NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 1, 2022
An Interview with:
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon. Thank you for joining us. We really appreciate you spending some time with us this afternoon as we have the opportunity to speak with our four owner representatives in the Championship 4 in advance of Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series championship race at Phoenix Raceway.
I'm going to work to get Coach Gibbs in the room here and get started.
We had the chance to watch Christopher with that walk-off win on Sunday to advance the No. 20 team into the Final Four. Do you mind taking us back to those final laps and what your thoughts were as you watched Christopher go to Victory Lane?
JOE GIBBS: Well, first of all, it was a great call by Adam, but when we pitted, I think we came out like sixth, and I'm going, Oh, my gosh, because two of the cars had stayed out.
For me, I was holding my breath because knowing that we had to go back through and get in a position where we could pass all of them -- obviously a great call by Adam, and obviously Christopher did a fantastic job.
I think the other thing that came out of that was our pit crew had a great stop, and I think what that did, it kept us from being further back.
But anyway, we had to get past those six cars. Holding my breath, went through all that. It's amazing, I was kind of watching at the same time Denny, and I thought Denny at that point was plus two, so I kind of turned away to watch everything that was taking place up front with Christopher.
I was in shock when I got out, started to walk towards the cars, that they said Denny didn't get in. That was a huge disappointment for us.
But to get Adam and Christopher in was a fantastic day for us. God blessed us with just a great performance.
Q. Coach, you said earlier this month or last month that you guys had signed Christopher Bell to a long-term deal earlier this year. I'm curious what you saw that made you want him long-term.
JOE GIBBS: Yeah, kind of what we saw towards the end of the year. Actually, I wish we would have done a 20-year deal right now, the way this has worked out.
No, I think Christopher, if you think about when he came to us in Cup, it was during a really tough time. We were in COVID. We were having no practice. He was getting thrown onto racetracks that he had never raced on. He went through that whole year and did a great job of going through that year.
Then the next year, stepped up, kept improving. I think what happened with us this year, we could see in him the way he was kind of advancing, and so we did do that. We stepped up earlier in the year, signed him to a long-term deal, and I think he's really -- at the last part of the year, he was extremely fast. He sat on poles.
Then he and Adam I think have a really close relationship right now. They really believe in each other. For all those reasons, we're sure happy with that team.
Q. In the media center on Sunday, Coy said there would be conversations with Ty but they haven't happened yet. I'm curious, have you had any conversations with Ty about last week, or do you avoid it for a week and let him concentrate on the title and then maybe get to what disappointed you on Saturday?
JOE GIBBS: Yeah, I think what's happened there is we're working through all of that. There's a lot to it. We're trying to -- as a family and as a race team family, we're trying to work through every single part of that. We're still going through it, because it isn't easy, everything that happened.
We want to go about this the right way, and we are walking -- I am, and our family is -- with Ty as he walks through all of this.
When tough things happen, and certainly nobody wanted that to happen, I said, now there's consequences, and so we're trying to walk through those with him. I was also there, and so I think a lot about that, too. There's things that I could have done a better job of.
So I think together, Ty is walking through it, I'm walking through it, and we're still in that process.
Q. You said there's things that you could have done different; what could you have done different there on Saturday? Is that just making sure they were aware of the circumstances, or is there something else that you found?
JOE GIBBS: Yeah, I think being aware of the circumstances is one thing. But there's other things there, too. It was something that was heat of the battle. Everything is taking place. There was so much going on.
I feel like I could have handled it better.
I think that's it. All of us certainly wish that it had never happened. We think the world of Brandon and his dad, J.R., so we're just kind of committed to at this point go through all of this and try and do it in the right way. That's what I think we're all focused on.
Q. You have had difficulties that you've had to sort through with drivers before, but they were not your grandson. For you personally, how does that change your experience in going through this?
JOE GIBBS: I think it's probably hard for me to even say. I think it is definitely different, and I think everybody out there that's got kids and grandkids know the feelings, so that's all part of it.
Sometimes that's not easy to kind of walk through all that, but I think it's just something that we have to -- as a family and as a race team family, we have to just walk through this and try and go about it in the right way.
Sometimes the question is, it's different, because it is your grandson. I've watched Ty for 20 years. Just we know every single thing about him. I know what kind of kid he is.
As a family, we just want to have what's best for him, and we want to help him in every way, and we're going to stay real close to him and just walk with him through this.
Q. I'm just wondering about the end of the Kyle Busch era coming up on Sunday; what do you think the emotions will be like for you? Do you think you'll have any sort of goodbye with Kyle? I don't know how those things work really. What do you think that day will be like?
JOE GIBBS: Yeah, I think it's going to be the end of something that was really special and great really. When you think about 15 years and everything that the race team and Kyle has been able to do, it's just been -- it's been a fantastic time for us.
When you think about it, I think it's 56 or 57 wins, and over a 15-year period, and we've been together -- we've been together with Mars.
To end all that, obviously there's a lot of emotion, and you wish that it could have kept going. We tried in every way for over a year to try and get things to work out. They just didn't.
Q. A follow-up on Christopher and the extension: Christopher said that he heard the talk around the garage or in the industry that he's the next guy in the 20 car that's going to be on the conveyor belt, in and out, and he feels like he's proving something this fall. How important is it being able to lock in Christopher, and with Martin not being here for much longer and Denny is closer to the end than he is the beginning, kind of building around Christopher as the next building block athlete around your team?
JOE GIBBS: Well, I think that Christopher is our young guy, and I just think when -- we all know how important drivers are to what we do. With us and Toyota, we work as hard as we can to try and look at who are the next stars we think that would come along.
For me, I kind of relate back to football, and you've got -- in football you'd better have the right quarterback, and over here it's very similar; you've got to have the right driver.
When you get somebody like Christopher to come along, and as young as he is and the way he's stepped in there and what he's been able to do, I think it's great for our future. That's the way I look at it.
He solves certainly one part of our race team. We've got somebody there that we think will be a star in the future. He is right now for us.
Q. With Denny being eliminated in kind of dramatic fashion on Sunday, is there a conversation that you guys had to kind of make sure that his head space is in an okay place after the way it played out?
JOE GIBBS: Denny is a vet. He's been through it. He's been through it for 17 years really. I think he's tough mentally. I think he understands this world and the racing world. He's done a lot of great things for us for sure and in the sport. I think he's recognized as one of the stars out there.
It's just been a tough thing for him to be able to get over the hump, get a championship. It's what we all want for him, and we're going to stay after it in every way. I feel confident that we'll get it in the end.
Sometimes it's really hard for athletes to get something that's special for them, and sometimes it's really hard. So it's been hard for Denny and for us. We just are committed to find a way to get this done for Denny and FedEx.
Q. Coach, I'm sure you understand this because you've been at the helm of the sport for a long time. You take a guy like Kyle Busch, and he was up and down as far as the drama and the polarizing side of it, but that's what the sport needs. Without someone like that, what happens? Ty, similarly, could be that guy, but there's such a fine line to ride with that. How bad does the sport need that, and how do you keep that line in line when you see young guys coming up? You had it with Kyle Busch, and a lot of people say, if he can handle the boos, if he can handle -- the sport needs a guy that is polarizing, right? You must see that, that that was really huge within your team to have that.
JOE GIBBS: I think each driver and his own personality has a lot to say about that. Certainly we've had some here that have some you could say, I guess, personalities that lend themselves towards making the front page.
But I think each one of our drivers, it's their personality that needs to come out. They obviously are themselves, and their persona to their fans is really important to each one of them, and certainly it was with Kyle.
I know that -- I don't think any of our drivers want to be in a negative situation or be booed. I know that certainly Ty doesn't. I know that Kyle didn't, and I don't think you want that to be there, but sometimes events and what happens can make that a reality and it does happen.
Q. When will you be ready to name who will fill Kyle Busch's ride?
JOE GIBBS: Yeah, we've been waiting for the season to get over. We want to concentrate on trying to win a championship, so we've been totally focused on that.
I think when the season is over, I think we'll be ready to kind of put everything in place for next year.
It's the same, also, with our Xfinity group. We've not named exactly who will be in our cars over there and what the year is going to look like.
But I think as soon as the year is over here, we'll be focused on that.
Q. Talking about Christopher, twice now in the playoffs, he's had a roller coaster of a playoff, and twice he's had to rise to the occasion and win in must-win situations. I wanted to get your take on just watching him do that, what you've seen from him, navigating, as I said, the roller coaster of these playoffs. Did you expect him to twice be able to do that?
JOE GIBBS: I would say that everybody in racing would say the odds are really against you to be able to do that. In our first segment, the first three races, I think he had the most points, so we felt really good going to the next segment, and there we lost tires twice in Dallas and just put ourselves at the bottom.
So you're looking at that, anytime anybody gets in that situation, a must-win, and you've got all the guys competing the way they're competing at the end of the year and everybody is fighting for a chance to advance to the next round, you always would have to say to yourself, any fan or all of us in racing would say, that's going to be really, really hard.
When we were able to win at the Roval, which for us if you had picked a racetrack that would have been hard for us to have a victory like that, it would have been the Roval.
Then we come back, and then we have the wreck situation that put us to the bottom again. To think that you could come back twice from being in that situation, I don't think anybody thought that would be possible.
But what I saw in that was Christopher and the way he embraced it and went after it, the way Adam and our entire team over there, our pit crew, everybody that worked on that car, and when you think about it, that car has had -- our sponsors are DeWalt, Rheem, Yahoo!, Sirius, Toyota. And when you see our sponsors there, I think everybody hung tough.
Christopher, for him to be able to win on Sunday was just a fantastic effort by everybody. We had great pit stops at the end, got him up there where he had a chance with that, making a great call to get tires, and then it was a matter of him doing the job and fighting through five other cars, which he was able to do.
Q. Looking at the Championship 4 now, it'll be four different organizations competing Sunday. Where would you put Christopher's chances and just how do you look at the four finalists?
JOE GIBBS: I think he's got one out of four chances to win that (laughing). I think that's probably what everybody is going to say.
It is extremely tough. When you get to this and you think about who's sitting there, who he's going to have to race against, those three other competitors from great organizations, I think it's going to be extremely hard.
I think the way our playoffs are designed, it does bring a lot of excitement to it, every three races, dropping out four cars. Now we're down to just four.
I think our fans love this format and the way it's designed. It brings a lot of pressure into the situation, and I think we love -- everybody loves to -- one of the things we love with sports and one of the things we love about pro sports, it's so hard. It's the greatest reality show in the world. We don't know. We're going to go to Phoenix, and there's going to be four great organizations, drivers competing with their crew chiefs and their teams and their pit crews.
I think it's going to be just a great weekend for us.
Q. Joe, in terms of Kyle Busch, at the end of the day, you and also Kyle had to each make business decisions that you felt like were the best decisions for yourself, even with the friendships and relationships that you have. Certainly there is a rawness to it, and I think we've kind of seen some of Kyle's rawness on the Race For the Championship and just how things have played out in his hand. How raw was this for you? When might this relationship get back to a better point for you guys as you move forward? Because obviously it's still very soon in the immediate here.
JOE GIBBS: I think one of the things that none of us want this played out at the end of the year in the playoffs for him. We didn't lose a motor last year, and for us to lose two and have the situations that we've had for him, it was just really hard for us to deal with that. It was so disappointing.
I think Kyle over this last year has really -- we've had great times, we've had a great 15 years. Over this last year it's really been hard on both sides. We tried extremely hard to get everything put together so we could stay together, and we just weren't able to get that done, and so that was a lot of work, stress, trying to go through that.
This has really been a tough year, I think for him and us. So we hate that.
I think he's found a good home, and I think he and Richard will get along great. I think he's going to -- I don't want to race against him because he's going over there to a good car, and I know how talented he is. And so really and truly, we experienced something really special, 15 years, and I wish him and Sam the absolute best as we go forward.
Q. Every organization does things in their own way and can lead to success. Obviously you guys have your model, Rick Hendrick has his model, Roger Penske has his model. There are some similarities but there's a lot of differences. Obviously we're seeing this year in the championship race Trackhouse with Justin Marks. They do things differently. That doesn't mean one is right or wrong, but when somebody new comes in, obviously, if you're part of the establishment, I think it makes sense to look at what they're doing to see if there's things that you have to look at within yourself to see what you guys are doing to be better or to be prepared for this onslaught that a new team can have. How might Justin Marks and Trackhouse be pushing you guys or making you look at doing things in a different way that maybe you hadn't been because it's a new owner and he's approaching things in a different way?
JOE GIBBS: I think you're exactly right. I think the way they came on the scene and what they're being able to do as a new team, I know from our standpoint, we would love to learn from all of our competitors, and certainly I think everybody is looking at what they've been able to do.
Hey, anytime somebody can come to a pro sport as hard as this is and compete the way they have and wind up going all the way to the final 4, I say, man, anybody that can do that, I say congrats, fantastic job.
I think all of us will probably be looking at that in some way, saying what can we learn. For me, you're in a pro sport, you're trying to be the best, but you also know that you need to be coachable and continually trying to improve, and one way of doing that is studying what the people that are being real successful are doing.
I always kind of look at that, and I always said I have no pride. In football if somebody else I saw a play that was really good, I'd take it. I'd steal it. I'd copy it.
But anyway, I think it is a learning thing for all of us. I say congrats to them, and certainly they had a fantastic year.
You've got to give them all the credit in the world.
Q. Wanted to ask you, given your background in football, you dealt with special teams, you understand the dynamics. We entered Speedweeks this year and there was buzz around your pit crews, but here we are 35 races later and probably no one has made as many moves and changes, switched people around as between JGR and 23XI. I'm wondering where you are on this and is there a way to find more consistency, especially with what we saw with Denny on Sunday?
JOE GIBBS: Well, I think for sure. When we made the changes that we did as an organization, as NASCAR did, went to a single lug nut, I think we saw anytime you make a big change like that, it's very different, and I think we saw as complete race organizations, all of us, there were some real mistakes in there, and it was a learning process.
I know it was for us, and so you are constantly trying to look and say what is the best combination, and in particular if you struggle with something, then you're looking to try and fix that.
I think all the way across the board, I think if you look at everything that happened on pit road this year in NASCAR, I think it was very different. I think it was a major change. The car is very different.
I think when you have big changes, odds are it's going to lend itself to having some failures in there.
Anyway, I think it's all a learning process. You're studying as you go. We did make changes. Then you wind up with our pit crew this weekend, where actually they're what we kind of call them, they're the young guys. It's a group, when we put them with the 20 car, they just -- all of them kind of blossomed. Adam has got a part in that, a big hand, certainly Christopher, and I think they all really like each other. They work extremely hard. I go out to pit practice in early mornings here, and our guys, the music is going, and they're getting after it.
That's what you're looking for in pro sports. I always tell our guys, all you can ask for is an opportunity to do something great, and that group this weekend and getting here did something great. Twice they overcame all the odds, and now they're going to have a chance to really win a championship. Is that hard? It's extremely hard. We've been here 31 years, and we've won five. That tells you it's pretty hard.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports