Joe Gibbs

Legendary Head Coach, Washington Redskins and Championship NASCAR Owner

Exclusively WSB

A successful organization starts with its people.

This has long been the philosophy of Joe Gibbs. It helped carry him to three Super Bowl championships as the Pro Football Hall of Fame as head coach of the NFL’s Washington Redskins and has been a defining principle behind building Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) into one of NASCAR’s most successful multi-team racing organizations.

It also guides Gibbs’ latest project: “Game Plan For Life”, which is the title of his New York Times Best Selling book and corresponding ministry (www.gameplanforlife.com).  Once again, Gibbs assembled an amazing team of 11 experts to respond to the issues a national survey revealed to be the most pressing in men’s lives. The results are a modern day game plan for a successful life based on God’s Word and Gibbs is committed to sharing the message with as many people as possible. Through his ministry he is now reaching thousands each year with Game Plan For Life Breakfast events in communities across the country, and through prison outreach, where he has the opportunity to provide encouragement to thousands of inmates. In addition, he recently released a devotional, Game Plan for Life Chalk Talks, and a Game Plan for Life Study Bible.

JGR has experienced amazing success and growth since Gibbs founded the operation in 1991. Beginning its first season of racing in 1992 with just 18 crew members, JGR now employs over 450 people.  Despite the immense growth, the company remains defined by the same principles of its founder: Integrity, a relentless work ethic, determination, perseverance and team building.

Those principles have been the driving force behind JGR’s success including over 200 overall wins in NASCAR, three NASCAR Cup Series championships (2000, 2002, and 2005) and four NASCAR Nationwide Series Championships (2008 Owner’s Champions, 2009 Driver and Owner’s Champions, 2010 Owner’s Champions, and 2012 Owner’s Champions).

Gibbs was applying character based leadership long before he started in NASCAR.  After 17 years of serving as an assistant coach to several college and NFL teams, Gibbs was hired as head coach of the Washington Redskins in 1981 and his determination and perseverance was immediately on display when the team lost its first five games.  The Redskins rebounded to finish that season 8-8 and the following season, he would lead the Redskins to their first Super Bowl Championship in franchise history. Over the decade that followed he would lead the Redskins to three more Super Bowls, including victories in Super Bowl XXII following the 1987 season and Super Bowl XXVI after the 1991 season.

Over that time he became one of the winningest coaches in NFL history, but he would retire from the NFL following the 1992 season to turn his attention to his family and the new race operations. Four years later he would receive the NFL’s highest honor with induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1996.

JGR would make its debut in the 1992, but it was a year later that JGR would claim its first victory, when Dale Jarrett captured the 1993 Daytona 500, known as the Super Bowl of racing, in the No. 18 Interstate Batteries car.

From that first victory the growth and success of JGR has been extraordinary. In 1999 Gibbs realized that multi-car teams were becoming more prevalent and successful than their single-car counterparts. He brought Tony Stewart into the Cup Series with crew chief Greg Zipadelli and sponsor The Home Depot.

The collaboration was successful from the outset. Bursting onto the NASCAR Cup scene in the No. 20 Home Depot car, Stewart became the winningest rookie in series history, with three wins en route to the Rookie of the Year title and a fourth-place position in the championship point standings.

In 2000, the No. 18 team with Bobby Labonte and the No. 20 team with Stewart proved to be a formidable one-two punch. The two drivers combined to win 10 of the series’ 34 races, with Labonte winning four events en route to his first career NASCAR Cup Series championship. Just two years later it was Stewart’s turn, as the Indiana native scored three wins during the 2002 campaign and captured his first NASCAR title.

In 2004, Gibbs shocked the sports world when he accepted an opportunity to return to the NFL for the team and fans he loved. With his eldest son J.D. running the day to day operations at JGR, Gibbs would be joined by his youngest son Coy at the Washington Redskins, who served as an offensive assistant on his coaching staff. Once again Gibbs went to work and in 2005 the franchise returned to the playoffs and earned its first playoff victory in six years.

While Gibbs was working to restore the Redskins winning tradition, the team he built at JGR continued to flourish.  In 2005, JGR expanded to a third team as FedEx came on board to sponsor the new No. 11 team. That same year Stewart captured his second and JGR’s third Cup Series Championship. Denny Hamlin would join the No. 11 FedEx team and went on to earn 2006 NASCAR Rookie of the Year honors.

One of the greatest challenges of Gibbs’ career would come in his final season with the Redskins in 2007 when star player Sean Taylor was murdered in his Miami home. Despite the tragedy, Gibbs managed to steer the Redskins to victories in their final four games to secure yet another playoff season for the team.

When the season concluded Gibbs made the decision to spend more time with his family and is now back with son J.D. at Joe Gibbs Racing and Coy, who left his post at the Redskins following the 2006 season to start JGRMX, a professional motocross team based near JGR’s NASCAR operations in Huntersville, NC. Just as JGR had done in NASCAR, in just the first race of only its second season, JGRMX captured its first victory in January 2009 when Josh Grant won the season opener in Anaheim, CA. James Stewart would capture the team’s second victory during the 2012 Supercross season, but it was Davi Milsaps who put together the impressive overall season finishing second in the standings. The team recently announced that Justin Barcia, Weston Peick, and Phil Nicoletti will ride for JGRMX in 2015.

When Gibbs returned to JGR from the Redskins prior to the start of the 2008 season, he had a new manufacturer, Toyota, a new sponsor for the No. 18 team, M&Ms, and a new driver in Kyle Busch. In addition, JGR would learn during the season that Tony Stewart would be leaving after the conclusion of racing season to start his own race team. But despite all the changes, JGR proved its foundation strong once again as Busch would win a remarkable eight times in the Cup Series and, for the first time, all three JGR drivers would qualify for NASCAR’s Chase for the Cup.

2009 saw the debut of Joey Logano, a talented driver that became the youngest ever to start the Daytona 500 at the age of just 18 when he climbed behind the wheel of the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota and the youngest winner in NASCAR history when he captured his first win at New Hampshire in June. Logano also became the youngest ever to earn NASCAR Rookie of the Year honors. Hamlin would also win a career-high four times and earn an impressive fifth-place finish in the standings, while Busch added yet another four victories.

Gibbs was named NASCAR Illustrated’s 2010 Person of the Year in recognition of the positive impact he has had both on and off the track. JGR had an outstanding season in 2010 on the track with 11 total victories in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and another 16 in the NASCAR Nationwide Series en route to the organization’s third straight Nationwide Series Owner’s Championship. JGR would add another five wins in the Sprint Cup Series in 2011, with Kyle Busch claiming four victories and Hamlin adding another as both earned a spot in the Chase.  Hamlin led JGR’s efforts in 2012 with a series-high four wins and entered the Chase as the top seed.

One thing that remains a constant in sports is change, but organizations with strong leadership and a solid foundation continue to succeed despite such transition. Looking to the future, 2003 Cup Series Champion and two-time Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth joined JGR in 2013 and his impact was immediate, piloting the No. 20 Dollar General/Home Depot Toyota to a series leading seven wins. Busch would finish the year with four wins and a career-high fourth-place finish in the standings. Meanwhile, Denny Hamlin rebounded to conclude a disappointing 2013 season in which an injury took him out of the car for four races, to win the season finale at Homestead. The team will continue to grow in 2015 with the recently announced Carl Edwards joining the organization to pilot a fourth Sprint Cup Series team with new sponsor ARRIS on board for 19 races and STANLEY partnering for 12.

In addition to his working daily with J.D. at JGR and Coy at JGRMX, as well as working to further spread the message of “Game Plan For Life”, Gibbs also remains committed to Youth For Tomorrow, a home he founded in Bristow, VA that is now licensed to house up to 106 troubled boys and girls ages 11-18.

Gibbs has not finished his coaching career quite yet however and can often be found walking the sidelines in Huntersville, NC while assisting his grandson’s eight-man JEFA football team on fall weekends, which included a perfect season and yet another championship in 2011. He and his wife Pat currently reside near JGR’s Huntersville, NC headquarters and enjoy spending time with all eight of their grandchildren.