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November 19, 2015

Joe Gibbs

Q. How excited are you about re‑signing Kyle?
JOE GIBBS: I'm really excited. Obviously one of the things about us being here that's really exciting for me is Mars, the company, M&M's, they've been 26 years in racing. I think they're one of the biggest and best companies obviously in America. They've been a huge supporter of NASCAR and the family and everybody. So for us to get an extension on our contract with them, and then to get Kyle wrapped up in that, I mean, it's a huge deal for us. It made me reflect on really what this weekend means for us. You've got Toyota's chance for the first time ever. You've got M&M's, first time ever. You've got Norm Miller at Interstate Batteries. This would be his second if we could do that, and that means a lot. And then you've got Kyle.
So our deal, I think everybody is nervous. Everybody has realized what's at stake. We've got almost everybody from M&M's coming, and we've got a lot going on. For us it's a big deal.

Q. How have you seen him blossom since he joined your company almost 10 years ago?
JOE GIBBS: Yeah, I think you're never quite sure what affects people in their life, but we know Kyle, since he's been with us, he's married now. Sam I think has a big influence on him. The baby certainly does. You know, I joked with him on the plane, the baby was back there crying, and I said, sounds just like you in the car. (Laughter.)
But loves the baby. They're loving on the baby.
And I think also, when we go through things in life, we learn from them, and sometimes it's when we make a mistake, we say, I'm not going to do that again.
So anyway, I think through the whole process, you're not quite sure, but I think Kyle now, I think for the last couple of years, you can tell he reacts in the car differently. He seems to have more of a patience, willing to think through things. He's still very aggressive, but I think also the way he deals with things, he's much more even now. So I think that's part of just‑‑ who knows, growing up, all those other family things. But I think he definitely now is in a different place than he was 10 years ago.

Q. You have motivated football players to take the field and win a Super Bowl. How is it different motivating a group of guys to go out on pit road, guys in the shop, to win one race?
JOE GIBBS: I think over here it's completely different for me because the crew chiefs are the ones that are constantly with the drivers. They're the ones making the calls, and they're the ones conversing most of the time with the drivers. So my role over here is to pick the people and try and pay the bills and get the sponsors. I'm in a totally different role, whereas in football I was the guy that was making the calls and trying to get people pointed in the right direction. Over here it's the crew chief. So it's different for me.
But I do spend a lot of time with our drivers and the crew chiefs, and J.D. and I, all of us working back there, I wish the people in our shop‑‑ you know, when you think about 500 people that you wish could be here, including J.D. and our whole team there, it's a big deal for us. It takes so many people to make this happen, so I think my role, to answer that, is totally different over here.

Q. Is there any pre‑race speech given by anyone?
JOE GIBBS: Not by me. All I do is tell them, hey, you realize you're going to make a lot of money if you win this race (laughing). Some people are motivated by money I've found.

Q. Have you talked to Matt at all since his meeting with Brian France?
JOE GIBBS: Yeah, we talk quite a bit. We had our meeting this Tuesday at 10:30, and it's great having Matt back in there because it's almost like you're missing part of the family when somebody‑‑ one of our drivers is not there. It was the same with Kyle earlier in the year. We certainly missed him, and you miss Matt. So having him back, yeah, we've talked about that, and he just kind of shared some things with me, and then I shared some things with him. It's the kind of things between the two of us, but I think he felt like the meeting was very beneficial, and I know I felt the same way.

Q. Have you had any conversations with NASCAR or Brian about the incident since it initially happened?

Q. Have you had any conversations this week with Brian or anybody from NASCAR about Matt's suspension?
JOE GIBBS: Oh, yeah, we had a meeting on all that, yeah.

Q. With Brian?

Q. That was at the shop, wasn't it?
JOE GIBBS: Yeah, it was at the shop.

Q. Were you in that meeting or was that just Matt and Brian?
JOE GIBBS: No, Matt and Brian met separately, and then we met separately. Yeah.

Q. Do you back a driver regardless because he's your driver, of what he's done? Do you go to bat for him?
JOE GIBBS: Well, I think that's kind of a hard answer probably. I think there's certain things that have happened in the past where you wouldn't, you would say, hey, this is definitely wrong. I know I have with drivers, and said, look, this is not something we're all about, and we have all those kinds of discussions. You go through some tough things.
And then there's other times that you kind of feel like, hey, it's our responsibility, we're a team, and we're going to stand up for each other. So I think it could go either way.

Q. Did you feel like what Matt did was okay?
JOE GIBBS: I felt like what took place there started weeks before, and you know, to be truthful, I don't tell drivers about their relationship with other drivers and kind of what happens on the racetrack. I'll leave that up to them. But I think in this case, you know, I kind of stated what I felt before, and I'm going to leave that there.
I think going forward, we had good meetings. I think we're all in a good place right now. I think Matt is, too, and I appreciated getting a chance to meet with Brian, and I think Matt did, too, and I think we're going to put all that behind us, and we're going to go racing.

Q. Any discussion with Roger Penske about it?
JOE GIBBS: Roger and I talked on the phone. We did. We done a couple of times, yeah.

Q. Despite the fact that Kyle has more wins this year than the other three guys, he's run fewer races than the other three guys, he doesn't consider himself the favorite on Sunday. Do you feel like he's selling himself short a little bit?
JOE GIBBS: Between those four, I think all of them are a great story one way or the other, and I don't know kind of what Kyle said, but most people would probably‑‑ I would say the betting public would probably be going with Kevin, but I think any of the four would have a good chance in one race.

Q. With all the ups and downs this team has had this year, is this a good year for the organization and the family?
JOE GIBBS: I think it's a great year. We've had a bunch of wins, and we're proud of that. All of our guys have won. Big year for us with ARRIS and Carl. I think ARRIS is one of the most powerful and biggest companies new to our sport, big deal for us and for them to get in the Chase and win two races with Carl was a big deal for us. I think Denny obviously had a very good year for FedEx, and that's always a big deal for us because they're a big partner.
And you look at now Kyle and what this means, and then you've got Matt with Dollar General and everybody there, and DeWalt, those are all big companies, and I kind of look at it as Matt won five races this year and had a heck of a year, too.
So I feel like, you know, for us this year, when you think about '14, we weren't very good, and I think there was a lot of work and fighting to get back. In '13 we led the most laps, won the most races. So it shows you in pro sports how tough this is. '14 was our worst year, and for us to bounce back in '15, I think this was kind of an exceptional year for us.

Q. You mentioned you talked to Roger in regards to the incident with Matt, and I'm curious in a general sense, this didn't involve you, didn't involve him, but obviously it involves your teams or organizations. How do you talk from an owner's perspective on that or what kind of a dialogue is there because that type of an instance is more rooted in the driver‑to‑driver stage?
JOE GIBBS: I think just between me and Roger, we've always had a good relationship. He called me after Kansas. I called him after Martinsville, and that's about it. That's all I'd say about it. I think we really get along with each other, and you know, the things we kind of talk about are kind of between us.

Q. Kyle puts on a tough exterior, but what do you think that this would mean to him if he pulls this off at the end of the day on Sunday?
JOE GIBBS: You know, you see it in sports where great players in the NFL get a chance to win a Super Bowl, and a lot of them don't get to. Over here I think it's the same thing, and even over here it's probably a little‑‑ very similar, but for him, I think everybody looks at the championship as the way you're judged about your past, and I think it would be a big deal and a big statement for him. So I think it's a great story. I mean, think about what happened to us in Daytona, and to come back and be here, I certainly think it was a huge effort on his part, and the way he approached everything when he came back was kind of unbelievable. He was so aggressive, and after things you'd think he'd be more cautious, and yet he came back roaring.
Obviously I think he made a big statement in coming back the way he did.

Q. Up until a couple years ago Kyle had always struggled in the Chase. How much did that bother him not to perform well during the playoffs?
JOE GIBBS: Oh, I think it definitely bothered him, but I also think it wasn't him struggling, it was us. You know, we broke a part‑‑ I remember we've had part failures. I think last year he was probably in the best shape of anyone, and we go to Talladega, he was very cautious, and you know, we were trying to stay totally out of everybody's way, and we get hit on a wreck with only two cars behind us.
Now, obviously you could look at that and say, well, he could feel like, hey, everything is kind of going against him, but I think it was other things. I think he was ready. I think he was ready last year. But hey, in this sport we all know there's a lot of things that can happen.

Q. Is he as prepared now to win a championship as he's ever been at any point in his career from a driver standpoint?
JOE GIBBS: Yeah, I think right now, I think he handles everything very well. I think he's very talented. You've got to be real talented. All four of those guys‑‑ I think he's got the talent, and I hope we give him‑‑ my biggest fear is we don't give him a car good enough.

Q. You said that if there are issues between drivers you want them to handle those. Would there have been a point where you thought maybe we need to inject ourselves here to prevent this from escalating to a level that it went to?
JOE GIBBS: Yeah, I think we've kind of all handled that, and I'm through talking about it, really.

Q. You had a stretch from 2000 to 2005 where championships were coming through the door.

Q. And obviously there's that gap since. I mean, I know there's a lot of things that have grounded you in a lot of different ways and your experience in the sport, but can you give a sense and perspective of how you viewed things in that 2000 to 2005 time period and what it's been like since, because as you said, everybody is measured by championships?
JOE GIBBS: Yeah, I think you definitely are, and I think that hurts us. But I think, also, we've been second with Matt, we've been second with Denny a couple of times. I think we've been there, but other people have done a better job. And so that can happen to you in sports. I think we're definitely hungry. We want one. I think it would mean a lot, like I said, to all of the people that are involved, Toyota, Mars, Kyle, and certainly for our race team.
So you know, I don't think it can get any bigger for us.

Q. Will J.D. be here this weekend?
JOE GIBBS: J.D. will be here. I'm excited about that. He's going to come with the whole family, and he'll be here Sunday. We're all excited.

Q. I saw a few weeks ago how‑‑
JOE GIBBS: Yeah, J.D. is my hero. The way he handles everything is just‑‑ it's great, really.

Q. Kyle was saying the day after the accident that he was already starting to count points and figure out how he could get himself in the Chase. Knowing the extent of the injuries, did you think that was at all realistic, that that could be a possibility?
JOE GIBBS: I would say it would have been real risky. I was trying to think, how can we get one win to qualify, particularly after NASCAR made the decision about how they were going to handle it points‑wise. So I can honestly say, at Sonoma, he won that race in Sonoma, I think everybody was crying going to the winner's circle. Nobody thought he'd win a road race after having his foot the way it was injured, and to go through everything he did and to come back‑‑ I was worried that he wasn't going to be able to drive that race. We talked about maybe having somebody else substitute because, man, that's a lot when you go road racing, with your feet and everything. That was probably one of the great physical performances I've seen by an athlete.

Q. Did he shoot that down, the notion of having somebody drive? You said you guys were talking about it, so how did he‑‑ was that just like the quarterback saying, hey, I'm going to play even if my arm is hanging off?
JOE GIBBS: Well, actually what happened that weekend, we talked about somebody else being ready, but we also talked about him going in and practicing and seeing how he felt, and after the very first day, I mean, after that, he said, no, I'm going to race. That's the race we were worried about, and then for him to win the thing was over the top.

Q. The day after that, did you think he was being overly ambitious? Were you just kind of letting the guy be positive?
JOE GIBBS: I think he's‑‑ you almost, with athletes like that, my experience has been they'll pretty much tell you. Now, sometimes they'll try and tell you because they've got to be in there, they're going to fake it or something, but generally you talk to the doctors, and we had, and we knew‑‑ we had the best doctor in the world, Dr.Anderson, looking at everything. So I think we knew that he wasn't going to hurt something, it was just a matter of could he do it. I think he was confident he could do it.

Q. Is there any best advice that an owner can give a driver about winning a championship?
JOE GIBBS: I don't think a lot. You know, I didn't drive race cars, and I think you can‑‑ these guys, to get to this level where they are, you know, obviously two of them have won championships. So I think it's a process they've almost kind of got to go through themselves. Now, what you can do is give them all the support stuff. My biggest worry is having the right car for them, the right crew chief, the right pit crew. So that's where our focus is, because we think he has real talent, that he can do this.

Q. Your great experience, doesn't that give somebody inspiration? You're a special guy.
JOE GIBBS: I don't think it gives him inspiration.

Q. As good as things are at the top, things are even flourishing in the XFINITY Series with Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez. How proud are you of those two gentlemen and what's your plan for those two guys moving forward?
JOE GIBBS: Yeah, well, what we have there is two young guys coming. It's a big deal for Toyota and a big deal for us. I think next year our plan is both of them will run a full XFINITY Series, and then we also want to try and get Daniel 10 to 13 truck races, too. So that'll be the plan for next year, and then into the future, we're just going to‑‑ we'll see how everything goes next year.

Q. No Cup races for Suarez next year do you think?
JOE GIBBS: No. We kind of all talked about that, and it's so hard to get a young guy like that to be able to run some Cup races, because first of all, it's hard to get a pit crew, it's hard to get a crew chief, it's hard to get‑‑ for a limited number of races. So we're fortunate this year that I think we are with Erik, because it wasn't fortunate that we had injuries, but it gave him a chance to get in a Cup car some. But I think our game plan next year is both of them to run a full XFINITY and Daniel run some trucks.

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