Tag:Joe Gibbs Racing
Posted on: January 31, 2012 3:55 pm
Edited on: January 31, 2012 4:07 pm

Fire breaks out at Joe Gibbs Racing

By Pete Pistone

A fire was reported at Joe Gibbs Racing Tuesday afternoon with several employees receiving treatment for smoke inhalation.

Ten employees of JGR were treated after a fire at the team’s race shop in Huntersville, NC.

Early reports indicate a piece of machinery at the shop caught fire at around 3 pm ET.

JGR released a statement late Tuesday afternoon:

"A piece of equipment in the machine shop caught fire today at our Joe Gibbs Racing headquarters in Huntersville, NC. The fire department was called and the fire was quickly contained and extinguished. A few of our employees received treatment on site for issues related to smoke inhalation. All employees were able to return to work within the hour to continue preparations for the 2012 NASCAR season"

It is the second fire at the complex in less than a year following a February of 2011 incident that caused significant damage to the team's engine shop.

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Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: January 27, 2012 3:11 pm
Edited on: January 27, 2012 3:33 pm

Cup teams carry optimism into the coming season

By Pete Pistone

  (L-R) Jimmie Johnson, Driver Of The #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Chevrolet, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Driver Of The #88 Diet Mountain
(Hendrick is confident his team can return to the championship form it missed out on last season - Getty Images)

This week’s annual NASCAR Media Tour in Charlotte wasn’t chock full of breaking news, unless you’re among those who didn’t know reporters, writers and photographers like to eat. Buffet lines were plentiful even if the news was not.

The top two stories of the week spent in the Queen City were most likely Ford’s unveiling of the 2013 Sprint Cup Fusion and DeLana Harvick’s pregnancy, which should give you an indication of the wide spectrum of topics covered on the tour. 

Other than that most of the trek around Charlotte was reserved for teams to outline their plans for the coming season and size up goals for the coming year. 

Although every Cup every organization didn’t participate on the tour, most of the heavy hitters were represented. 

Of course all predict big things for 2012 and multiple wins and championships. To say enthusiasm ran high at every visit is a giant understatement. 

But there was a distinct vibe during every team’s session and although not one competitive lap has been run, it was interesting to gauge the atmosphere around a few of the sport’s high profile operations:  

Stewart-Haas Racing

There is a definite swagger surrounding the defending Sprint Cup championship team. Tony Stewart’s performance last year has solidified this organization as a definite contender for future titles. Stewart has also given the outfit a more personal touch with the addition of crew chief Steve Addington and long-time pal Greg Zipadelli to the Director of Competition role. Throw Danica Patrick into the mix, who appears much more at home now that she’s a full-time NASCAR driver, along with Ryan Newman and SHR came off as a laid back bunch that is having a good time doing what they’re doing. This will be a fun bunch to watch in 2012.

Joe Gibbs Racing

The feeling was much more buttoned down when the Gibbs bunch gave their view of the coming year. Coach Gibbs did come close to breaking the tour record for the use of the word excited, but there was a distinct sense of pressure in the room. Two new crew chiefs and a trio of drivers that are all in their own way facing a pressure-filled situation heading into the season is the reality for Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano. There are also questions on how the shift to TRD engines will impact the team’s fortunes as it looks to put last season’s motor woes behind. JGR appears to be at a crossroads this year and its 2012 performance could very well shape its overall direction. 

Michael Waltrip Racing

The off-season facelift for this team brought in newcomers Clint Bowyer and Mark Martin to team up with holdover Martin Truex Jr. Team co-owner Waltrip, who is also slated to drive in a few races this year, kept the mood light during the MWR stop by hosting a talk show featuring his stable of drivers as guests. While David Letterman has nothing to worry about, the result was an opportunity to see the personalities of this quartet of drivers who at least early on in the process seem like they click together. The absolute test will obviously come on the racetrack and like its Toyota counterparts at JGR MWR needs to find some speed to compete on a regular basis. Bowyer and Martin will help elevate the team’s driving talent but equipment and engines are still unknown entities that will impact MWR’s hope to move to the next level. 

  Jack Roush, Owner Of Roush Fenway Racing, Speaks
(Jack Roush celebrates his 25th anniversary in NASCAR and seeks win number 300 this season - Getty Images)

Roush Fenway Racing

It was difficult to get a true sense of feeling around RFR for the simple fact that two of its three Sprint Cup drivers weren’t present at the team function. Carl Edwards was out of the country on a pre-planned vacation while Matt Kenseth was a late scratch due to a family emergency. That left Greg Biffle as the lone Cup driver rep in addition to team owner Roush and GM Robbie Reiser as team reps. Roush will be celebrating its 25<sup>th</sup> year in NASCAR this season and has a remarkable history in the sport including 299 career victories. But whether Edwards doesn’t fall victim to the hangover of just missing out on last year’s championship or Kenseth follows up his Chase appearance last season or Biffle rebounds from an off 2011 are a trio of big question marks at this juncture. 

Hendrick Motorsports

It may sound strange to hear a team as successful as Hendrick has been to be considered reenergized but that’s the case with this four-car stable. Missing out on last year’s sixth straight title has Jimmie Johnson proclaiming he’s “as hungry as ever” and team owner Hendrick was glowing with optimism but his entire organization including Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt and newcomer Kasey Kahne. “I’m going to be really disappointed if we don’t have all four cars in the Chase and I’m going to be really disappointed if we don’t win the championship,” Hendrick said. “I can’t remember having four teams this solid, this strong, at the beginning of the year. I think we’re as prepared as we’ve ever been and if we don’t get it (the championship) it's going to be our fault.”  Those words no doubt caught the attention of every other Cup operation. 

Richard Childress Racing

There was more announced at the RCR gathering than the upcoming blessed event in the Harvick household. In addition to Harvick, Jeff Burton and Paul Menard, RCR will field a fourth entry for Elliott Sadler in the Daytona 500 as well as the following four events for Nationwide and truck series regular Brendan Gaughan. There are two crew chief changes among the three Cup drivers and a renewed sense of enthusiasm across the board but particularly with Burton who said bluntly his dismal 2011 “pissed him off.” It will be interesting to see how Harvick’s new personal life developments including divesting his KHI team impacts his season and if Burton finds his way back to being more competitive, as he demonstrated during the tail end of last year.

Penske Racing

There was a sense of relief permeating the air during the Penske media event no doubt the result of the Kurt Busch controversy finally ending. While Busch was not thrown under the bus (in fact Penske said he was personally sending his former driver a letter wishing him well on his new endeavors) it was clear this team is excited to move on with A.J. Allmendinger now teaming up with Brad Keselowski. A contract extension announcement for Keselowski and crew chief Paul Wolfe spoke volumes of how Penske feels about the duo that won three races and made the Chase last season. Keselowski is comfortable with the role of leader he now inherits and Allmendinger’s personality has fit right into the team. 

Hope springs eternal at this time of the year to be sure and every team has reason to believe this will be their season to shine. However the reality of the grueling racing season is about to put those feelings of optimism to the test.

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Posted on: January 25, 2012 12:33 pm
Edited on: January 25, 2012 3:06 pm

Critical year ahead for Joe Gibbs Racing

By Pete Pistone

Image Detail
(Kyle Busch has to win and contend for a title while keeping his emotions in check and controversy to a minimum)

CHARLOTTE - Joe Gibbs has had to go through rebuilding phases before during his NFL career as coach of the Washington Redskins.

But he'll need to apply those skills that built mediocre teams into Super Bowl winners to his NASCAR organization in 2012.

JGR suffered through a frustrating season last year, which might sound strange considering the team did score five Sprint Cup wins and placed two of its drivers in the Chase.

But despite Kyle Busch's four wins and Chase appearance and teammate Denny Hamlin's victory clinching him a wild card berth, overall the Gibbs group would like top put 2011 in the rear view mirror as quickly as possible.

Busch's emotional meltdown that resulted in his controversial truck series race incident with Ron Hornaday and subsequently being parked by NASCAR for the weekend's Sprint Cup race was the major memory for the Gibbs effort last season. Coupled with Hamlin's team and confidence also literally coming apart, it's easy to understand why Gibbs decided to make some changes in the off-season.

Two of the team's three crew chiefs were changed with both Hamlin and Joey Logano entering the new year with different voices calling the shots. Mike Ford was dismissed in favor of Darian Grubb, who found himself on the market when he was let go from Tony Stewart's championship-winning effort, while Jason Ratcliff was elevated from JGR's Nationwide Series program to work with Logano.

Although a competitive lap has not yet been run this season, the shake up has already infused some much-needed enthusiasm into the team.

“I’m really excited to join Joe Gibbs Racing and the No. 11 FedEx team,” Grubb said. “We’re having lots of fun, we’re having lots of meetings. We’re kind of setting the course for what we want to do. We want to go out there and be competitive.”

Ratcliff is settling into working with Lagano and trying to fill the shoes of Greg Zipadelli, who left to rejoin friend and former colleague Stewart at SHR.

"(Team president) J.D. (Gibbs) gave me the opportunity about seven years ago to come over and work on the Nationwide program,” said Ratcliff. “It has been great for seven years and I knew it would have to be a really special deal to move beyond that. 

“They’ve given me an opportunity that fits well with a great driver, with great sponsors like Home Depot and Dollar General, and a team that is eager to go out and win races."

After nearly pulling off a championship run in 2010 only to come up just short of derailing the Jimmie Johnson title express, Hamlin found some very rough seas last season.

Although he was able to win and make the Chase, there was never a sense inside the team another championship challenge was possible and the decaying chemistry between Hamlin, Ford and the team finally took its toll.

Hamlin's confidence was shaken and he sought the professional assistance of a sports psychologist to help him return to the competitive level he was accustomed to prior to experiencing the issues.

He believes there is a lesson to be learned from what transpired last year.

"I think you need a season of getting your ass kicked for people to wake up and realize 'Hey, maybe we're not as good as we may think we are,'" Hamlin said. "We just never had the speed to make up for our problems. And when we got to the chase we just didn't have the parts and pieces to be championship caliber. 

"But this year the pieces are there."

Hamlin has already connected with Grubb and feels the support inside the JGR organization is positive enough to make a difference in the coming year.

"There are a lot of things that are stronger for us this year, and on top of that my confidence is way higher right now than it was at the start of 2011," Hamlin said.

Busch also shares Hamlin's positive outlook and has taken measures to refocus his energy. Gone is Busch's massive racing calendar of Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series events to augment his Sprint Cup schedule replaced by a by comparison limited 13-15 race slate in his own NWS entry at Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Speculation is that Gibbs and Cup sponsor M&M's were instrumental in Busch changing his extra-curricular racing involvement but he says it's not important why he's changing his approach.

“I would think that alleviates some stress and some opportunities for certain things to happen and give you a break from some of that,” Busch said. “It allows you to kind of relax a little bit."

Logano might have the luxury of relaxing as he enters the most pivotal Sprint Cup season of his career. 

The nickname of "Sliced Bread" has gotten stale for many both inside and outside JGR waiting for Logano to finally live up to the lofty expectations he brought to the sport when he came into NASCAR after a stellar short track career.

Although he's scored nine Nationwide wins for Busch as well as a Sprint Cup victory, Logano is on the hot seat as he enters the final year of his contract with the team.

Like Hamlin he's working with s sports psychologist to assist his understandably shaken confidence and hopes working with Ratcliff might be the spark to finally bring him the success so many predicted at NASCAR's highest level.

But Logano downplays whether this is indeed a "do or die" year coming up.

"I think this is a very important year just like any other year,"  Logano said. "You can argue that last year was equally as important as this year. I feel like I have the guys behind me, the team behind me to make that happen. I’d say it’s less pressure for me, I feel like I got what I need: A lot of energy, a lot of confidence in myself and my team this year. I feel like we can do it. I feel like we don’t have any excuses left."

In reality that statement holds true for the entire JGR operation. The excuse bin is running dry.

Logano is on the hot seat, Busch doesn't have any more room for error and Hamlin's career is suddenly at a crossroads.

Coach Gibbs needs to bring out the old football motivational playbook to get his race team on track or at the end of the season he may find himself forced to punt.


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Posted on: January 6, 2012 9:16 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 9:16 pm

Mark Martin to make Nationwide start for Gibbs

By Pete Pistone

Mark Martin's 2012 season won't be limited to his Sprint Cup Series program at Michael Waltrip Racing.

The veteran driver will pilot a Joe Gibbs Racing Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry in the Nationwide Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March.

“We’ve always hoped to have the opportunity for Mark to drive for us and to have him behind the wheel of our Interstate Batteries Toyota for the Nationwide race in Vegas is exciting,” said J.D. Gibbs, president of Joe Gibbs Racing. “He is a great example to all drivers of the dedication it takes to be successful and certainly we’re honored to have him part of our efforts in 2012.”

While Martin is only currently scheduled to race in Las Vegas for JGR, the team is still working on opportunities for the veteran driver to secure additional races.

Martin currently has 49 career victories in 235 Nationwide Series starts, Martin has amassed 111 top-five and 151 top-ten finishes, while leading 8,093 laps. His most recent victory came just last season when he piloted the No. 32 car to victory lane in Las Vegas. He had four total starts in 2011, with the one victory and three top-ten finishes.

“This is exciting,” said Martin. “No organization has been better in the Nationwide Series over the past three or four seasons and to have the chance to get behind the wheel of a Joe Gibbs Racing Nationwide car will be a thrill. Maybe I can pick up a few more races and try to catch Kyle to get my record back again.”

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Posted on: December 9, 2011 10:58 am
Edited on: December 9, 2011 11:01 am

Gibbs hires Grubb as Hamlin's crew chief

By Pete Pistone

The game of NASCAR crew chief musical chairs continued on Friday when Joe Gibbs Racing announced that Darian Grubb would call the shots for Denny Hamlin and the FedEx Toyota next season.

Grubb led Tony Stewart to this year's Sprint Cup title but was released by Stewart-Haas Racing at the end of the year.

He now takes over for the disposed Mike Ford to work as Hamlin's crew chief in 2012.

"Darian is a great addition to our organization and person to lead our #11 FedEx team," said team owner Joe Gibbs. "Obviously he has proven the ability to guide a team to a championship and we are excited to have him working with Denny (Hamlin) toward achieving that goal here at Joe Gibbs Racing."  

Grubb spent the last three seasons at SHR after a long career with Hendrick Motorsports. He's excited about joining another top organization at JGR.

"I'm thrilled to join Joe Gibbs Racing," said Grubb. "The chance to work with Denny is something I'm excited about. When you sit down with Joe and J.D. Gibbs you can't help but be excited about this opportunity and the team aspects of JGR. There is no question about the level of support you get here and I'm looking forward to working with everyone across the entire organization."

Speculation is that Ford, who guided Hamlin to eight victories a year ago as well as one win and a Chase berth this season, will join Penske Racing to crew chief for the team's new driver in the No. 22 Dodge.

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Posted on: November 11, 2011 1:36 pm
Edited on: November 11, 2011 8:20 pm

Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs plan to move on together

By Pete Pistone

AVONDALE, Ariz. - Another chapter in the Kyle Busch saga was written Friday morning at Phoenix International Raceway when the controversial driver and team owner Joe Gibbs met the media.

Busch explained what a toll the week has taken on him personally and how he’s dealt with the aftermath of his celebrated incident with Ron Hornaday in last week’s Camping World Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.

“It’s certainly been a trying week,” Busch said. “This has been a situation that I could have dreamed could have happened and I don’t wish it upon anybody. For me, I’ve certainly had a lot of time to sit and reflect and think and decide and look at what the future entails. For me, my future, I want to be with Joe Gibbs Racing, I want to be in NASCAR, I want to be driving the M&M’s Toyota.’’

Although Mars/M&M’s decided to pull its sponsorship from the No. 18 entry this weekend and in the season-ending Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Busch will compete in both races carrying Interstate Batteries support.

He expressed his concern for how his actions impacted JGR and potentially an important and lucrative sponsor like Mars/M&Ms.

“This has been quite a trying week for myself and my wife and everybody at M&M’s, Joe Gibbs Racing, Kyle Busch Motorsports, Interstate Batteries, all the above,” Busch said. “For me, I’m utmost apologetic to everybody that’s been having to go through this situation. There’s no one to blame but myself, so I’m here today to basically say that I apologize to everybody involved in this whole ordeal.”

Busch expressed gratitude for Gibbs staying with him through the situation and his personal commitment.

“Joe has been a huge supporter of mine through all of this and I can’t say enough about him, all the folks at JGR, all the guys on my M&M’s team,” Busch said. “We’re here to say we want learn from this, we want to move on. Certainly, there’s some remorse from my side and to be apologetic to the M&M’s brand and all of those folks that put their heart and soul into this NASCAR program for years. We want to continue that relationship down the road. There’s an opportunity for me to become a better person, to grow, to learn from this and I’m looking forward to those days.

“I’m sure I’ve lost some respect with my team, with my sponsors, with my peers and I understand those consequences. I understand that my actions last weekend were uncalled for, were disrespectful and that I’m here to make sure that I can continue on in a positive manner and make it to where everybody believes in me from this week forward.’’

Gibbs also reiterated his support of Busch but did say there would be more punishment to come in the aftermath of the incident.

“Kyle’s penalties are going to be substantial,” said Gibbs. “The biggest thing for everybody on the 18 was we went from seventh in points in the Chase to 11th. That’s a huge deal. I know Kyle and all of us were excited about getting back into the top five and that will probably take this away from us. That was a big deal for us. We understood that. We also have other actions that are going to be in place. There will be other financial penalties and stuff that we’re working through and will continue to do that as we go forward through this process.”

The stress of the situation was not lost on Gibbs who explained the difficult situation and decisions that were made this week.

“I think for me personally, I just want to make the point when you’re put in the situation like this, you can really make one or two decisions,” said Gibbs. “I think the one (firing) would have been devastating, I think really discouraging for everybody associated with it, Kyle, everybody around him and for the sport. What I’ve chosen to do, I want to support Kyle and I feel like this could have a positive impact on Kyle and I’m committed to him as a person.’’

As for going forward, Gibbs said there were several options still being discussed including the possibility of Busch attending anger management sessions.

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Posted on: November 6, 2011 11:15 am
Edited on: November 6, 2011 11:22 am

JGR sponsor expresses concern about Kyle Busch

Posted by Brian De Los Santos

Could the latest flare-up of Kyle Busch's temper cost him his sponsor?

Through its Facebook page, M&M's, primary sponsor of Busch's No. 18 car, has let it be known they're unhappy with his behavior.

"My boss asked me to share this: The recent actions by Kyle Busch are not consistent with the values of M&M'S and we're very disappointed. Like you, we hold those who represent our brand to a higher standard and we have expressed our concerns directly to Joe Gibbs Racing."

Also see: NASCAR suspends Kyle Busch for Texas weekend | Kyle Busch apology letter

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Posted on: October 21, 2011 2:55 pm

Kyle Busch expands team to Nationwide program

By Pete Pistone

Kyle Busch will be growing his ownership role in NASCAR next season. 

Busch announced Friday at Talladega Superspeedway his Kyle Busch Motorsports team would expand to include a full-time effort in the Nationwide Series in 2012. 

“On behalf of myself and Kyle Busch Motorsports, it’s just a subtle little announcement that KBM is transitioning into the Nationwide Series next year to go race a full-funded team for the championship and I can’t announce any further

details, besides that it will be a Toyota,” Busch said to start his media session on Friday.  “Excited about it.  It’s a great opportunity for myself and for the Kyle Busch Motorsports organization for everybody there that’s there now that we have on the line to hire to bring over in order to foresee that program being successful.  We’re excited.  It’s a great day for us.  Crew chiefs, sponsors, drivers -- all that stuff will be announced at a later time.”

Busch will continue to operate a Camping World Truck Series team as well out of KBM and expects to drive the No. 18 entry in the majority of events.  

“We will run trucks also,” Busch added.  “We will keep the 18 truck going for a full season next year.  We are just a few races shy being full sponsorship on that deal.  Obviously, last week with Dollar General -- announcing those guys coming back to help us with the Truck Series program and, you know, with the driver and all that kinds of stuff, it’s all pretty much done.  It’s just a matter of waiting until the time in which the sponsor is ready to announce all that stuff.” 

The Nationwide expansion comes at a time when several teams are either dropping out of the series, consolidating operations or finding a difficult time in attracting sponsors for next season. 

Busch will not only have a full funded Nationwide entry coming out of his organization which will find him behind the wheel in a number of events, he’ll also continue to drive a limited schedule for Joe Gibbs Racing as well.

“It’s kind of the point to really announce later, but it’s safe to assume that I will be running in some Nationwide races at Kyle Busch Motorsports,” he said.  “I will also still commit to my current obligations that I have at JGR and run over there too.  I’ll be split between two Nationwide teams essentially driving some races.  What number that’s going to be yet, that’s to be decided.  Certainly we’ve gone over it with JGR and everything.  This is definitely nothing new to those guys.  There’s certainly the amount of races that I’ve already been set to run in the Nationwide car for next year with JGR.   We’ll still continue to plan all that out into these next few weeks or next few months maybe before our announcement.”

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