Daytona 500: GM - Joe Gibbs interview

Joe Gibbs, Owner of Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) and Head Coach of The Washington Redskins , visited with the media this morning. Highlights of his comments follow: ON HIS RETURN TO THE REDSKINS AND FIRST DAY BACK AT THE NASCAR TRACK "It's a ...

Joe Gibbs, Owner of Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) and Head Coach of The Washington Redskins , visited with the media this morning. Highlights of his comments follow:

ON HIS RETURN TO THE REDSKINS AND FIRST DAY BACK AT THE NASCAR TRACK

"It's a thrill to be back at Daytona, obviously. One of the biggest thrills of my life has been coming here. I can remember all the way back. I was a big race fan growing up and never dreamed that we'd have a chance to race. I always look at it as a real thrill. It's probably one of the greatest experiences I've had in sports. I remember the 1993 Daytona 500. Our first year was so bad. I was asking myself if we did the right thing. We struggled because we're a family owned race team and hey, could we afford this? We had all those questions and then when we won that race (Dale Jarrett) it was great. I have some great memories being here at Speedweeks."

DID YOU HAVE TO GO BACK TO COACHING TO RECOUP A $28 MILLION DOLLAR INVESTMENT?

"Tony (Stewart) and Bobby (Labonte) probably say that Joe had to go back to coaching football in order to pay our salaries. There's got to be something with me. I come over here and I try to talk two young guys into taking millions of dollars to drive race cars. And now I go over to the football side and I try to talk to guys into taking millions of dollars to play football. I'm going broke and you guys are having all the fun (laughs). What am I doing paying you? (laughs). One of the things that gave me confidence is our race team. Our team will be owned by us for ever hopefully. We'll always be in racing. Football will probably be a limited number of years there that I feel like I can do something. So the racing is very important to us and our family. I would not have done this if I didn't feel real confident in our management team and in J.D. (Gibbs) heading everything up. But Jimmy Makar has moved up to oversee all of racing. We've got Michael (McSwain) and Zippy (Greg Zipadelli) - our two crew chiefs - and we have two veteran drivers. I feel like all our bases are covered. My job is just to kind of help with sponsorships and to keep the resources coming. I actually think that by being in football, you kind of bring a little something extra to the table there."

DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU ARE STARTING ALL OVER AGAIN WITH THE REDSKINS?

"I definitely feel like I'm starting all over again. When I went in there, I didn't wear any (Superbowl) rings or anything like that. To me, all the other stuff that we did back in the old days really is the old days - twelve years ago. You're starting all over again. The way I've looked at it is that you've got to prove yourself again. It's been a real learning process for me. It's a totally new venture. The past doesn't buy anything but some memories. We're starting from scratch."

ON HIS HEALTH

"Actually, this is crazy. This shows you how things work. It's so stupid. I have medication for diabetes and I switched the two medications without paying any attention to it. So I thought I should at least have this checked to make sure I'm okay. So I buzzed by that hospital to have my sugar checked and they said I was fine. It was just a precautionary thing."

ON THE BUSINESS OF RUNNING A NASCAR TEAM

"The racing thing to me was such a great experience. I was a family owned business. I'm not a good businessman. I'm scared to death about business. But we invested a lot. I remember my very first meeting I had was with Don Meredith. He came up to Washington when I was coaching and we went out to dinner on Thursday night about halfway through the season. He said we were $400,000 over budget. In those days the budget was only $2.2 million. I panicked. I think the business side of it is a thrill. To see my kids working there with me was a thrill and knowing the grandbabies that they're going to grow up and be in racing. We're always going to be in racing.

Some of the thrills in motorsports are the sponsors. Can you get the deal with Tony Stewart? Can you get Tony and Bobby (Labonte) re-signed? If you want to talk about something that can get you uptight now. Stop and think about asking somebody to spend millions of dollars. You're talking about some real tension. Your sitting there with 185 people whose jobs depend on you going out in motorsports to get sponsors. You stop and think about race teams and the way things go and how hard that is. We went from 17 people our first year in racing. I thought that was the way it was always going to be. Now we know we can't control any of it. It's out of control."

YOU ALWAYS SAID YOU WOULDN'T GO BACK TO COACHING - SO MANY TIMES THAT WE STOPPED ASKING. WHAT MADE YOU CHANGE YOUR MIND?

"I should have learned a lesson on that. You should never say never if you're not going back. Some of those things added up. It wasn't (just) one thing. A series of events started really. It started first with Coy when he said he didn't think he wanted to race next year and that didn't think he was good enough to do it. I tried to talk him out of it. He wanted to think about doing something else. He said he wanted to coach. I about freaked out. Bottom line, after talking to Pat (wife) and to J.D., I just kept going. I just kept thinking somebody was going to slam the door. There were about 15 things that have to happen over a period of about three months. I started thinking maybe the time was right. We had all of this (racing) covered. I could still be a part of this and be kept advised of everything that was going on and still be able to get to some races. I wasn't going away from it obviously. My family owns it."

ON TONY STEWART

"Tony Stewart, I've got to tell you, has been one of the real fun things in my life. You think back to Bobby (Labonte) and the very first time I met Bobby. We were going around trying to get him and how complicated that deal was. And then it all worked out and then he comes up here and wins the championship. And then we meet Tony for the first time in Columbus or wherever it was and he just looked around. We're standing there and I'm thinking what in the world am I chasing this guy all around for - trying to get him to take millions of dollars. When you think back, both of those guys have been real thrills in my life.

HOW HAVE THINGS CHANGED SINCE YOU COACHED BEFORE?

"It doesn't do me any good to sit back and say I'm going to try and figure all this out. I've never been that way. It's like in racing when I didn't know anything. I just dove into it. You learn on the job.

"To me it's been a big learning curve. On the field, what I see, is that a lot of things that we believed in are still there. You see all kinds of technical things. And that's kind of fun for me. It's kind of exciting. You think that makes absolute sense and you wonder why we weren't doing that before. Some of the biggest things are the salary cap and the free agency that we're involved in right now.

"My approach to that in pro sports is that it can change rapidly. My feeling is that in order to be successful in pro sports is that you need to be able to handle the changes better than everybody else. So there's no sense saying this isn't changing. It is going to change. So to me, it's fun. It's totally different in some areas. Can you do it better than anybody else who is doing it? You're going to have a tough time there because our football team has some holes there."

ON J.D. GIBBS RUNNING THE RACE TEAM

"J.D. has been here since the very first day the race team started. Don Meredith's son and my son are the same age. In those days, we told Jimmy Makar to find something for them to do. And then J.D. went over to the business side and Todd went into more the operations out back. So that management team has been there for 12 years and knows every single thing about the way our race team was built. I don't think you could have a better organization. Whenever I can work it in, I'll come (to the race track). I'll stay close to everything. And I'll be talking to the guys and all that all the time."

ON THE JOE GIBBS LEGACY

"I've been so blessed. I remember being in junior high and I thought I was going to coach junior high my whole life. I was going to be happy with that. How I ever got the chance to coach the Redskins is kind of amazing. But having gone into racing and working with J.D. for 12 years over here and then now going back to football with Coy.

"In the sports I've been involved with, it's all about people. Sometimes you can have the most talented person in the world and he doesn't fit. It's more of the chemistry. We've seen it out here where you get somebody who looks like he should be the perfect crew chief for the driver and the next thing you know, it's a nightmare. I think it's getting the right people together. I don't think that ever goes away. It's the same thing with football and business.

"So to me it's people and managing people. If you think about it, it's one of the most complicated things in the world. The reason why team-building is so hard is because it goes against human nature. Basically we come into the world self-centered. It's people. If you've got 180 people, you've got 180 nightmares. You've got to try to work all that out.

ON THE DAYTONA 500

"In restrictor plate racing today, I think that each of those teams will probably go from the front to the back three times. I've seen our guys where they can't get out of their own way it seems like. I've seen the guy who started dead last wind up in front in 20 laps. It's not like any other racing. Racing here is totally different. It's real unpredictable."

ON THE COST OF RACE TEAMS

"We're seeing more teams having to be creative and trying to add two or three sponsors and we're doing some of that with our Interstate car. The Home Depot car is different. There are only so many sponsors out there that can do it. You see the deals shrink. You can't race in this series and try and win it without losing money. I've experienced it. I did it. I tried it. I think we've got something there that we really need to be careful about in this sport. NASCAR has tried to be real aware in that area. For instance, you're seeing a whole new technology take off. They're trying to keep the motor basic. They're trying to keep the car basic. I think there are some other parts to that. The competition for sponsors is pretty intense with track sponsors, NASCAR sponsors, and team sponsors. Look at that dynamic and there's concern there. It also has to make good business sense.

-gm racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Jarrett , Tony Stewart
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing