain in the top 30 in the drivers points standings and is in 29th after Bristol, 46 points ahead of 31st-place driver Cole Whitt . But after Saturday's race, Busch is closer to 28th place, just one point behind Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., who finished 21st at Bristol. There is a good chance Busch could lock up his Chase spot at Darlington next week. WHAT'S NEXT: The Sprint Cup Series heads to Darlington Raceway for the Bojangles' Southern 500 on Sept. 6 (7:30 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). "The Lady in Black" is a tough track to tame, and the low downforce package that teams ran at Kentucky Speedway will also be used at Darlington. Busch won at Kentucky and was among the drivers who raved about the new aero package. He also has one win at Darlington, in 2008, and has an average finish there of 13.6.
News and notes from around the garage RELATED: New rules for Darlington, 3 more tracks this season NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr . said a lot will be learned from this weekend's race at Kentucky Speedway , but the Hendrick Motorsports driver doesn't expect the different aero package to "reveal a lot of obvious answers on the way we need to go." The Kentucky package will feature a shorter spoiler as well as changes to the splitter and splitter extension panel (radiator pan), moves that will lessen the amount of downforce on the cars by approximately 1,000 pounds, and, it is hoped, create an improved product on the track. Earnhardt, speaking Saturday at Daytona International Speedway , said not having a tire to match up with the low downforce package is the issue. Sprint Cup Series teams will compete in the Quaker State 400 Presented by Advance Auto Parts on Saturday night (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR). "The tire is a bit better, but not quite enough," he said. "I think that is understood amongst NASCAR, ourselves and Goodyear. The Kentucky weekend won't be a weekend we take a ton of stock in as far as what this package is really going to be able to lend us and if it would work somewhere else." Goodyear officials already had produced the 2,200 tires needed for Kentucky before the decision to use the low downforce package was finalized. The tire that will be used does have more grip but was not used specifically with this package when teams tested there in April. Steve O'Donnell, Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer for NASCAR, told SiriusXM NASCAR that officials believe the change will be effective for the 1.5-mile track. "We're going to look at the measurements we look at every day: were there more passes, who was able to compete, how did the field look throughout the race, obviously fan measurements post-race," he said. Goodyear Prepped for Darlington Goodyear officials returned to Darlington Raceway on June 30 for a one-day tire test featuring NASCAR Sprint Cup Series cars running a low downforce package related to that which is being used this weekend at Kentucky . Three drivers -- Tony Stewart ( Stewart-Haas Racing ), Brad Keselowski ( Team Penske ) and Matt Kenseth ( Joe Gibbs Racing ) -- took part in the test at the 1.366-mile track. "The goal was to evaluate the low downforce package, similar to what is going to be run at Kentucky , and see if we couldn't match a tire to that package," Greg Stucker, Director of Race Tire Sales for Goodyear, said Sunday at Daytona International Speedway . "When I say match, I mean replace aero grip with mechanical grip. Try to basically do it one for one and we feel like we did that. It was between three quarters of a second and a second slower just with aero downforce reduction and we feel like we gave about three-fourths to a second back. That was our goal, to do it one for one." Tuesday, NASCAR's Steve O'Donnell announced that a low-downforce package would indeed be used at Darlington. However, the changes doesn't mirror those being used this weekend at Kentucky -- the spoiler will be 3-1/2 inches instead of 3-inches and the splitter will have a 1/4-inch leading edge. The tire tested at Darlington features a softer compound as well as a construction change. Stucker said it was similar to the Kentucky right-side tire and the left-side tire used at Indianapolis. "I think the drivers felt like they had plenty of grip," Stucker said. "We got them together about noon and made sure that it seemed like we were moving in the right direction ... we left there feeling pretty good about our part of it. I think wear might be up a little bit with a softer package ... but you would expect that." Infractions Aplenty at Daytona There were a season-high 65 penalties doled out during Sunday night’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway , with the majority (35) for pitting before pit road was open. That infraction isn't unusual when multi-car crashes leave plenty of cars with damaged sheet metal, which definitely was the case at Daytona. The overall total eclipsed the previous high mark of 43 set earlier this year at Martinsville Speedway . FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Catch up before the start of Saturday's Quaker State 400 (7:30 p.m. ET) What: Fifth annual Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts Where: Kentucky Speedway , 1.5-mile D-shaped oval in Sparta, Ky. When: Saturday, July 11, 2015 TV/Radio: NBC Sports Network, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Distance: 267 laps (400.5 miles) Green Flag: 7:45 p.m. ET Competition Caution: Lap 25 Pit Road Speed: 45 mph Caution Car Speed: 55 mph Fuel Window: 50 laps On the front row " Complete lineup (Coors Light Pole Qualifying rained out; lineup set according to 2015 NASCAR Rule Book, based on opening practice speeds) 1. Kyle Larson , Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet 2. Brad Keselowski , Team Penske No. 2 Ford Failed to qualify Ryan Blaney , Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 Ford; Michael McDowell , Leavine Family Racing No. 95 Ford; Travis Kvapil , The Motorsports Group No. 30 Chevrolet. Fastest in practice First Practice: Kyle Larson , Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet (182.537 mph) Final Practice: Kyle Larson , Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet (178.412 mph) Rules recap In case you missed it, Saturday's 400-miler will mark the first appearance of a new, lower-downforce rules package in race conditions. A shorter spoiler, a front splitter with less overhang, and a reduction in the length of the splitter extension panel (radiator pan) are expected to raise the demands on driver control. WATCH: Breaking down Kentucky's new rules package Dillon ready to return Austin Dillon proclaimed himself a little sore but in fine physical shape to race Friday afternoon, on the eve of his first event since his Richard Childress Racing No. 3 Chevrolet took a wild tumble into the Daytona catch fencing at the end of the Coke Zero 400 . Dillon emerged unhurt and will start 11th in the Quaker State 400. "I feel pretty comfortable," Dillon said after opening Sprint Cup practice. "I think when you take a crash like that and you're as healthy as I feel, you feel pretty confident in the safety equipment that you have around you that you're ready to go, and run fast." RELATED: No. 88 crew recalls frenzy to reach Dillon Keselowski's corral In just four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races in Kentucky Speedway's history, Brad Keselowski has managed to win two, making him the only multiple winner at the 1.5-mile track. He was consistent in Friday's pair of practices, placing second on the leaderboard both times. And he won Friday night's XFINITY Series event. "So far, I think we're off to a good start," Keselowski said after opening practice. "Of course, that's a little self-serving because we're fast, but I'm looking forward to finding out fully when we get to race time." MORE: Keselowski wins XFINITY race, gets coveted jukebox Gordon's void Four-time premier series champion Jeff Gordon has won at 22 of the 23 tracks currently on the Sprint Cup calendar, save for Saturday's venue at Kentucky Speedway . With his last chance to convert a victory for a clean career sweep of the schedule, Gordon has some extra motivation as his farewell tour continues. "It would be pretty cool if we pulled it off," said Gordon, who will start third in his Kentucky finale. GORDON: Close miss would be a heartbreaker History lesson NASCAR's premier series began racing at Kentucky Speedway in 2011, when Kyle Busch captured the inaugural checkered flag from the pole position. The 1.5-mile track has been a regular stop for other NASCAR national series, hosting the XFINITY tour since 2001 and the Camping World Truck Series since 2000. Speedway Motorsports, Inc., took ownership of the facility in 2008. Driver Rating Best driver rating average at Kentucky based on past four years: 1. Kyle Busch , 124.3 2. Jimmie Johnson , 116.6 3. Brad Keselowski , 116.1 Defending race winner Brad Keselowski , Team Penske No. 2 Ford Former Kentucky winners in the field Brad Keselowski (2); Kyle Busch , Matt Kenseth (1). FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
NASCAR Chairman and CEO: 'Definitely an improvement' RELATED: What we learned from Kentucky race, rules package NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said the sanctioning body "saw some things that we liked" during Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with a new rules package at Kentucky Speedway . He told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Monday that he's looking forward to the package being run at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this month as the sport seeks tighter racing for talented drivers. A lower downforce package at Kentucky led to a track-best 22 green-flag passes for the lead and more than double the green-flag passes throughout the field from last season, from 1,147 to 2,665. France credited the NASCAR Research and Development Center for taking risks by running a new package in a race as the series reached the halfway point of its season. RELATED: Inside the R&D Center "Our group at the R&D Center did a really good job, and they're taking some risks that are a little bit outside the box of NASCAR," France said. "We typically wouldn't be changing packages in mid-stream like this in the middle of our season. But we want to make sure that we're delivering the absolute best racing that we can. They felt -- and I agree with them -- the only way to sort that out is not to test it in sort of isolated tests but to do it in real racing time." Last week, NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell announced a high-drag package would be run at Indianapolis and Michigan International Speedway . France noted that this package will help solve for some of the other aspects of racing that weren't seen at Kentucky . RELATED: New rules package at Indianapolis, Michigan "We're going to try some things coming up here at Indy where we'll go the other way," France said. "I'll tell you what we didn't see (at Kentucky ) that we'd like to see more of is more drafting. (We) didn't see as much of that as we would have liked. And more pack racing. You saw that on the restarts but not quite as much as we wanted. So there were a lot of things that we liked. Definitely an improvement on races that have happened at Kentucky ." France credited NASCAR Senior Vice President of Innovation and Racing Development Gene Stefanyshyn with leading the charge at the R&D Center as NASCAR combines technology with traditional ways of evaluating racing to provide the best product for fans. "I said a couple of years ago that we were going to use science and stop everybody guessing," France said. "We use our institutional, been-at-this-60-years knowledge for sure. But you've got a group of people now that have filtered it all out. They'll come up with the right package that rewards the drivers that are working the hardest, have the most talent. "(Our fans) want tight racing. They want to see close finishes. They want to see multiple leaders, and they don't want to see a certain package that doesn't provide that. That's what we're striving for. It's hard to do. Hard to get right. But we're working at it every day." A driver who took advantage of the new package but also excelled on the road course at Sonoma Raceway was Kyle Busch , who has won two of the seven races he's run and has climbed to 35th place in the points standings since his return from a compound fracture of his right leg and a fracture of his left foot suffered in the season-opening XFINITY Series race at Daytona International Speedway . Sitting 87 points out of the 30th place, a requirement to be eligible for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , Busch has a fan in France. But he'll need to deliver on the track over the next eight races to make NASCAR's postseason. "His determination is quite amazing to already have two wins, especially on the road course where you knew that he had to be a warrior to get through that constant using your feet to break and all that," France said. "He's been impressive, and he'll be a story. "I would be surprised, frankly, if he doesn't get in the Chase. I think he might win some more. There's not many drivers out there that have as much talent as he has. So on the one hand, it's not even surprising, but given the mountain he's had to climb, that's pretty impressive. "I can personally root for all kinds of things to happen. I just can't do anything about it. I'm rooting for him, but at the end of the day, this is where the individual drivers and teams have to do it. But I'm rooting for him." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
No. 24 driver has won at every other Sprint Cup track RELATED: Full race lineup " Complete Kentucky preview SPARTA, Ky. -- Jeff Gordon has recorded 92 wins in his storied NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career and has celebrated in Victory Lane at every track -- except one. Kentucky Speedway . "It wouldn't mean so much to me if I hadn't won on all the other ones," Gordon said with a smile on Friday after NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice at Kentucky . "It's the newest track that has been added on the schedule, so we haven't been able to come here for a long time. It would just mean a lot to win it." Sunday's Quaker State 400 (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, Sirius XM) is Gordon's final chance to seal the deal at the asphalt oval before his retirement at the end of the 2015 season. In four starts at Kentucky , the No. 24 Chevrolet has put on strong performances, pulling off four top-10 finishes. But for Gordon, close just isn't good enough in his final Kentucky foray. "It's not if we don't win that I'm going to be super disappointed," Gordon said. "I'm going to be disappointed if we finish second. To come that close, yeah, that would be a little disappointing as far as the stats go. But I would like to have a good, strong finish here and just have a shot at it." For the No. 24 team, making it to the front will be its biggest battle. Despite Gordon's solid finishes, he's yet to lead a lap around the 1.5-mile track. The zero in his "Laps Led" column puzzles the Hendrick Motorsports driver, as he has paced the field at every track for at least 182 laps, his best track being Martinsville with an impressive 3,744 laps led. "This is just a tough race track," Gordon said. "I'm not really sure. I feel like we have always run well toward the end of the race, but maybe didn't always start off as strong. Maybe it's a qualifying thing, too. We just haven't qualified up front. "Hopefully, that changes this weekend." Gordon's third-place starting position, set by opening practice times due to inclement weather, could give him the leverage he needs to make a strong run to the front. And while growing pains may come with the new rules package debuting this weekend -- which Gordon reserves most opinions about until he runs a little more -- bumpy Kentucky already causes Gordon physical pain. Perhaps it's a good pain -- it takes him back to the early days. "When I think of this track, I just think of how challenging it is and how rough it is, how much my back hurts and how much I'd like to win here because we never have," Gordon said. "I love that fact that when we came here, especially the first time, the way that racing is supported in this part of the country. "It reminded me of Indiana. I used to race in Evansville -- not to far from here -- I raced sprint cars, and it just didn't surprise me how when we come here, there's a lot of huge race fans, not just NASCAR fans, but just huge race fans, that want to see a great race and came out to support us here." That's just what Gordon will look to do on Sunday, as he climbs into his No. 24 for the last time at Kentucky : Give fans a great race. No matter the outcome, to Gordon's longtime fans, he'll always be celebrated. "When I heard the crowd applaud on race day (at Sonoma) for driver introductions, it really hit me and stuck with me, and it was cool," Gordon said. "The cheers and the support have been overwhelming everywhere we've gone. "Other than that, the only place that I think it's really going to hit me like, 'Wow, this is really happening,' is (his final race) in Homestead." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Wet weather moves practice time to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 12:55 p.m. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice for Wednesday at Kentucky Speedway was washed out by wet weather at the 1.5-mile track and will now happen on Thursday from 11 a.m. to 12:55 p.m. ET. Originally, there were two two-hour sessions scheduled, one from 3-5 p.m. ET and another from 6-8 p.m. ET. However, wet weather delayed the start of the first session leading to a revised schedule that called for a three-hour practice to start at 5 p.m. ET or as soon as the track was ready. However, a little after 7:20 p.m. ET, the planned practice was called. Air Titans took to the track around 3:20 p.m. ET to begin drying the 1.5-mile oval but more rain close to the revised start time of 5 p.m. ET delayed practice some more and eventually was called. There are 10 Air Titans at the track, per a NASCAR spokesperson. The extra practice time had been added to the schedule as the Quaker State 400 Presented by Advance Auto Parts (Saturday, NBC Sports Network, NBC Sports Live Extra, PRN, SiriusXM) will be the first race with a new aeropackage. The Kentucky package will feature a shorter spoiler as well as changes to the splitter and splitter extension panel (radiator pan), moves that will lessen the amount of downforce on the cars by approximately 1,000 pounds, and, it is hoped, create more passing on the track. Steve O'Donnell, Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer for NASCAR, told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that officials believe the change will be effective for the 1.5-mile track. "We're going to look at the measurements we look at every day: were there more passes, who was able to compete, how did the field look throughout the race, obviously fan measurements post-race," he said. Teams will also be on-track for two practices on Friday as well as Coors Light Pole Qualifying. Kentucky is not the only track to see new rules packages this season. On Tuesday, NASCAR announced plans for a similar rules package in September at Darlington Raceway and new rules packages for the Sprint Cup races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in July and Michigan International Speedway in August. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
All four of team's cars place in top five in Quaker State 400 SPARTA, Ky. -- Winning a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race is a proud accomplishment for any team in the league. But to take the checkered and land all four of a team's drivers in the top five is an even bigger success. It's a feat so impressive that it hadn't been done since Roush Fenway Racing in August 2008 at Michigan International Speedway . That is, until Joe Gibbs Racing rewrote record books Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway . JGR's four-car powerhouse was led by Saturday's Quaker State 400 race winner Kyle Busch , followed by teammates Denny Hamlin , Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth in third through fifth, respectively. "What a great night for Joe Gibbs Racing ," Kenseth said after the race. "I am really happy for all those guys and the organization, and I think we all learned a lot of stuff. You know, we were kind of off all night, but we kept fighting and had some great pit stops and good strategy and got a decent finish out of it." As Kenseth alluded to, the task wasn't an easy one for the team, as all four cars were dealt a heavy hand with the new rules package debut atop of the standard trickiness of Kentucky Speedway's uneven surface. Busch's win among the difficulties was another feather in the No. 18 team's hat, as the group has been battling the odds since the driver's return to full-time competition in May following his early-season injuries. "Obviously, the night went real well for us," Busch said in a post-race winner's press conference. "But in general, man, it was really, really good to get out there and race like that tonight and to run up front and put on a good show ... but most importantly I can't say enough about (crew chief) Adam Stevens, my team, everyone that did such a great job for me and gave me a great race car to go out there and perform like I did and just to be able to put it all together throughout 400 miles." For Edwards, the top-five finish was the defeat of a frustrating battle he had been fighting throughout the weekend. "I talked to Carl today on the phone for quite awhile, right before I flew over," team owner Joe Gibbs said. "And we were kind of ‑‑ and to be quite truthful, he was worried. He said, 'you know, I just didn't feel good with the package, I thought some of our other cars were better than me' and we had a long discussion on it." The newest member of the Joe Gibbs Racing clan, Edwards joined the organization at the beginning of the 2015 Sprint Cup season. While he won the Coca-Cola 600 in May at Charlotte, the No. 19 driver's performance this season has been mediocre the remainder of the year, only recording one other top 10 besides his win before Kentucky . "I got to tell you, I was, I had a big applaud when I saw that 19 come roaring up through there," Gibbs said of Edwards. "It was really a big deal." Edwards and the rest of his teammates seemed to have found something strong in the new rules package this weekend, an achievement that stumped other big-name teams such as Stewart-Haas Racing and Hendrick Motorsports . It's an aerodynamic change that awarded a plethora of control to the driver -- and exposed any flaws in driving ability. "We've been working on it," No. 20 crew chief Jason Ratcliff said after the race. "As soon as we knew it was coming, we know that if you put it back in the driver's hands, it's going to be good for JGR. We've got what I think is four of the best in the business and it showed tonight. So we've been working on it hard and it's just one of those weekends where it paid off for us." While raw talent has proven beneficial in the Sprint Cup Series, another crucial element is the ability to work with one another, despite the notion that stock car racing is often considered a solo sport. This weekend, the Joe Gibbs drivers seem to work as a cohesive unit, evident in each of their improvements throughout the weekend. "We have just been working very well together as a group," Edwards said. "Denny (Hamlin) was basically my counselor the other day after practice. I was so frustrated, I thought my car was terrible. I went straight over and talked to him and he helped me a little bit. "... It's a good group and it's cool to be a part of it. These guys, they really push me a lot. It's cool when your teammates are this fast. It's really neat for me." Hamlin agreed, adding, "Any time you have a driver of caliber of when Kyle (Busch) came in, Matt (Kenseth), and now Carl (Edwards), it just continues to push you to go faster. And push you to do your job better and that's what ‑‑ when you can feed off each other like that, that's typically how you get to an elite level." Saturday night's showdown in the Bluegrass State saw the JGR drivers rise to the occasion, battling to the front. And while the group works together melodiously off the track, the race even witnessed the teammates battling one another for the lead. It was a sight that showed the drivers' competitiveness, but probably also set owner Gibbs' nerves awry, according to Ratcliff. "I would say when they were three-wide, he was probably hiding his eyes," Ratcliff said with a chuckle. "I would be." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule