The veteran driver met with media members on September 24 and discussed the changes on his team. He explained that two of the crew members were actually on his team during the 2021 season, so he has some familiarity with them. Hamlin also noted that the change could certainly help with some consistency concerns.
“Yeah, I mean, it’s certainly tough for those guys,” Hamlin said. “And I hate it because I love their attitude, swagger, all that about my 11 team. And, you know, certainly, they’re as important to this championship run as anyone, but we had to do something different.
“Certainly the results at the end of the day, you know, the consistency was tough, but this is a kind of a JGR decision and they felt like this is the best avenue to getting the quickest results in the shortest amount of time was just for placing an entire team versus one person or the other.”
The Decision Came Down to Playoff Eligibility
Joe Gibbs Racing announced the swap after the trip to Bristol Motor Speedway. This was the race that marked the end of the Round of 16, and it was the race that led to Busch’s elimination from the playoffs.
The driver of the No. 18’s first three races featured surprising issues. Engine issues derailed races at Darlington and Bristol, which knocked him below the cutline. Hamlin, for comparison, was able to point his way to the Round of 12.
There have been moments during the 2022 season when Hamlin’s team has struggled with consistency. There were slow stops, loose wheels, and unexpected penalties that kept him from winning some races where he appeared to be in contention. Swapping the crews was supposed to eliminate these issues during a pivotal part of the season.
The changes took place before Texas Motor Speedway, and they led to Hamlin’s old team turning in a faster stop while working on the No. 18 Toyota Camry. This helped Busch get into the top 10 during Stage 1, but a hard wreck shortly thereafter meant that their day came to an end. Busch took the No. 18 to the garage and finished last in the field.
Hamlin Turned in Another Top-10 Finish
The pit crew swap was a story heading toward Texas Motor Speedway, but it wasn’t after his first stop of the day. The crew just quietly went about their business and turned in solid stops throughout a race that featured a record 16 cautions, the majority of which were due to blown tires.
Hamlin had a fast stock car, and he used it to secure the second-most points during Stage 1. He then put himself in a position to fight for the win during the final stage, but he lost roughly 12 spots after William Byron intentionally punted him through the infield grass.
Hamlin was able to recover after this trip, as well as a close call later in the stage. He worked his way past some other drivers and ultimately finished 10th overall in the race. He wasn’t able to fight for the win, but he left Texas eight points above the cutline instead of only four.