home jobs contact us
Our Clients:
Browse by Sport
Find us on ASAP sports on Facebook ASAP sports on Twitter
ASAP Sports RSS Subscribe to RSS
Click to go to
ASAP Sports e-Brochure View our


February 15, 2019

Joe Gibbs

Ed Laukes

Bob Leavine

THE MODERATOR: We're going to continue with our availabilities with our manufacturers and team owners and previewing the Daytona 500 and the 2019 season. Sitting from left to right here on the stage, Mr.Ed Laukes, group vice president of marketing for Toyota Motor North America. Next to him is Mr.Bob Leavine, Leavine Family Racing. And on the end, Coach Joe Gibbs, Joe Gibbs Racing. Gentlemen, welcome.
Ed, first off, let me say congratulations on being named as the Media Post automotive marketer of the year. Well done.
ED LAUKES: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Exciting weekend for Toyota with the debut of the Supra in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Any initial thoughts on that heading into tomorrow's race?
ED LAUKES: Well, I think that the Xfinity race and having the Supra at the Xfinity race is ‑‑ probably been waiting for it since last year when we brought the car out here and debuted it.
Those of you that were following Barrett Jackson, you saw that the first Supra that's actually going to come off the assembly line sold at Barrett Jackson for charity for $2.1 million. If that's any indication about the Supra coming back into the market after not being around for 22 years, it's a very exciting time for us at Toyota, very exciting time to have us at Daytona.
THE MODERATOR: Bob, you made a change in the off‑season to partner with Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing. Can you talk a little bit about how that transition has gone and your outlook for 2019 with Matt DiBenedetto driving the Camry?
BOB LEAVINE: The transition was and is very intense. It's also exciting for Leavine Family Racing. Both of these organizations have assisted in the transition. Unless you've been there, you have no idea the technical portion that goes on, and I stand back, I'm kind of operation and not marketing related, and I enjoy the operation and to watch what Coach's people have helped our people do, and Toyota and TRD. What they have done is truly amazing, over the time period that we had.
And we're just excited about the relationship. LFR and our family is a relationship basis. Everything we've ever done, the relationship has been important. Since day one starting last March, the relationship that we've built and talked to these folks about was heartwarming, sincere and hard work, and that's what we enjoy. And our people worked really hard with theirs, and together we got a car on the track, and they're working hard for our West Coast Swing, Atlanta, so the transition has gone exceptionally well considering what we had to go through, a lot of communication, and both of these organizations here were on top of everything we needed and provided for.
Our season, optimistic. We've always said we do it baby steps. My expectations for 2019 is better than it was in 2018. We're going to be a better team with the best manufacturer and organization in NASCAR, so it's up to us to do the work and make us a success.
So we're excited about it. We're excited, again, about the help that they give us, and 2019 is going to be an exceptional year for our race team.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, your team had nine race wins last year in the Cup Series, including Erik Jones getting his first Cup win here last summer. Can you talk a little bit about your outlook heading into this season, having added Martin Truex Jr. to your lineup?
JOE GIBBS: Well, we're certainly excited about it. I think it's got a chance to be our strongest lineup that we've had since we've been in the sport. Our partnership with Toyota has just been awesome for us, and all the support and everything we get from them. I think our driver lineup, Denny had an off year, but I honestly think we've got a great chance to get him going.
Erik really came on, I think, towards the end of the year and was kind of top seven each and every week, and so we think we have a real chance there.
But we all know in our sport, the reason why we love it so much, it's extremely hard, and you never know heading into a year. But certainly we're excited about it, and we think we have a chance to have a very successful year.

Q. Bob, over the past few years you've teamed with four teams and Chevrolet. What have the differences in this transition been compared to those other transitions that you've had in the past?
BOB LEAVINE: We've actually gotten help this time. They were interested in us as a team and not just somebody getting race cars, and I say that in the kindest sort of way. But I've been there and done that and saw it firsthand. So it's that we really‑‑ and Jeremy, our VP when we first started talking to Toyota in March last year would go away from meetings and look at each other and say, these people really care about making our race team better. And the same way with Coach Gibbs, who ‑‑ we talked to Toyota, then we started talking to Coach Gibbs. In fact, I think it was the weekend of the 600 we first started talking with them, and it was the same feeling, that they care about helping us help ourselves and making our race team better, and that's a big difference of the perspective, the attitude.
And then also, Toyota is the best manufacturer in NASCAR. I've watched it for years. We weren't there and said, we want to be there, and that's what made us go to them and say, we want to be with y'all.

Q. Ed, we had Roger Penske in here earlier and he had talked about how Gen‑7 meant more than just the car and engine combination but also just the next generation of NASCAR in general, talking about race length, schedule length, track configurations, schedules. So with all that in mind, when you think about Toyota's involvement in NASCAR's next generation, how do you want that to look like for not only the sanctioning body but also the manufacturer?
ED LAUKES: Yeah, that's a really good question. We have manufacturing plants all around and then obviously dealers all around the country, so what we have seen since 2007 since we got into the Cup Series is a huge groundswell locally around NASCAR.
So I think as we work on scheduling, as we work on doing different type of things over time, I think Roger is right on, and actually Roger and I have talked about it, too, the same thing, that the next Gen‑7 is not just about a car, and it's not necessarily just about a driver, it's about expanding and going out more to a grass‑roots level with NASCAR and figuring out exactly where we started and where we want to go into the future.

Q. For Bob and Joe, I know you guys have talked to NASCAR recently about the schedule. Other things, too, just shorter races, shorter seasons or maybe compacting or rearranging how often we race or all manner of things. Where do you guys stand on that, and how would that change the way you guys run the business of having a race team?
BOB LEAVINE: We race a lot of weekends, and so they've talked about compacting weekends, and so from our standpoint, to some extent, we react, listen to what other teams think. I think there's‑‑ personally I would like to see more shorter tracks and a little more road courses, just to break it up. That happens to be a couple of my favorites. And so I think‑‑ I know NASCAR is moving in the right direction to‑‑ things change, and we have to change with it, and NASCAR is a great sport, and that's why we got in it. This is our ninth year.
And so it's exciting, provides the fans a great venue to go to, the various tracks. So it's‑‑ I don't know that I've got a preference of how many races, whatever it is. I know they're working towards some cost savings for us. That's always appreciated. The travel, the number of weekends our guys and duration away from their families, because this is a tough sport.
So I'm open, and we've given our opinion of that, and it's just‑‑ it will be talked about and narrowed down to hopefully get to something that everybody agrees to and says, yeah, this is a great program we've got.
JOE GIBBS: I think it's an exciting time for us really in the sport. You know, there's times that you struggle, and I think we have struggled some, but I honestly think Jim France is on board and after it. I think we, having constant meetings with everybody has kind of put everything on the table. Ed and Toyota and the other manufacturers are involved, all of us. We've got a great fan base, but I think everything is really out there, scheduling, everything that you're talking about, cost savings, everything is on the table. And so sometimes when you go through a tough time, those wind up being the best times because it causes you to really think your way through things.
I'm excited about our sport. Obviously our race team itself, we're racing eight cars and three different series. We've got great sponsorship, and so we're excited about where we are.
And I think our sport has so much to it. We have 38 weekends, okay, that we have content, and content is king today. Our social and digital stuff that we're working on, our B‑to‑B, there's a lot of exciting things about our sport, and I'm fired up about where we're headed.

Q. Denny talked the other day, he said he's dedicating this season to J.D., and he said that he'd like to go out and win the 500 for him. I'm wondering how you're doing and how you're feeling and if you're here to honor J.D., as well.
JOE GIBBS: I appreciate that, and I've got to tell you, it's been a time for our family and to see everybody in this sport and everybody that has stepped up to help us, everybody, Toyota, our friends, Bob, everybody, there's been so many people that walk up to me and say, J.D. did the following. There's so many small stories. J.D., I honestly believe, not just because he's my son, I think J.D. was living a godly life and was touching so many people, and it's come back over and over again.
We're using this weekend, too, to try and have everybody go to that website, which is JDGibbslegacy.com. I can't tell you how many people have walked up to me and said, that thing made a huge impact in my life. There were over 3,000 people there that day.
J.D.'s life, J.D. lives on. He lives on in us, those four boys, his family, and all those that he's touched. God in his Word said that those that have gone on before are in heaven cheering us on. I don't want to let J.D. down, and I just really appreciate how many people here prayed. This is a close‑knit family in a lot of ways, and so many people have stepped up to help us. I can't thank you enough.
It's story after story. J.D. had a vision of helping inner‑city kids with young life. The funds that have been flowing into that have been unbelievable. And so J.D. is going to live on in all those ways. I just thank everybody here that's been a part of that. So thank you. JDGibbslegacy.com.
ED LAUKES: Thanks for that question. I was actually going to make a comment at the very end. We've worked with FOX, and for everybody in the room, J.D.'s favorite numberfrom when he played football, his number was lap 11, so FOX Sports during the Daytona 500 on lap 11, they will do a tribute lap for J.D., so it'll give you an opportunity to be able to see that. Lap 11, okay?
JOE GIBBS: Thank you.

Q. Ed, with the debut of the Supra in Xfinity and Gen‑7 car under consideration discussion with NASCAR and the other OEMs, any possibility of bringing that car up to the Cup Series?
ED LAUKES: Everybody asks that. Thanks, that's a great question. We've talked about that for a while. We're still‑‑ unlike some of the other manufacturers, we're still in the car business, and we plan on staying in the car business for a while. Camry and Corolla are still a big part of our company. So at this point, we don't have any plans to bring Supra up to Cup, but you never know.

Q. Speaking of the Supra, you have that beautiful machine out here this week. It's not in showrooms. I guess it's filtering into showrooms now, but I guess the only time the public has got to see it was the announcement. Now you've got it out there for the world to see. Was that a planned thing, because it really goes beyond racing to have that Supra out here so the general public can walk up and see it.
ED LAUKES: Yeah, absolutely. Actually, Akio Toyoda did the debut for the Supra at the Detroit Auto Show, which was actually the final January Detroit Auto Show.
Then we had it at Barrett Jackson, the very first one. It was a prototype of the first one that's going to be built. It actually doesn't line off until March, so they won't be getting into the showrooms until late March, first part of April. So this is an early prototype, a similar one that was at Barrett Jackson that we have up there right now.
We think we're drawing a lot of attention. Like I said earlier, it's been 22 years since we've had Supra, and people have been asking for Supra to come back, and we worked really hard to get it back, and now it's back.
And actually, we're actually going to have a 60‑second commercial that we debuted at Super Bowl if you guys saw it which was around pinball and Supra that we're actually going to run during the Daytona 500, as well. We're pretty excited about it, as well. It's good stuff.

Q. Coach Gibbs, given the legacy that you've had and your career and your expertise in leadership, what are the most timeless principles that you instill in all of your racers?
JOE GIBBS: I think for me, when people kind of bring up the things that I've actually been blessed to be a part of, most people in life never get to have a dream, and I've had two of them in sports, and the family and everything that I have has just been‑‑ when I reflect on all that, the important thing is people.
When I was a football coach, if I picked the right 45 guys, they're going to make me look good. I move over here to racing, I was scared to death because I had not done anything else but chase a football. I came over here, and eventually as I started working and racing, I found out it was exactly the same thing. It was people.
And when you have partners like Toyota, you go through a relationship thing with them and you build a relationship, and it's more than business. People always say, it's business. I say it's relationships. And I got friends, Ed and all the guys at Toyota, we're friends and fight through things together, and that's what a good partnership is about. It's great having Bob come on board.
But to me, it's been relationships and friends and people, and I tell anybody that's trying to build a team, you know, in football you don't win with trick plays, you win with people, and over here you don't win with trick cars, you win with people. And so that's kind of been my experience, and thank God I've been in the two sports. Small family business, that's all I've ever done.

Q. Coach, you've won the 500 twice, obviously the first one in '93 and then a couple years ago with Denny. But there was a long period of time in between there where you had cars that contended and it just didn't quite fall together. Does that underscore that even though you've been so competitive how tough this race is to win?
JOE GIBBS: It definitely does, and I used to‑‑ I kid people, I talked to them for a while there, we won the Daytona 500 once, and we've been here about 24 times. I say, sooner or later, come on, a blind hog finds an acorn every now and then, come on, give me one. To win it twice‑‑ but you think about it, we've won twice in 27 tries.
So it's extremely hard. So much can happen. And everybody here, I think that's the exciting thing for our fans. If you're coming off 4, okay‑‑ we've come off of 4 I don't know how many times leading, and we haven't won the race. So everybody is excited about it. Everybody realizes that that can happen at the Daytona 500. It's a thrill to win it for sure, but it's extremely hard to win.

Q. Given everything the past six weeks or so and knowing everything that everybody has done and continues to do, what would it mean to put one of those cars in Victory Lane Sunday for J.D.?
JOE GIBBS: It would mean the world to us. I think just in a way to highlight J.D.'s life and the fact that J.D. really is living on with so many things, just like this website that we're talking about, his interest in inner city kids and what we're trying to do there. I just think it would obviously be exciting for us.
The crazy thing, if I can tell a quick story, J.D., when we first started the race team, our second year, we put him on the pit crew, and I don't know how many of you have heard this story, but I've got my son now, and he's a pretty good athlete, and in those days you changed right‑side tires, left‑side tires. This is the second year we raced. We didn't win anything the first year.
So we go to the racetrack, and all of a sudden our car in the 500 with Dale Jarrett, we're up front. So man, I'm looking around, I say, oh, my gosh. Then all of a sudden it dawned on me, this is going to come down to the last pit stop. My son is changing tires. I was looking for someplace to throw up; know what I mean?
So this is what happened. The car comes in, J.D. goes to the front, Todd Meredith was with him changing tires, his buddy. They go to the back, J.D. hits about three lug nuts and they drop the car and it's gone. J.D. stood up and Todd turned to him and said, did you get all those, and J.D. said, "I got about three of them." And he goes, "Can we make it on that?" He looked up at Jimmy Makar, whose nickname is Mad Dog, that's our crew chief, and he goes, "We're getting ready to find out."
And the bottom line is he won that race. So that was the story with J.D. and our very first race that he ever changed tires. So it's a great story for us, and we keep that story. This is a hard race to win.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, we want to wish you the best of luck on Sunday, the Daytona 500, and throughout the 2019 season. Thank you for joining us this afternoon.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

About ASAP SportsFastScripts ArchiveRecent InterviewsCaptioningUpcoming EventsContact Us
FastScripts | Events Covered | Our Clients | Other Services | ASAP in the News | Site Map | Job Opportunities | Links
ASAP Sports, Inc. | T: 1.212 385 0297