Why I Love NASCAR: Coach Joe Gibbs by Chief 187™

Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
On this day after Super Bowl Sunday I thought it apropos to discuss a football legend in the garage, Coach Joe Gibbs.

Coach Gibbs began his foray into NASCAR in 1991, my first full season watching Cup. I certainly knew Coach Gibbs by reputation as the winning and ultra-popular coach of the Washington Redskins and was thrilled he was bringing something new to NASCAR.

Dale Jarrett debuted the Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) No.18 in the 1992 Daytona 500 to lackluster performance; he finished thirty-sixth.

What a difference a year made; in 1993, with his father watching, Dale Jarrett powered the JGR No.18 Interstate Batteries car to Victory Lane in The Great American Race. He capped the year with a fourth in points.

In 1994 Bobby Labonte took over the No.18 car and ran it until 2005. He took it to Victory Lane 21 times and brought home a Winston Cup for JGR in 2000.

Meanwhile, in 1999, Tony Stewart entered the NASCAR Cup Series in the JGR No.20 Home Depot car and put it on the outside pole of the Daytona 500 that year.  Stewart won three races that season including Rookie of the Year honors. In his career with JGR Tony Stewart won two more championships for the organization, in 2002 and 2005.

Coach Gibbs, famous for his excellent people skills and coaching background, has done much for the drivers in his stable. From fiery Tony Stewart (formerly the No.20)  to bratty Denny Hamlin (No.11) and now to the wayward Kyle Busch (No.18) Coach Gibbs has had to put his tremendous coaching skills to the test to curb egomaniacal tendencies, smooth rough feathers, and get his drivers to produce wins and, in some cases like Tony Stewart, Championships.

Bucking trends, conventional wisdom, and tradition, Coach Gibbs swiftly left GM, a manufacturer that his drivers were running when his organization won three Cups, to Toyota, the new entrants to NASCAR. Gibbs felt his top-tier teams were not being treated equally to the likes of Hendrick Motorsports or Richard Childress Racing so he walked away from GM publicly at the end of 2007.

Running Toyotas since 2008, amid controversy and public outcry, Joe Gibbs Racing has become the strongest and most winning Toyota team on the circuit. Even after letting Tony Stewart out of his contract, JGR rebounded well with Joey Logano strapping on the No.20 Home Depot car, Denny Hamlin in the No.11, and hot head yet undeniably talented Kyle Busch in the No.18.

What has escaped Coach Gibbs in recent years, however, is a Sprint Cup.

Kyle Busch runs well until the Chase and then peters out completely. Denny Hamlin, who had a banner year in 2010 with JGR winning 8 races, was unable to seal the deal and instead lost the Cup to Jimmie Johnson.

 Coach Gibbs, used to his winning ways both on the football field and on the racing circuit, must be frustrated and in a quandary. But he never gives up and usually finds the formula for success.

Joe Gibbs is a man I greatly admire for his turn as the beloved Washington Redskins’ coach.  When he dedicated himself to being a NASCAR team owner, he had retired from football. In 2004 he returned out of love for the game and the organizations for a four year stint as the Redskins’ coach. In 2008 he walked away again, presumably for good.

J.D. Gibbs, Joe Gibbs’ son, runs the day-to-day operations at JGR, but Coach Gibbs is still highly visible. On a vacation to Charlotte last spring my family and I arrived at the JGR shop for an afternoon tour. As we were leaving, Coach Gibbs was just returning from a run.

For a septuagenarian or for a man any age, Coach Gibbs looked rock solid, incredibly healthy and fit, and had the unmistakable twinkle in his eye. I would have loved to have a long chat with the man, but it was obvious he was on his own private time so I respected that.

Coach Gibbs is the type of man you’d love to have as your best friend and mentor but you’d never want to be on his bad side.

Having Joe Gibbs and his racing teams around is yet another reason why I love NASCAR.

Chief 187™ is a writer, columnist, and blogger as well as creator of the widely popular Chief 187™Chatter. Her column “Why I Love NASCAR” and other articles are featured on Skirts and Scuffs. She can be reached via Twitter by following @Chief187s. To find out more please visit http://Chief187.com.

Why I Love NASCAR: Coach Joe Gibbs by Chief 187™ Why I Love NASCAR: Coach Joe Gibbs by Chief 187™ Reviewed by Chief 187 on Monday, February 06, 2012 Rating: 5