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February 17, 2018

Joe Gibbs

Ed Laukes

Barney Visser

THE MODERATOR: Good morning, everyone, and welcome to Saturday here in the Daytona International Speedway media center. We are in the midst of our media availabilities, as we did last year, with our OEM partners and their respective team owners to help preview the 2018 Daytona 500.
Sitting on the dais next to me are Ed Laukes, group vice president, marketing, for Toyota Motor North America; Joe Gibbs, Joe Gibbs Racing; and Barney Visser, Furniture Row Racing. Toyota had a fantastic 2017 with Martin Truex, Jr., capturing the championship. Ed, we'll start with you. Talk a little bit about the success last year and some of the things you're looking forward to heading into the season.
ED LAUKES: Yeah, thanks. Good morning, everyone. Obviously a super special season for Toyota, starting off with the Detroit Auto Show when we unveiled the new Cup car, the first time ever that we've ever done that, and pretty exciting event in Detroit, and then getting here to Daytona.
Started off, as you all remember, with a little bit of some people questioning exactly how the new Camry was performing the first few races of the season, and working together with our partners at Joe Gibbs and at Furniture Row, we came back with not only our second driver's championship but also our second manufacturer's championship, and that's a huge rallying cry for our company. Obviously a super special year, and really excited about starting 2018 and ready to go.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, talk a little bit about what your shop has done this off‑season to get ready for 2018.
JOE GIBBS: Well, the problem with our sport, we don't have much of an off‑season. It seems like we're going nonstop. We've got two and a half months to try and catch up.
This year a lot of changes. Everybody talked and knows, we're all going to be anxious to see what happens on pit road. A number of other changes in our sport, but I've kind of found that pro sports, they change 30 percent a year. It's just nonstop. You need to handle that.
Our big deal is our partnerships. That's the thing that's unique about this sport. You have your sponsors. You develop unique relationships with them. Norm Miller is here with us today, our founding sponsor; Toyota, our partnership there. It's a thrill for us. And then you wind up with our strategic alliance with Barney and the guys out there, and so it is relationships kind of all across the board with this sport. I love that part of it because you develop real friendships, and you've got to work together, and it's teamwork all the way. You've got four cars tomorrow in Cup, and then you've got our partner over here with Barney.
It's partnerships, and it's working together, and I love that aspect of it.
THE MODERATOR: Barney, welcome back. How are you feeling?
BARNEY VISSER: I'm feeling great. There's nothing like getting new pipes. (Laughter.) I didn't realize how bad it was, but this has been really good. I'm told that I won't be 100 percent for another three months. As good as I feel now, this is a home run.
THE MODERATOR: What have you been looking forward to the most coming to the track?
BARNEY VISSER: You know, I missed the people and the competitive spirit. But mostly the people. I heard the engines fire up the other day, and I realized how much I missed that.

Q. Ed, how did you find the family involved in the ad we saw yesterday, and how special of a spot do you think that could be for the company?
ED LAUKES: Well, we think it's obviously a very special spot. I think everybody here that got a chance to see it would agree. We actually were thinking about running it during the Chase last year, but we thought it was so special we would keep it and show case it for Daytona. And where we found Luca was we did a call at a hearing‑impaired school in Canada, and they actually had a tryouts at this hearing‑impaired school, and Luca was the won that competition, and so that's how he and the family are here. They're with us all weekend, and really, really over‑the‑top special people.

Q. Barney, how much pride did you take last year in being the first Cup team in like forever to win the championship that was not based in North Carolina?
BARNEY VISSER: Well, obviously I wasn't there, so I missed part of the celebration. But that's something that's soaking in over time, what we've been able to do. I'm really proud of the guys. Of course none of that happens without these two guys sitting alongside me here. None of it happens without our relationship with Joe, and of course Ed tapped us on the shoulder here several years ago and said, we want to get you with us. That's been monumental for us. And none of it happens without these guys.
I'm proud of it, but I know the reality is these two guys have as much to do with it as we did.

Q. How much impact was there in Denver?
BARNEY VISSER: It was huge. It was huge. We got a lot of ink, a lot of media time. If you can win a sport, if you can dominate something like we did, you're going to get a lot of press time out there.

Q. Barney, coming back to see a race live, talking about your new pipes, with pack racing and stage racing, does it feel like it's a dynamometer while you're here in your Chase?
BARNEY VISSER: Well, I feel like I'll have a little more gas after the race now. I remember Claire talking to me a few times after wins, and I don't‑‑ I just was almost dead. I didn't realize how tired I was. I think it'll be better now. I'm looking forward to that.

Q. Barney, you probably have told this story somewhere, but I was curious, did you watch the last race in Homestead, or did you not? I know what the doctors' orders were, but how did you handle that?
BARNEY VISSER: Well, the doctor didn't tell me I couldn't watch it. That's a rumor going around. No, I don't remember Texas because that was right in the middle of it, and then I don't really remember Phoenix. So Homestead I got my heart rate slowed down, and I was able to watch it on TV with my wife. Pretty fun, yeah.

Q. Did your heart rate speed up at any given point?
BARNEY VISSER: You know, I was pretty heavily medicated.

Q. Barney, can you kind of take us through, did you have a heart attack, and did you feel it right away and go to the hospital, or were you just feeling bad and go to the hospital, and kind of what was your thought process going into the surgery?
BARNEY VISSER: Well, looking back on it, I'd been having angina for six months, and I didn't realize it. It was just a burning lung sensation that would come and go. So I should have paid more attention to that. But my arm was numb all night the night before I went in, and usually you get up in the morning and you shake that stuff off, but it just wouldn't shake off. So I went into the hospital, and they started running tests and did an angiogram that afternoon, and they couldn't stent it after‑‑ they'll try to stent it if they can, and one of them was 99 percent blocked, and they just couldn't do it.
I had to wait for a bypass on Monday.
If there was a heart attack, and the doctors in the hospital told me there was, my cardiologist‑‑ these guys take a lot of pride in this stuff and whether or not the patients have heart‑‑ he doesn't think I did because of the numbers, but I think what happened is on the gurney on the way to the angiogram, it just felt like somebody was ripping my chest open, and I started complaining about it, and they handed me a nitroglycerin, and I passed out at that point and don't remember much after that. They did the angiogram, and I remember a bossy little woman who was the doctor. She was an angioplasty specialist, and she was going to do the stent. Everyone was terrified of her. That's all I remember about that. (Laughter.)
Anyway, so that was‑‑ she was something else. But yeah.

Q. Was there a good chance the surgery was going to be successful, or was there any real‑‑ like this could be the end?
BARNEY VISSER: No, I don't think I was ever concerned about that. I was more concerned about‑‑ my dad had had a bypass 40 years ago or something at the same age, and it had been a real painful deal for him. So I was a little bit more concerned about that. I wasn't concerned that this could be it. That never even crossed my mind.
But the techniques have changed so much in that many years, and I got very lucky with the surgeon that I drew, young kid, 35 years old, that had been trained in all the latest techniques, and the nurses were still talking about the job that he did and how thorough he was and how heavy the wire was that he used to put me back together. I mean, every nurse that I saw that was in there was still talking about it.
I got real lucky. Real lucky on that.

Q. With all the Ford and Chevy teams trying to catch up to you guys, how are your teams trying to stay ahead entering the season?
JOE GIBBS: Yeah, I think for us, just you take each part of the race team, pit road, and we've worked extremely hard on that. We know there's a lot of changes there. It's going to be real interesting to see what happens, I think, in particular the race tomorrow. So you take pit road, obviously with the drivers, our engineering group, all of our plans as far as new chassis and stuff. It's kind of segmented. I think you just work extremely hard on each one of those, and we have it very well‑organized, I think, at our place. We're thrilled.
But it's all the way across the board. You've got everything you're working on. And it's a short time frame, really. You take a week off for Christmas, and you're back after it. I think it's detail, hard work, and having things really organized. I think that's kind of where you spend the off‑season. It goes by in a hurry.
BARNEY VISSER: The guys are spending a lot of time on the sim package, on their sim package. They're spending a lot of time on the aero package with NASCAR taking somewhere between 120 and 150 pounds of downforce off the car, it spins all the engineers out of control, and they're back through trying to get everything settled back out again. They spent a lot of time on that this winter. We had to set up the new scanner system, had to get one of those set up and get it all figured out. So that's been very challenging.
ED LAUKES: Yeah, I think from a Toyota and TRD perspective, there isn't really a breakpoint. It's an evolutionary process that's on going, and during that short window of time between Homestead and coming back here, I just think there's a little bit more focus on getting ready for the next season.

Q. Toyota seems to have revolutionized the way driver development has come about in the sport; as team owners how much importance does that investment mean to you guys and the younger drivers?
JOE GIBBS: Well, I think for me, I think it's going to be exciting this year that we have a group of young guys that are coming into Cup, and it's really going to be an interesting year. We see how all of them develop. I think each one of the race teams, you know, you're always looking into the future. You're looking for a superstar out there. But the hard thing is you're never quite sure because they go from racing a late model, then it's trucks, then some of them fall away, then you go into Xfinity, and the harder it gets, and the question is what's going to happen when they get to Cup, and that's the way it is in pro sports. You come out of college, you're a superstar in football, and you go to the pros and it's hard.
I think it just takes a lot. We've got two young guys this year, we've got two veteran guys for us in Cup, and we're excited about our Xfinity program because we've got some young guys there.
But I think with Toyota and all of us, you're always looking for the future, and I think this year in our sport, it's going to really be a fun year from that standpoint. We've got a young group that everybody I think is going to catch a lot of excitement. A bunch of them have potential. We saw it yesterday. And so it's going to be a fun year, I think, from that standpoint.
BARNEY VISSER: Yeah, you know, we went through that last year a little bit here, and enjoyed that. But we only right now have one seat to fill, and we've got it pretty well filled. So we're pretty happy where we're at right now.

Q. You're past retirement age‑‑
JOE GIBBS: Who are you talking to, Barney?

Q. Well, I look at you guys, and it's amazing that you're going as strong as you are. What keeps you coming back?
 JOE GIBBS: I don't know, speaking for me, honestly it's the competitive part. I always want to be involved in something, trying to beat somebody at something. I wasn't good enough in athletics myself, the only award I ever got in sports was most improved. But I think for me now it's family, and I've got obviously J.D. is a big part of building what we have, and I've got Coy, and then I've got eight grandkids coming. I get excited about that from that side. We've got our family coming.
And then I get excited every morning to get up, come here, you get to race against the best people in the world, and it's fun, and it's competitive. I think it gets your juices going. It's a little bit like what Barney talked about, missing it.
BARNEY VISSER: Honestly, I've watched Joe myself, and he's been an inspiration to me because he's about six years older than me (laughter), and he's one of the most competitive people I've ever met in my life, and he hasn't skipped a beat. That makes me realize I can just keep doing this thing. That makes it fun. There's no reason to step back.
JOE GIBBS: But this is getting more depressing the farther we go. You're going to have me out of this before long.

Q. Barney, you guys are defending champions, had such a great year, yet you're also coming into the season choosing to consolidate from two teams to one, and I wondered if you could comment on that decision to do that even though you got more sponsorship for Martin Truex entering the season. And Ed, other manufacturers have over a dozen teams here. You guys on the Cup level for all intents and purposes, this is it, and I wondered if you could comment on your strategy to focus all your resources through these programs and any future expansion plans you might have.
BARNEY VISSER: You know, we didn't want to have to pull back from two to one, but the sponsorship just wasn't there for a second car. I mean, I think there's drivers out there that could have done it, so we just had to take it. The money just was not there. We pulled back to the one car. We were able to get 5 hour to move over to the 78, which they were very happy to do. They loved Erik. Erik is going to be a great spokesman, and there's just really incredible drivers lined up in the Toyota camp here, and we're excited about that. But all we could run was one car this year.
 ED LAUKES: From a Toyota and TRD perspective, we have a special relationship with the teams, and our engineering groups work very closely with Barney and Joe's teams, and while we're disappointed that we had to go from six cars down to five in Cup, and ultimately at the end of the day, we're very happy with the stable that we have, and if there's an opportunity in the future for us to expand, we're obviously going to look at it, but it's not an imperative.

Q. Joe, Erik is not new to your organization, but he steps into kind of an interesting situation with just Matt leaving and everything. What have you seen from him in regards to how he's handling that in the sense that he seems to really appreciate the car number, the history there, and things of that nature. Have you gotten that impression from him of how he's handling this?
JOE GIBBS: Yeah, I think Toyota and all of us kind of saw Erik and have been‑‑ you kind of realize he's, I think, a very special talent, and everything that we've given him a chance to do he's‑‑ I think he could be special, and so that's great. So you look at a young kid like that, we were able to support with Barney our strategic alliance over there, but now to get him back on our side is, I think, a huge deal, and we think he's a special talent. We'll see. And he's one of those young guys, and I will say this: When you talk to him, Daniel and Erik, they know. There's going to be about seven of them going as hard as they can go, and it's going to be interesting to see which one of those young guys takes off this year and starts hitting some‑‑ having some big races and hitting some home runs in there.
But I just think you're looking for good young talent, and it's great that we had a chance to get him.

Q. Barney, in August 2016 you guys announced a two‑year contract extension with Martin. Curious, is this the last year of that extension, and have you guys started renegotiations or anything, and where that stands?
BARNEY VISSER: You know, we'll start working on that this year, but no, this is the last year of his current contract. We'll be working on it this year. I don't anticipate any problems at all.

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