For Carl Edwards, moving to Joe Gibbs Racing last year has paid big dividends in a lot of ways.
Edwards drove for Jack Roush from mid-2004 through the end of 2014 and for many of those seasons was one of, if not the, face of Ford Motor Co.’s NASCAR Sprint Cup effort.
Last year, after much thought, Edwards joined forces with JGR and Toyota, where after a slow start to the season, he went on to finish fifth in Sprint Cup points. That was his best result since being runner-up to Tony Stewart in 2011.
This year, Edwards already has victories at Bristol and Richmond, and is fourth in points heading into Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, a race he won last year.
One factor In JGR’s success is Furniture Row Racing, which switched to Toyota for 2016 and has formed a tight alliance with JGR.
JGR and Furniture Row essentially work as one, five-car Toyota team, and Edwards said the level of cooperation and trust among the five drivers and crew chiefs has helped account for the tremendous results JGR has enjoyed so far in 2016, winning seven of the first 12 Cup points races.
“It’s literally like one team,” said Edwards. “It’s pretty spectacular. I think respect is the word. It’s really shocking to me. Everyone is 100 percent involved, 100 percent on the same team. And that’s hard to do. So I feel like I’m the lucky recipient.”
The cooperation didn’t come about randomly.
Toyota’s management has made it a huge priority for its top teams to be on the same page, something that didn’t always happen in the last couple of years when Toyota’s top teams were JGR and Michael Waltrip Racing.
The addition of Furniture Row — and the subtraction of the now defunct MWR — has made for a seamless, united front.
David Wilson, the president of TRD, U.S.A., Toyota’s racing arm here, said that in competition meetings, all the different parties pretty much function as one.
“If you didn’t know the individuals involved, you wouldn’t know who’s Joe Gibbs Racing, who’s Toyota, who’s Furniture Row,” said Wilson. “It’s one team.”
And while Wilson said he would ultimately like Toyota to have about one-third of the cars in the Cup Series, he is very cautious about adding teams or changing the mix.
“Honestly, what we’ve learned is it’s first and foremost about quality, not quantity,” Wilson said. “And if anything, any additional growth we’re going to consider, we’re going to be very, very cautious. Because we’ve got this magic in a bottle.
“There’s nothing you can do that’s in a vacuum,” said Wilson. “A change here is going to have an impact there. … We’re highly sensitized to making sure we make decisions that are sound.”
If the 2016 record book is any indication, both Edwards and Toyota have made plenty of sound decisions already.