Ex-coach to rejoin son J.D. as face of Joe Gibbs Racing

Updated: January 8, 2008, 5:01 PM ET
Associated Press

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Joe Gibbs is apparently headed back to NASCAR following his resignation Tuesday as coach of the Washington Redskins.

Gibbs formed his NASCAR team in 1992 during his first retirement, but turned control of the three-car organization to son J.D. when he returned to the Redskins four years ago. He made sporadic appearances on race day, but spent most of his time in Washington with the football team. Now he's free to be directly involved again in racing -- his teams have won three championships since 2000 -- but during a news conference in Virginia, he gave no clear indication what his role will be during a news conference in Virginia.

"We've got our family business there, it's real important to all of us," Gibbs said. "We spent [16] years building it, and it's a huge part of our family. That will be a big part of my life and a big part of me."

Lee White, senior vice president of Toyota Racing Development, said J.D. Gibbs called him Tuesday morning to inform him of the elder Gibbs' decision.

"We discussed how it was great that it was Joe's decision, and J.D. is very pleased and thrilled to think that he'll have Joe close at hand," White said. "J.D. still runs the team. But as far as renewing sponsorships and extending drivers and wining and dining new sponsors, Joe is going to be available and be a help, not a hindrance, in those things."

Joe Gibbs Racing ended its longtime affiliation with General Motors last season to join Toyota, which is entering its second season in NASCAR's elite Sprint Cup Series. The manufacturer struggled in its first season and has been counting on JGR to help shape its program.

"It can't help but put the team on a more solid foundation, leadership-wise, at a challenging time," White said. "It's a family business and the more members of the family in the business, the better."

J.D. Gibbs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Gibbs' announcement surprised Kyle Busch, the newest driver at JGR, who was testing his new ride Tuesday at Daytona International Speedway.

"I knew he had one more year left [on his Redskins contract], so I figured he was going to keep digging," Busch said. "I don't know what his decision process was about retiring, but I'm sure it'll be for the better of Joe Gibbs Racing."

Busch said he's had few dealings with Gibbs, other than his contract negotiations last summer and an occasional phone call. But Gibbs was involved in the courting of Busch, and before that met with Dale Earnhardt Jr. in a failed attempt to sign NASCAR's most popular driver.

Gibbs also made a surprise visit to the track in Chicago last July to mediate a feud between drivers Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin. He summoned both of his stars into a hauler, forcing them to miss valuable practice time, as he played peacemaker in an argument that stemmed from an on-track accident.

Busch said he hopes Gibbs will be hands-on with the team now.

"I think it would be pretty cool," Busch said. "[Crew chief Steve] Addington told me early today that whenever you really need something or want something, you'd just go to Joe, and he's like, 'Fine, do whatever you need. We'll figure out a way to pay for it later.' That will pay dividends for us, just being able to go out there and get what we need when we need it.

"Having Joe playing a bigger role in the race team's always nice. J.D. does a great job with it, but it's not like having Joe Gibbs around to run this organization."

Gibbs said part of his reason for retiring from football again was to spend more time with his family, which includes a young grandson who was diagnosed with leukemia last year at the age of 2. Taylor Gibbs, the youngest of J.D. Gibbs' four boys, completed his first phase of treatment last September. His current status was not immediately known.

"My family, as everybody knows, when I came here it was one set of circumstances," Gibbs said. "It was a tough year for [wife] Pat, which means a lot to me. J.D. and [youngest son] Coy being back down there, and all the things we went through with Taylor. "Almost all of them said the same thing. 'If you want to go, then keep going, we'll go with you.' It's just that I felt after sitting with my family, that's not something I should do."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press