Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Joe Gibbs Racing's 100th win: Reflections of the No. 11 pit crew


Pit stop during the 100th win for JGR on Sept. 23, 2012
Credit: Rainier Ehrhart/Getty Images     
With Denny Hamlin’s dominant victory at Hew Hampshire this fall, Joe Gibbs Racing celebrated a thrilling milestone – their 100th win.

The triumph was a big event for the whole Gibbs organization, including the over-the-wall pit crew. The six guys wearing FedEx firesuits routinely throw themselves in harm’s way, inches from Hamlin’s car, and within reach of 42 others cruising pit road at speeds of up to 55 miles per hour. These men are athletes who train for hours, weeks and months, yet their most critical performances occur five or six times each weekend for only seconds at a time.

Necaise, Pegram and Bolling in action.
Credit: Beth Bence Reinke
What does win number 100 mean to these dedicated guys? In an interview with Skirts and Scuffs, the No. 11 over-the-wall pit crew used words like “special,” “blessed,” and “a big deal” to describe their feelings about the momentous victory.

“I feel blessed to be a part of this organization for any win, and to be part of the 100th win is extra special. I am really happy I was able to be a part of that milestone for the company.”                              ~ Scott Wood, gas man

“It also means a great deal to the employees to be able to contribute to someone like the Coach, who has done a lot of things in life that have been great.” ~ Dustin Necaise, front tire changer

“It’s a big deal to be part of the 100th win. All three (Gibbs) teams were trying to get it because it’s such an important milestone, so we wanted to be the one to win it.” ~ Brandon Pegram, front tire carrier

Working for JGR

In addition to being thrilled about the landmark win, team members were unanimous in their belief that working for Joe Gibbs Racing is a privilege.

Mike Hicks, rear tire changer, has been with Gibbs for five years. “As far as working for the company, it has been an honor,” he said. “It has changed me and just made me a better person. Everybody at the shop is just great people to work with. If you ever need anything from anybody, they’re always there for you.”

Wood (left), Cherry and Hicks (on pit wall) preparing
for a pit stop.
Credit: Beth Bence Reinke
Wood is a nine-year employee and said working for Coach Gibbs makes him appreciate the value of treating people well.

“I’ve worked for several companies, good and bad, and this by far is the best example of how someone of importance treats people that work for them,” he said. “It’s a great atmosphere here and that starts at the top.”

There is an almost family-like feel to the JGR working environment, according to jack man Nate Bolling.

“They try to go above and beyond the call of duty to make you feel like you’re part of the organization,” he said. “The little things here and there that they do really make you feel like they value your contribution.”

Rear tire carrier Heath Cherry has been with JGR for eight years, and said he feels blessed to work with a great organization and driver.

“I’ve had the opportunity to work with Denny from day one. He’s just been Mr. Consistency. He’s made the Chase every year he’s been available. It’s really been great to collect wins like that, but also to be around a great group of guys. We just have a great group from the top down. You kinda go through thick and thin together, and it’s just fun to be in this position," Cherry said.

The No. 11 crew after opening ceremonies
Credit: Beth Bence Reinke
Being in a position of success isn’t new to the Gibbs family. “Joe and JD are very goal-oriented,” Hicks said. “They know what it takes to be successful, obviously, with Joe’s background. They put the right people in the right places to make stuff happen.”

Cherry appreciates being able to go to work in a Christian environment where people are genuine, especially the bosses.

“That’s the one thing I tell people when they ask about Joe or JD Gibbs, that they’re the same person behind closed doors as they are in front of the camera. That’s probably the biggest compliment that I can give them, because you don’t get that a lot, especially in this garage,” Cherry said. “For Joe and JD, it’s just the same every day, day in and day out, whether they’re in front of the camera or in a meeting with us or doing sponsorships or whatever, you get the same deal.”


Coach prays with the pit crew before a race    
Credit: Beth Bence Reinke  
Pegram agrees. “I think you can’t help but just try to be a better person when you’re around people of integrity like that and people of faith. It just kinda rubs off on you.”

In the huddle

Sometimes it’s the little things, the traditions and habits, that impact people the most. Gibbs integrates his faith into his relationship with the team by gathering them for prayer, which Necaise finds particularly meaningful.


JD Gibbs prays in a pre-race huddle
Credit: Beth Bence Reinke


“The biggest thing that sticks with me is the Coach coming over before the race and giving us a pre-race huddle and a prayer - and the same thing afterwards. Every race we win, he especially is there after the race to give us a prayer and a little huddle. Just to be a part of that and be a part of the team is great,” Necaise said. “He is a great leader following his faith and bringing that to everyone else that works for him.”

Joe Gibbs watching race footage under the pit box.
Credit: Beth Bence Reinke



Winning words

Bolling said wins are hard to come by in NASCAR and he thinks the success at JGR reflects the strength of the company. The jack man shared words of wisdom related to winning that he learned from Coach Gibbs.

“One thing Joe said a few years ago really stuck with me. He said, ‘Not everybody in their adult professional life gets a chance to win. People go to work, they sit at their desk, and come home. We have the opportunity every week to win, and that’s not an opportunity that everybody else in this world gets.’”

Bolling added, “Just having that opportunity every week is special - to me and to him.”

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Beth Bence Reinke is a columnist, support editor & media rep for Skirts and Scuffs. She writes "Gibbs Garage," Joe Gibbs Racing Sprint Cup team recaps, for the 2012 season. Her column, “Faith on the Frontstretch,” explores the role of faith in motorsports. Beth is also the author of Race Fans’ Devotions to Go, a devotional book geared toward female NASCAR fans. Follow her on Twitter at @bbreinke or reach her at bbreinke@skirtsandScuffs.com

1 comments :

Wow! What great stuff, Beth!

Huge thanks to the Joe Gibbs Racing organization and the No. 11 team for this access.

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