|Michigan Power Rankings|
|Teammates are not always team players, no more than two junior partners are while vying for the big corner office and expense account.|
That's not to imply that Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch's singular goals could not have collective benefit for Joe Gibbs Racing. Internal competition is often the purest of motivational forces. But Hamlin, who has 17 Sprint Cup wins, and Busch, who has 21 Sprint Cup wins, and together, have won exactly zero Sprint Cup titles in nearly four seasons at JGR, but might finally be consolidating their efforts. Or at least they suggested such last weekend at Michigan International Raceway, where Hamlin won his first race of the season and Busch finished third in a weekend that began with NASCAR seizing the oil pans from all of the JGR race cars.
"The last few weeks, yeah, I've seen him a lot more than I have a lot," Hamlin said. "I think a lot of it is you come to realize that you need your teammates to help you perform better.
"We've been to a couple really strong tracks here these last few weeks and he's kind of picked my brain quite a bit. I've given him every bit of information I have on them. He's obviously had two consecutive top 3 finishes at those tracks that he's not necessarily been the best at in the past. So he's using that knowledge to his advantage."
"Trust me, when I go to a road course or something like that, I'm going to be on him trying to find that same information."
Busch had finished 13th or worse in nine of 12 Michigan starts before Sunday. Hamlin won there for the second time on Sunday and has five top-5s in 11 starts at Michigan. Busch had finished 12th or worse in nine of his first 12 Pocono starts before finishing third last week. Hamlin has four wins and seven top-5s in 11 starts there.
In essence, Hamlin said, he and Busch are beginning their relationship with the sense of cooperation they fostered years ago.
"What we did I think at the beginning of our relationship really, really well, was that we pushed each other to be better," Hamlin said. "I think we're starting to get back to that right now, just using every bit of information we can from each other because he knows that I'm good at some race tracks and I know that he's good at other ones that I struggle at.
"For us to get closer together and start using each other's setups, we've got to get on the same page."
Not a novel approach, but possibly lovely prose for team president J.D. Gibbs.
"To watch them kind of come together and lift each other up, be a team, I get a lot of satisfaction watching those guys rally around each other and look for some great momentum for the rest of the year," he said.
And an incredibly collegial installment of power rankings: