NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 2, 2021
An Interview with:
THE MODERATOR: Joe, thank you again for joining us. Just what does it mean from your perspective to have two cars from Joe Gibbs Racing battling for the championship this weekend in Phoenix?
JOE GIBBS: Well, I think first of all we're thrilled to be a part of the championship weekend. To get two cars in there, I got to tell you, that last 50 laps of Martinsville, I don't think I've ever experienced something like that.
We actually went into that race with all three cars. You didn't know what was going to happen. That last 50 laps I still didn't know what was going to happen.
It was a thrill for us to get Denny and Martin in. A big deal for us. A thrill for our race team. So proud of everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing. God's blessed us with so many great people that are working there. So we're thrilled to be a part of the weekend. We're excited about going to Phoenix.
THE MODERATOR: Now we're going to go to questions.
Q. You and Rick have split this championship deal pretty much down the middle. A couple of your respective employees aren't necessarily getting along right now. The relationship between you and Rick has always seemed very positive and respectful. Can you speak to that and your feelings on what he's accomplished?
JOE GIBBS: Yeah, Rick and I, we share texts back and forth. Of course, when I first was thinking about trying to get into NASCAR, Rick was there. He had Jimmie Johnson, his general manager at the time, helped us. Went to a number of the appointments with us. He helped us get started. In those days we didn't call it an alliance, but that's what it was. We shared that.
I get a thrill out of getting a chance to go to the racetrack every weekend and race against so many great race teams, so many great owners. If you think about Roush, you think about Rick, you think about Penske, you think about Haas. Getting a chance to go on those weekends, race against them, it's a thrill for me to be a part of this, be a part of NASCAR.
Our whole family, this is all we do. We love it. It's a thrill for us to be a part of it.
Q. Wally Brown was on a call yesterday and said that he feels like Gibbs right now is the underdog. Do you feel similarly, that that's the case? Do you think you're the underdogs?
JOE GIBBS: Yeah, I think the thing about major sports, pro sports, is the fact that it takes place on the racetrack, it takes place on the football field. It doesn't do any good to try and persuade somebody on something. It's a fact.
The facts are this year we've chased the Chevys, chased Rick for sure. I kind of feel like Wally was truthful in his analysis. But you never know what's going to happen on the weekend. I go to every racetrack, certainly this weekend at Phoenix there's going to be a lot that happens. We've seen it in the past. I think any of these four cars could win this.
Things are going to happen, it could be on pit road, could be something that happens on the racetrack. I think that's the reason why we love it, is for our fans and our fan base, they're what makes this sport what it is. It's the greatest reality show that you can be a part of because we don't know what's going to happen. I think all four of these cars this weekend will have a chance to win this.
Q. With Denny's kind of post-race comments, what happened after Martinsville, what do you make of the feuding? At what point does it become a distraction versus entertaining for the fans? Did you feel that was kind of an appropriate reaction by him?
JOE GIBBS: I think what happens in any sport, there's bitter disappointments. The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. That's part of pro sports. Certainly it can happen in this sport.
Denny, that was really frustrating for him. At Indy he thought he could win the race. That situation took place. Then here in Martinsville. But also we also know that's part of this sport. So I think my position on that is I have always let the drivers handle everything that happens on the racetrack.
I think in this case it was frustration there. I also think that's part of our sport. Denny's been in it a long time. I kind of think that falls in the driver's -- their decisions are made, the way they handle that. They race against all those guys out there every week. I've always told the drivers, make sure you keep a good relationship. You don't want a bunch of enemies out there.
Anyway, I think that's something that just happened. It's part of our sport. I think Denny's reaction afterwards, it was the frustration.
Q. What makes this the year that Denny Hamlin can win his first championship compared to what we've seen years past?
JOE GIBBS: I think Denny's success and everything over these last years, as soon as we put him with Chris Gabehart, I think that combination, the way the chemistry works, they've been so consistent.
You kind of look at that, but also you know how hard it is to win a championship. Denny's an example. Won a ton of races, won three Daytona 500s, yet has not been able to win a championship. He's had a chance, but hasn't won it.
I think, again, the reason why we appreciate championships is because they're so hard. I think the fact that Chris Gabehart and the team there, for FedEx, when you stop and think about that, they've been with us now for those 14 years, it would be a thrill to win one for them. As we know, sponsorships are so important. We have Sport Clips on that car, Craftsman on that car, Stanley Black & Decker. It would be a big deal for us and those sponsors if Denny could do that.
I would say what gives us a chance is Denny, his experience, and Chris Gabehart and the team.
Q. What advice do you give Denny about the aura of being a great driver who hasn't won the big one?
JOE GIBBS: I think that comes with all pro sports. We know that down through history there's been a lot of great players that haven't won championships, Super Bowls, NASCAR championships. I mean, it's just part of it. We've had great drivers that are in the Hall of Fame that did not win a championship.
I think Denny probably answered it the best last year when he kind of said he's kind of at peace with what he's been able to do. He's won Daytona 500s, won a bunch of races, has had a great sponsor, kept them through all of the years, FedEx and Denny. We appreciate Fred and everybody over there.
I think he's at peace with it. But also you just know he has a burning desire and is going to give it everything he's got on Sunday.
Q. Have you talked to Kyle Busch about his comments after the race Sunday night? Do you think NASCAR requiring sensitivity training is the appropriate reaction?
JOE GIBBS: Yeah, I think Kyle knows he should not have used that word. I think NASCAR's response to it is appropriate.
Q. We're used to seeing Kyle win four or five races a season like it's nothing. Now he's won three races combined in the last two years. What do you think is missing from Kyle's team right now or Kyle himself? How can you get him back to where we're used to seeing him?
JOE GIBBS: I think that's a great point. But it also illustrates I think how hard this sport is. In 2015 Denny didn't win a race. You see drivers struggle. Harvick this past year. You have examples of that all the time. You can certainly go through ebb and flow. It just illustrates to me how hard this sport is and how hard it is to win a race.
It has been frustrating for Kyle, for sure. So my answer to that question is, every single part of our race team, we look at every single part of it, we'll look at it in this off-season trying to handle everything about pit stops, all the engineering part of things. Every single aspect, each year we try to look at it, take it apart, how can we improve, do a better job of giving Kyle a car he can win races with.
In pro sports you can have great talent, but it's a team sport. There's so much with this, like I mentioned, the pit stops, our engineering group. It's hard.
We'll look at every single aspect of it, try to analyze it. We did last year. We need to do a better job of giving Kyle what it takes in a car. Then of course he has to look at himself. He tries to analyze. I know Kyle does that. He gets frustrated. He's extremely competitive. But I know that he does a good job of what can he do to do a better job next year.
I think it's our sport. It's extremely hard. It can happen. You work as hard as you can in the off-season in every single aspect of your race team to try to do a better job.
Q. I always felt like when it came down to the Final 4, it was who cracked. These are all great drivers and great teams. Who cracks, who missteps, misses something, panics, whatever. These drivers are so good. What is the difference do you think when you get a Truex, Elliott, Larson and Hamlin together? They're all the mature sort of solid guys. What do you think the difference will be? Nerves in playoff games in the NFL still figure into it with these guys or is it bigger than that?
JOE GIBBS: I know what figures into that question is our sport and the way we have a playoff. You think about it, you start with 16, you have those three different little races that pare it down. It goes down to 12, then to eight, then to four.
Then it comes to one race, okay? We're so different because there's four teams in that race. That's different than any other sport. It's going to be a one race, make it happen. I think the fans love it. I love that aspect of how we get to the Final 4. Then I think it's exciting, it's very different as a pro sport, and we have it.
It's four teams, they get one race to make it happen. So it can come down to just one mistake in there. I think that's part of the reason why we love it. We don't know what's going to happen. We're all excited about it.
I do think that all four of these teams, if you go this far, you qualify for that last race, just think about what you've gone through for this entire year. Those four teams were able to do it. Now it could come down to just one thing happening on the weekend.
We all hope - for me - I hope it's all four teams have a great race day. I just hope the best team wins.
Q. Where do you figure in the aggressiveness you've seen? I realize this is no Martinsville, but there were lots of questions about respect, how much respect you show the drivers competing for the championship. Everybody was all wigged out over respect. How much respect are they going to give each other? What do you tell your drivers in that area?
JOE GIBBS: I think for me, I've always kind of looked at it is our drivers. That's their world that they live in. They have a relationship with each one of those drivers that they're racing against. Sometimes they've raced against them for years.
I think over that long period of time you build up respect. I always try and encourage the drivers, I said, Hey, it's your relationship with each one of those guys, and they're the ones that have to handle that, they're the ones that develop that relationship.
I always suggest if something happens on the racetrack that you don't like, somebody else did, some other driver did, handle it right now. Go to them, iron it out, talk it out.
I will say this, that normally does not happen (smiling). As a part of that process, one of the things we love about our sport is what? Okay, so you got the drivers competing. As fans we have certain drivers we love, we pull four. They compete. The owners, okay, the different owners compete. And what? The OEMs, the manufacturers compete.
I think that's one of the things our fans love about our sport. You got three different areas, three different groups of people that are competing against each other.
It is very different. I love it. Our sponsors are a big part of that. When you stop and think about it, there's no other sport where you have to have a partner, a sponsor, to compete. You really don't have that.
In our sport you do. They're not just a sponsor, they're a partner. So for us, this weekend, Bass Pro, Johnny, he's absolutely thrilled to be a part of this, been such a great partner for us with Martin. You got Auto Owners and Jeff on that car. You got Reser's and Mark. You got Stanley Black & Decker. All those will be competing with Martin this weekend. They're so excited about it. On Denny's side you got FedEx, Sport Clips and Craftsman, Stanley Black & Decker. In all those you got Norm, Interstate, founding sponsor, on all of our cars.
It's a huge deal for us. There are so many people excited about this. They're going to be in Phoenix. It's a fantastic facility. They redid that. I hope all fans get a chance to go there at some point and be a part of this process.
So we're all pointed towards Sunday and it's going to be a thrill.
Q. A championship is seemingly the last thing Denny has to accomplish in the Cup Series. I assume you won't root for one of your drivers over the other. How much of a relief or how nice would it be to get that monkey off the back, not only for him or you guys as well, not have to talk about it any longer?
JOE GIBBS: I think certainly you're right. People always ask that question, just like it came up today. So from that standpoint you'd like nothing better than for FedEx to get that championship, take Sport Clips with them, Stanley, Craftsman.
On the other side, though, every time you think about that, you think about the other side. You got Martin, James Small, his crew chief, how much it would mean to James. That would be his first. Chris Gabehart, our crew chief for Denny, it would be his first.
I always look at it as that's it. So many people would get to experience a championship and the thrill of a championship. Bass Pro, Auto Owners, Reser's, Stanley. So many people get to enjoy this. So that's the reason why you want it so bad.
I don't think you can pick one. You're not going to pick one. It's a thrill for whoever gets this out of those four cars this weekend. You know what that means to them and their sponsors.
Q. What is your view of NASCAR holding the Clash next year at the L.A. Coliseum? What in your personal opinion would mean that that event is successful?
JOE GIBBS: I love this. I was fortunate enough to be at Southern Cal, play in the Coliseum. I'm thrilled about us going there.
It's going to be different, yes. That's going to be a new car. There's going to be so much to it. I honestly feel like it's going to be an awesome event.
We're going to be thrilled to be a part of it. I know what it's like to be in that stadium. It's a classic, unreal experience. I think it's also for us to be on the West Coast there, be in L.A., I just think it's a huge deal for our sport.
I appreciate NASCAR being that creative. This is something where it took guts to make this decision. I applaud them for doing that. I think that's what's going to move our sport forward.
Hey, with the calendar of races, us being willing to go to different places, I'm excited about where we are right now. I appreciate Jim and everybody in NASCAR there having the guts and being willing to take a shot and do this.
I think it's going to be fun to be part of it. We don't know what's going to happen. It's going to be great.
Q. About Kyle Busch and the sensitivity training, as an owner, when it comes to driver conduct, how they carry themselves, do you have a marker in mind personally for a driver if they do something that would be across the line for you, where no matter how talented they may be, it would be too far for you to keep them on as a driver?
JOE GIBBS: I think you got to understand our sport is different, too, in that our drivers represent companies, so that's always very important to us on our race team. I'm sure every other race team out there. That's a big deal. That's part of the standard for our sport.
It holds the drivers to a higher standard. That's just part of what we do. They got to understand that's part of what they have to do in representing all the people, not only do you have to be a great driver, you got to also be a great representative for companies. That's the standard that's really important for us to answer to.
Q. What would it mean to see Martin achieve the status on Sunday?
JOE GIBBS: Martin, having won the championship, Bass Pro, I talked about Johnny, he does so much for our sport, not only for our race team, but for our sport, period. Just a huge deal. Then to have the other sponsors there, Auto Owners, Reser's and Stanley, it's just a big deal.
Martin, with his career, it's great to see him where he is. I know that another championship would mean a lot to him and Sherry. That's just a big deal.
We would be thrilled, okay, if Martin could win this. That is certainly a big deal for him, his family, and for us.
Q. How impressed are you that Denny has been able to compete and achieve what he's been able to while still being in the midst of his first year as a car owner?
JOE GIBBS: I think for all of us in NASCAR, when Denny made that decision to become an owner, first of all I told him, I'm not sure how smart that is (laughter). I want to be a driver, okay? I want to make all the money and not have to pay all those people to work on his race car (laughter).
I think all of us, when he made that decision, we all said, Oh, my gosh, can you do this, drive a race car and everything? I think he's just done a great job. If anything, it probably gives you a different perspective that you go from being just a driver to now he owns a race team, understands all that it takes, sponsorship and all that.
I think it probably gives you a perspective. I'm sure that may in some cases even help Denny. But we all had a question about that, is it too much. I think obviously the results, the great thing about sports, you can't talk your way, you got to drive your way and race your way. Denny has done that. He's handled everything this year. Everything he's had to go through, he has just done a great job of handling it.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you again for joining us. We know you are very busy. We appreciate you giving us some time. Best of luck. Anything else you want to say before we wrap?
JOE GIBBS: Yeah, that would be great.
Xfinity, we got Daniel Hemric, Dave Rogers the crew chief, Poppy, Bill Gallagher, all those guys are racing for a championship. That's awesome.
Our 54 car in Xfinity, too, with Chris Gayle, all the drivers we've had there. We get to go for an owners championship.
Then in ARCA we have Sammy Smith has won the East and Ty has won the ARCA Menards championship.
I want to mention all those because that's all going to be played out, too, at Phoenix this weekend. It's going to make for a great weekend. We're thrilled to be a part of it in each one of those series.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports