Joe Gibbs Racing has swapped pit crews between their No. 11 and No. 18 teams, giving drivers Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch new crews for the remainder of the 2022 season. The swap was first reported by Fox Sports and later confirmed by NASCAR.com.
The change comes after Kyle Busch was eliminated from the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs last week at Bristol, when a second blown engine in three races doomed the two-time Cup Series champion to a finish below the cut line to advance out of the Round of 16. It also comes one week after Busch announced that he would leave Joe Gibbs Racing at the end of the 2022 season to join Richard Childress Racing starting in 2023.
Hamlin now gets the benefit of the pit crew that has serviced Busch's car up to this point, which has been among the best in Cup this season. As noted by NBC Sports, Busch's pit crew has ranked second in the Cup Series based on average four-tire pit stop times, with an average time of 11.7 seconds. That time ranks three-tenths faster than Hamlin's crew, a unit which has also been prone to pit road penalties.
Pit crew swaps are hardly unprecedented in NASCAR, especially during the playoffs. Arguably the most notable example came in 2010, when Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon's pit crews were swapped mid-race at Texas Motor Speedway. They have also already been seen among the Toyota teams this season,between Christopher Bell and Bubba Wallace's pit crews. The move was mutually beneficial, as Bell and Wallace have both won races since.
Hamlin enters the Round of 12 sixth in points following the reset, 27 points behind Chase Elliott for the lead and four points above the cutoff line to make the Round of 8.