In terms of individual race victories, Joe Gibbs Racing was the most successful team in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, winning 11 times, thanks to Denny Hamlin's season-high eight victories and three more from Kyle Busch.
A total of 13 drivers from eight different Sprint Cup teams visited victory lane in 2010, a number that’s down slightly from the average number of winners from 2000-09, which was 15.1.
Interestingly, Hamlin’s individual total of eight victories was more than any other team achieved all season. Other than JGR, Hendrick Motorsports (six) and Richard Childress Racing (five) were the only other teams with at least five victories. And while multi-car teams continue to be all the rage, not a single Cup organization had more than two of its drivers win races in 2010
Here’s how the year broke down in terms of victories:
JOE GIBBS RACING, 11 victories — In the first five races of 2010, Hamlin didn’t post a single top-10 finish and Busch didn’t have a top five. But after that, the team was dynamite. In a torrid 10-race spring stretch, Hamlin won at Martinsville, Texas, Darlington, Pocono and Michigan. He won the last NASCAR regular-season race at Richmond, then repeated his Martinsville and Texas victories in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Busch, meanwhile, won the spring Dover and Richmond races and at Bristol in August. Add it up and it was an impressive year for the team.
“This is the big leagues,” said team owner and former NFL coach Joe Gibbs. “This is where truly the best people in the world that race cars are doing this at this level in NASCAR. ... For Denny, too, this year and in past years, the difference has been he's been able to win races. He's put together — he's been able to finish things. So I think it's just a maturing process for him.”
HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS, 6 victories — Was 2010 a season where the glass was half full or half empty for the powerhouse Hendrick team? It could be argued both ways. Jimmie Johnson won a fifth consecutive championship and a bunch of races, including three of the first five of the season — Auto Club, Las Vegas and Bristol. He would go back-to-back at Infineon and New Hampshire in June, but his Dover triumph in September was his only victory in the final 19 races of the season.
As for Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr.., none of them won a race and Gordon was the only other Hendrick driver to make the Chase, finishing a disappointing ninth. That led to a wholesale shuffle of crew chiefs for 2011, with Steve Letarte working with Dale Earnhardt Jr. out of the newly rechristened 48/88 shop, while the pairings in the 5/24 shop will be Jeff Gordon/Alan Gustafson and Mark Martin/Lance McGrew.
“The proof will be in the performance next year,” said team owner Rick Hendrick. “But I’m excited about making all four teams better. We need to be better across the board. We’re going to get better; we’re going to work harder. We are not going to leave any stone unturned, that’s the attitude and the fire that’s in the whole organization now. It was a move to make all four better.”
RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING, 5 victories — It truly was a renaissance year for RCR, with Kevin Harvick winning the first Talladega race and the second Daytona and Michigan races, while Clint Bowyer won Chase races at New Hampshire and Talladega. Only Jeff Burton failed to find victory lane for the RCR squad.
What was particularly impressive about RCR’s accomplishments was how badly the team struggled in 2009, when it went winless and failed to put a single car in the Chase. Childress said he knew he had to do something during the Coca-Cola 600 in May 2009.
“I stood on the trailer and seen how we were chasing our tails and how behind we were, and we were in a panic mode,” he said. “I came back Monday or Tuesday, had a meeting with everyone, and started making changes and told them, ‘You know, you have to build — it's just like building a house; your foundation is a start of a good home and the foundation for a good race car is a good chassis.’ ... It was all a team effort. I'm just a spoke in that big wheel that turns.”
ROUSH FENWAY RACING, 4 victories — Like RCR, Roush Fenway Racing was another tale of recovery and perseverance, as over the summer team co-owner Jack Roush survived a second plane crash, while the team gradually learned to adopt setup information from Richard Petty Motorsports, a team that was new to Ford for 2010.
Shut out for the first 20 races of 2010, Greg Biffle delivered the team’s first victory of the year in the second Pocono race and followed it up with another in Kansas, while teammate Carl Edwards swept the final two races of the season at Phoenix and Homestead.
“Last year as we made our plans for 2010, we dared to be great as it related to our simulations and we didn't get it done right and that put us behind this year for six months before we got it fixed and then got the confidence in it,” said Roush. “But we have got to tear up as all of the teams do over the winter this year, to try to make things better, otherwise you get passed behind.”
EARNHARDT GANASSI RACING WITH FELIX SABATES, 4 victories — Strictly an up-and-down year for EGR as Jamie McMurray captured the year’s two biggest prizes, the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400, plus won the fall Charlotte race. Juan Pablo Montoyadid manage to win on the road course at Watkins Glen International, but he had a frustrating year otherwise, falling from eighth in the points in 2009 to 17th this year.
For team co-owner Chip Ganassi, it was still a huge year, as Dario Franchitti won the Indy 500, giving Ganassi an unprecedented Daytona 500/Indy 500/Brickyard 400 triple.
“Is it surreal? Yes,” Ganassi said after McMurray’s Brickyard triumph. “From where we were a while back, people had Jamie written off, people had us written off. But I think what I said once before, a semester at sea for Jamie. He couldn't have come back a better person. We had grown as a team and he had grown as a driver. We picked up where we left off, I think. And I'm really happy about that.”
STEWART-HAAS RACING, 3 victories — It was another solid season for SHR with Ryan Newman earning his first victory with the team at Phoenix in April, and Tony Stewart winning the second races at both Atlanta and Auto Club Speedway.
“The thing I guess I've been really excited about, especially the last two months, we have been kind of silent every weekend and we are gaining on it,” Stewart said after his Atlanta victory. “And it's not been in one-week increments where we've had a big change and all of the sudden everybody goes, ‘Wow, they are starting to figure it out. It's been a lot of little steps in the last ten to 12 races, I would say, that nobody's really noticed it, but we have noticed it internally.”
PENSKE RACING, 2 victories — When Kurt Busch won the spring Atlanta race and then swept the Sprint All-Star race and the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, it appeared he was headed for a big season. Alas, it was not to be as he was shut out for the rest of the year. His teammates Brad Keselowski (25th in points) and Sam Hornish Jr. (29th) struggled, both going winless on the year.
MICHAEL WALTRIP RACING, 1 victory — David Reutimann scored his only race triumph of 2010 and second of his career in the summer night race at Chicagoland Speedway. His two victories — he also won the 2009 Coca-Cola 600 — are the only ones in MWR’s still-brief history.
Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEED.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100 and e-mail him at Jensen is the author of “Cheating: The Bad Things Good NASCAR Nextel Cup Racers Do In Pursuit of Speed,” and has appeared on numerous television and radio shows. Jensen is the past President of the National Motorsports Press Association and an NMPA Writer of the Year.