JD GIBBS, PRESIDENT OF JOE GIBBS RACING, MET WITH MEDIA TO DISCUSS THE BUSCH SERIES RACE AT THE MILWAUKEE MILE (6/23), WHERE ARIC ALMIROLA TOOK THE POLE AND THEN YIELDED TO DENNY HAMLIN WHO WON THE RACE IN THE NO. 20 ROCKWELL AUTOMATION ...
JD GIBBS, PRESIDENT OF JOE GIBBS RACING, MET WITH MEDIA TO DISCUSS THE BUSCH SERIES RACE AT THE MILWAUKEE MILE (6/23), WHERE ARIC ALMIROLA TOOK THE POLE AND THEN YIELDED TO DENNY HAMLIN WHO WON THE RACE IN THE NO. 20 ROCKWELL AUTOMATION CHEVROLET
ON IF HE WAS AT MILWAUKEE FOR THE NASCAR BUSCH RACE LAST NIGHT:
"I didn't go, no, I didn't go."
ON HOW THE DRIVER CHANGE UNFOLDED AT MILWAUKEE WITH DENNY HAMLIN REPLACING ARIC ALMIROLA IN THE CAR DURING THE RACE:
"What I want to say is all this stuff just happened so quick last night. I just want to give you a little bit of background as to how we got in to this position. We have to start by saying that no one wanted to see Aric Almirola succeed than we do. We started four years ago with Reggie White with this program. We picked him; hand picked him, to go invest in him, invested in his future. Ran late models, we did some Busch stuff, did some Truck stuff. And now he has a change to run some more Busch stuff and nothing would make us happier than to see him running Cup for us in years to come. So you have to kind of take that as background here.
"Then what you have also, a few years ago, is a great corporation, Rockwell, who is a perfect sponsor for the Busch Series. They don't want to do Cup racing; they love the Busch Series. So they got together with us a few years ago and we were running Mike Bliss at the time, and we said let's run this Denny Hamlin in a second car and just see how he does. If he runs real well, that is an option for next year, if not, we will keep moving.
"Well, he ran pretty well at Darlington race years ago. So Rockwell, looking back, they really gave Denny his chance. So they gave Denny is chance, we kind of moved forward, the only reason the Milwaukee race is such a big deal for them is because that is their hometown. The perfect Busch sponsor, a great group of guys, been with us through thick and thin, rolled the dice with us, so we want to make them stay in great spirits.
"So, Aric did it last year, he did it this year, Denny won't be there on time. We went and found the fastest plane we could get, purchased that ride for him to get out there. He got out there, hovered around, couldn't make it, couldn't make it, couldn't make it, had to go land somewhere else. Be that as it may, Aric starts the race. It was said to those guys as a group, look, if you think Denny can get in the car and win the race, let's go, let's do that. If you don't think he can do that, let Aric run it out.
"Our guys kind of thought about it as a group and decided as a group, ok we could do that. He could run well, we are fast enough to win the race. So, it was a huge discouragement obviously for Aric. You have to keep in mind, what this does is and what we are trying to do for him next year, Rockwell could very easily be the group that says ok, we had our run with Denny, let's go with Aric full time. Rockwell invested in, they took a chance, they wanted Denny to run a full season but we said we couldn't do that that is just too much. We have the guy for you and it is Aric. They said you know what, Arc's the guy. They looked at Aric and said Aric is very talented so they really like Aric.
"As a group, it wasn't even them making the decision, it was a group. We all kind of said, here is where we are, we love Aric, and we love Denny. Denny is here, put him in the car and go. It is Milwaukee; it is probably the last time he will be able to do that.
"For me, it kind of became a no-win situation on either side there. But I just want you to know that no one cares more for Aric and his future than we do. That is a huge deal for us. At the same time, Rockwell has been a great partner. They stepped up and filled the gap when no one was there to span that gap.
"So before we go, you guys might agree with it, might not agree with it, whatever the case may be, I just want you guys to hear where we are. I am watching it myself thinking, ok, Aric is going to run the race. Then we got a shot, those guys get together, Denny gets in the car and I am thinking to myself, OK, we better win this thing. You know what I mean. It obviously was a hard decision, but I think for us, it was on what the big picture was.
"Those guys (Rockwell) could have given Aric a chance to run for years to come and they have also given him the chance to run this year. So as a group, the only reason we flew Denny out was really in appreciation for all that Rockwell has done in their partnership. So it wasn't a sponsor thing, it wasn't a team thing, it was a combination thing that made the decision."
ON IF HE HAS SPOKEN WITH ARIC:
"He is upset. I left him a message last night, I know he is upset and I understand that. I would be too if I were in his shoes.
"At the same time, I think he knows because we talked last week, to me he is kind of like a younger brother, he is like family. The hope for him is, we go through this, what you wind up with next year.
"What is really hard to sell in the Busch Series is a full sponsor for a young guy; it is just really hard to sell. So, that is our hope for him. If he can do that, that is an awesome fit, but it is very hard to do. But Rockwell is one of the companies that can do that. So for us it kind of made sense to let that play out. As frustrating as it was, I think we had a chance to win the race in their hometown. That is great; Aric was a part of it. It worked out as good as you could make it in a tough situation."
ON HOW MUCH INFLUENCE ROCKWELL HAD ON THE DECISION:
"It was a group thing. It happened so fast. I mean, I am out here at this race. We just want our young guys out here. I am just going back to the hotel and they are getting started. My word was that Denny was there on time, no big deal, he lands, fine. Next thing I know is I flip it on and he is helicoptering, you can't land anywhere. At that point, what I told them before that was you all get together as a group and make a decision. Whatever you decide, I am with you and then we will go from there.
"A group of guys. All the guys and Rockwell all got together and said, Hey, what is the best decision. I told them, as long as you all are on the same page, I am good with it.
ON HIS PREFERENCE AS TO HOW ARIC WOULD HANDLE THE SITUATION:
"If I put myself in his shoes, that is a lot to ask. I mean, I understand. I think for him he is just frustrated generally. What we tell our guys is if they are frustrated, take some time off, and don't jump right back up in the middle of everything. I will talk to him; we talked last week. I have known him for over four years, I know his family, I know how much this means to them. Really, for us, he is a huge part of our future. We have invested a lot in him both time wise and financially but more importantly, just getting to know him. No one wants him to succeed more than us. He is a perfect fit all the way around to race here for JGR and will be in this sport for years to come."
ON MESSAGE HE LEFT FOR ARIC LAST NIGHT:
"Just - Call me. That is pretty much it. Hey, Proud of you. You did a great job, just give me a call. I haven't talked to him.
"Trust me, I know he is upset. Because I would be upset. I am not disappointed in him at all. Again, no, not disappointed at all. If I am put in his shoes, he didn't know if we were doing the right thing and we tell our guys, step back from the middle of everything for a little bit. I am sure if I had told him to stay around so if we win the race you can go grab Denny. Yes, he might have done that. But I didn't have a chance to get a hold of him. And hey, if I am him, I just want to get away by myself. He had a great car, he practiced it and qualified it and I know it is frustrating for him - so no, no problems there at all."
ON DIFFICULTY OF MAKING THAT DECISION IF MORE LAPS HAD BEEN RUN OR AT HALFWAY IN THE RACE:
"If you go much farther than that, you aren't going to be able to make that decision. That has to be a hard one to make any later than that.
"After the race, we didn't talk about all that. But I would say you are pushing it pretty good if you pushed it much farther than that. "
ON ROCKWELL BEING SET FOR NEXT YEAR AND BEYOND:
"Rockwell has been a great partner for many years. For us, they are kind of evaluating where they go next year. They sold off a partner company that was in Greenville, South Carolina that was a big supporter. I think this helps some of their guys that might not have been involved before, to go up and win in their back yard. You have got Aric there that did a great job for you. He did a great job at hospitality, you have Denny. I think for them going forward, the hope is, they will stick this out and do some more."
ON FROM TEAM PERSPECTIVE, HOW THE TEAM REACTED:
"For was big value me, it is the guys on that team, they adapted so well. Busch racing is so difficult because you have to do what they do in the Cup Series with less people, less equipment. It is hard, less time. So for Dave Rogers and his guys, they are put in the middle. They had one driver who did a great job qualifying, great job practicing. Then they got another driver stuck in half way through, they did a great job making adjustments and won the race so I am very happy for those guys. For Rockwell, being their hometown that was exciting. Yes, it was obviously frustrating from Arc's standpoint and from our standpoint. We think he has all the talent in the world or else we wouldn't have been with this long as we have been."
ON WHO MADE THE CALL AND WHY WAS THE CALL MADE AND ON GROUP'S EVALUATION OF ARIC:
"For us, I gave some background as to how to we got to where we are as a group. Again, last night I was leaving here after the young guys raced the West race going home and I'm talking to them. My word is Denny is here, he has landed; he is fine. We got a special plane for him, got him out there, he is fine. Went home, turned it on, he is helicoptering overhead. What I told those guys before hand, which, as a group, you guys get together and say Look, if you think Denny can win this race, put him in and go. If not, let's give Aric a chance and let him run the whole thing out.
"I think those guys got together at the track, our management there, Dave Rogers, and they said hey, we think Denny can do this and really for us, the whole reason we are brining Denny in is to thank you to Rockwell, how much they meant to us over the years.
"I think it was there evaluation that Denny is sitting here and we know how good he is and this is the last time he will probably be able to do it and we are going to give him a chance. No, we think Aric can run well too. He was running third at the time, put it on the pole and could have done a great job too."
ARE YOU GOING TO ADD ANY RACES FOR ARIC?
"Yeah, we talked about that last night. Maybe what we'll do is deduct one of Denny's races with Rockwell and stick Aric in and let him run the whole thing from start to finish. Keep in mind that Rockwell is the one that took a chance on Aric to begin with, and let him come in here and run - I guess he's got 12 or 14 races, the races we told Denny those are not for you to run - he's running them - and they could have said, hey we're not doing that. But they said hey, we're going to take a chance on a young guy. We did it with Denny and we'll do it with him."
SO PEOPLE ARE SAYING THAT DENNY THREW A FIT AND WANTED TO BE IN THE CAR?
"Definitely not Denny. No."
THEN DID ROCKWELL THROW A FIT AND WANT DENNY IN THE CAR?
"Nope. They weren't throwing a fit. No, I think our guys got together and said hey, here's where we are. I told them if you've got a shot at the win with Denny, and you've got time, then great. If not, then let Aric ride it; we're fine with that too. Either way. We probably could have communicated it better. But the reality of it was that we were there to encourage Rockwell and let them know that hey, you've got two great drivers here and hopefully next year, they'll say, yeah, Aric is awesome. He'll run another race for them here down the road this year and they'll line up and do a full deal with him next year. That's what I hope."
DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT RACE YET?
"Nope, I don't. We need to sit down and look at it and get with Denny and his schedule."
THE PERCEPTION FROM SOME PEOPLE WILL BE THAT THIS IS JUST ANOTHER SITUATION IN THE WHOLE PROBLEM OF THE BUSCH SERIES WHERE A CUP GUY COMES IN AND TAKES OVER - WHERE THE CUP GUYS COME IN AND DOMINATE THE SERIES?
"We've been through all stages of the Busch Series. It's a hard series to run. We've had veteran Busch drivers in there like Mike McLaughlin, Jeff Purvis, and Mike Bliss. It's hard to sell. What's the advantage to that? It's hard to sell. The advantage to it is that you know you've got good cars and you're running well. Okay. We've put young drivers in there like Denny Hamlin, J.J. Yeley, and Tony Stewart. You bring them along. What's the advantage to that? It's very hard to sell. Hard to sell. So those guys took a chance at the time on J.J. and Denny and now you come full circle.
"Now, what works and what most of the guys do, is you've got to be able to sell the Cup guy and get more money and that helps the young guys run. So it's a combination. In most of these Busch programs, the owners spend money out of their own pocket to make it work. You can't do it just on sponsorship. So we've got to say that it's partly an investment in our future. And if we get enough from a sponsor and get them to step up and they want to go with a young guy and let's go for the full year. If they invest a chunk in that and we invest a chunk in that, we can make it happen. But in order to do that, you've got to show people that you can win and you've got to show them you're on top of your game. That's what Aric showed and Denny showed and it adds up."
OBVIOUSLY THERE WERE DIFFERENT OPINIONS ON THIS. WHO MADE THE ULTIMATE CALL? WAS THAT DAVE?
"I talked to those guys last night and what I told them as a group that if they were all on the same page, then do it. If you're not, don't do it. To be honest, I can't say who said let's do it right now. I haven't talked to them about that. I just told them I would support them as long as they all agreed on it."
WOULD THIS BE A LOT WORSE IF HE DIDN'T WIN?
"I think it would be a lot worse, yeah. If he didn't win and he ran around a lap down and you stay a lap down or your 15th, that's not a good deal."
THERE IS A REPORT THAT YOU ARE IN CONTRACT EXTENSION TALKS WITH TONY STEWART THROUGH 2011. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT?
"That is true. Our deal goes through '09 with Tony. We want Tony to be here for a long time. We want to add a couple more (years) or however long he wants to go. We'd be happy to sit down and make that happen."
WHY ARE YOU STARTING THESE TALKS NOW (EARLY)?
"We've been talking between he and (crew chief) Zip, and we've just said you tell us. How long do you want to do this? Take your time. Whatever you think. We'll go if you want to go. If you said hey at the end of '09, I'm officially done. Hey, we'd understand that. Let's get it planned. The reality is I think he wants to go. I want all those guys on the same page and when the time is right, we'd love to sign him for as long as he wants to stay here and drive."
IS THE MANUFACTURER DISCUSSION A PART OF THAT?
"Yeah, no that was one came out yesterday. I've got to be honest. That's just not true. There is speculation. We're sitting down with the GM guys and we've had conversations with them. We got their deal. I don't think any GM team has signed their deal yet. So we're no more obvious than the other ones. So that was kind of frustrating, but that's pat of it."
IS THERE A STIPULATION IN YOUR CONTRACT THAT PREVENTS YOU FROM TALKING WITH TOYOTA?
"I'm not going to get in the details of it, but no. It's the same contract we've basically had for 16 years. I think all the manufacturers are an important part of our sport. But ultimately, the ones that invest a lot are the sponsors, the team members - those are the guys we want to watch out for and make sure we do the right thing by them."
WHAT IS YOUR REACTION ON THE NO. 24 AND NO. 48 HENDRICK CARS? WHAT SHOULD THEIR PENALTIES BE?
"I'm not going to speculate. It's one of those things where hey, we kind of just trust NASCAR. Everyone kind of knows what the deal is. It sounds like to me, the details I got were that hey; there is an area here. What NASCAR clearly says is here is the golden surface of what it is. So, I think as you go through a process here, people are going to find out hey, what does that mean? And they're going to enforce it.
"So, we're going through a time here where we're just learning the Car of Tomorrow and what it looks like and how does it fit and what does the golden template mean? The golden surface?
IS THERE STILL A LOT OF WALKING ON EGGSHELLS ABOUT HOW TO PREPARE THE CAR OF TOMORROW?
"Well, there is some of that. Although NASCAR has made it pretty clear. Chassis, very clear. Body is pretty clear. There's not much leeway left. We thought there wasn't much leeway left in these current cars. These cars, you don't have a lot of wiggle-room. Every little piece you do means that much more. Ultimately you've got to communicate well with NASCAR and say, how about this? No? Yes? And you can go from there."
ON THE RUMOR ABOUT YOU SWITCHING TO TOYOTA, DOES THAT CAUSE YOU PROBLEMS WITH GM?
"No, we've been great partners for a long time. We're upfront with them. And that's all it is, is just rumors. So it's just speculation. We're upfront with them. They know where we are. We'll sit down and have those conversations just like all the teams are having right now."
HAVE YOU TALKED WITH KYLE BUSCH?
"No, I think there will be a time to go through that process. Right now we're just focusing on our three teams:
Tony, Denny, and JJ. Let's get these working. And if the time is right down the road to look at other stuff, we'll do that. But right now, we're just focusing on our current stuff."
WHERE IS YOUR TIMETABLE ON THREE OR FOUR CARS? WITH ALL YOU'VE GOT, IT LOOKS LIKE YOU COULD HAVE AN EXCESS OF DRIVERS
"Yeah, its kind of like having quarterbacks. You can't have enough good ones. On the negative side, you might train these guys and then they might eventually go somewhere else. But we can live with that. You're giving a kid a chance to come in here and start a new career. For us, we're in no hurry to get to four (cars). If it worked out great and everything lined up in '09, super. If its '10, great. Probably at that point, you need to be at four cars. But every time you add something, you're going to have your other stuff running well. There is no sense in adding something that causes more headaches."
-credit: gm racing