BRISTOL — Joe Gibbs has seen this type of rivalry before.
The NASCAR team owner knows his drivers — Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano — don’t get along with the Richard Childress Racing trio of Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton, and the Childress drivers don’t really care for his guys either.
For Gibbs, it’s just like the old days coaching the Washington Redskins against the Dallas Cowboys.
“I think it’s just very competitive organizations battling for the same things,” Gibbs said. “Hopefully, the drivers talk over some of their differences, but I think both organizations are up front and when you’re up front, battling for wins, you’re going to have things that happen.”
It is a feud which has boiled over at times, to the point that rival car owner, Richard Childress, got into a physical altercation with Busch after a Truck Series race at Kansas.
As a team owner, Gibbs can understand the frustration of seeing cars torn up, but he doesn’t like to see things get out of hand.
“Obviously, racing lends itself to incidents where you’re going to have things happen,” he said. “You just hope that everybody handles them the right way. You hope they can talk things over off the track and get them settled out before you race again.”
Tonight’s IRWIN Tools Night Race is a time when Gibbs realizes there’s a good possibility of his cars being torn up. While Gibbs’ cars, particularly the No. 18 of Busch, are always among the favorites at Bristol Motor Speedway, his teams have left the track many times with plenty of carnage.
“We love coming here,” Gibbs said. “It’s a great fan base and I love this race track. All of our sponsors love it and we always have a big group here. Although it’s the fans’ favorite, it’s not always the owner’s favorite because even though we’ve won here, we’ve torn up a lot of stuff here.”
Still, Busch is the overwhelming pick to win among his fellow drivers. He has won four of the last five Sprint Cup races at Bristol heading into tonight. Included in his record was a historic sweep last August when Busch became the first driver to win Truck, Nationwide and Cup races in the same weekend.
With the points lead, Busch is also being mentioned as the favorite to win this year’s Sprint Cup championship, although Gibbs said you have to go with defending champion Jimmie Johnson until proven otherwise.
“We like our team, but to make us the favorite, you have to have your head screwed on wrong,” Gibbs said. “There is a guy who has won five straight, so to make us the favorite isn’t very logical. I think this will be the closest Chase we’ve had and whoever gets in, has a chance.”
Gibbs compares this season’s “Chase for the Cup” to recent NFL playoffs. Those have been wide-open with wild-card teams often winning the Super Bowl. On the other hand, Gibbs pointed out the NFL hasn’t had a five-time defending champion.
“You start off 0-0,” he said. “It’s not like you start with a big lead. I think it will be very competitive and very entertaining for everybody. I don’t think you have a favorite, other than Jimmie Johnson.”