(The Joe Gibbs Racing team has been in the spotlight early in the 2011 season)
Joe Gibbs Racing president J.D. Gibbs stopped by Sirius NASCAR Radio's "The Morning Drive" this week to discuss a wide range of topics including the unapproved oil pans found with the team's three cars during inspection at Michigan, Denny Hamlin's first win of the season and his championship prospects and the possibility of free agent Carl Edwards joining the organization in 2012:
Denny Hamlin won eight times last year but it wasn’t until Sunday at Michigan that he scored his first victory of 2011. Are you pleased with the team’s performance in the first fifteen races despite what’s perceived as some as a slow start?
Overall, the 11 car, each year that it's been in existence, has been a strong-performing car. You kind of start the year off not as quickly and successfully as we would like. To watch them kind of come together and lift each other up, be a team that was kind of for me I get a lot of satisfaction watching those guys rally around each other and look for some great momentum for the rest of the year.
All three JGR cars of Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano were found to have what NASCAR called unapproved oil pans found during pre-race inspection at Michigan last Friday. What is your view as the team owner about what transpired in that situation?
I think for us we take responsibility but the reality is there’s a lot of parts in these cars and it’s not an illegal part it just has to be submitted so they can see it, look at it and then they give you your stamp. And so a lot of things you bring to the track they look at it and then go okay run the race or say take it off and let us look at it or just say hey take it off. So I think that’s where some of our guys weren’t thinking and I thought there was some kind of an issue that really wasn’t there but they though it was, they kind of raised the red flag and then your put in a position with on our part was not submitting it first. But that’s part of the sport and it’s our responsibility to say hey we have to submit this stuff first especially for the bigger items and kind of go forward with that.
The perception from some is that there is some kind of quality control issue at JGR and do you agree with that view?
Yeh I think from our standpoint our guys have definitely been working hard on the reliability. We’ve got good performance and that’s been a big part but the reliability piece is somewhat difficult…we have three teams here. Most teams might have six, seven eight teams to work with and they can see more things than we see. So part of it is seeing more with the three teams we have and to work closer with Toyota and TRD on what issues they see, what we see and kind of just have better communication but part of it is…we’ve been doing this twenty years and had a motor program probably for seventeen of them and one of the hardest things you do is build motors. You try to be consistent and be fast and that hasn’t changed but hopefully we’ll be able to get some of these kinds worked out and get some more reliability.
This isn’t the first team you’re team has been in the spotlight for things away from the race track but they always seems to rise to the occasion – you had Denny Hamlin first and Kyle Busch third Sunday in Michigan. What is it about your race team that they can rebound and perform so well when things like this are thrown in their way?
Our guys mentally are pretty strong, they’re tough but I think that’s probably the same with a lot of teams in the garage. But I think our guys if you’re running in the field like mid-pack or further, no one is going to talk about you anyway. An issue comes up in tech line nobody cares. When you run upfront and you’re expected to win and challenge it’s a big deal. And so I think our guys to a good job, the crew chiefs’ responsibility with their guys have done a good job, with media and with fans….kind of controlling that piece and I think from an ownership standpoint we’ve done a good job and we need to keep working on that to make sure our guys continue. What’s been fun for me is watching Kyle and Denny and Joey each of them have been good at a different track really where they haven’t been good at. It makes Kyle good at tracks where he hasn’t been good at and Joey good at tracks where he hasn’t been good at and Denny the same. That’s been a good thing for me and interesting to watch this year.
JGR has been mentioned often of late as a possible destination for Carl Edwards who is a free agent from Roush Fenway Racing at the end of the year. Have you had discussions about bringing Edwards into your fold and perhaps starting a fourth team?
For us in each of the past three years when a driver’s name comes up when you look around the garage we’re one of the few teams that has a fourth spot available. So they all get plugged in there. Obviously this year it’s been a bigger deal because Carl’s become a bigger name among drivers. But we learned when we put the 11 car together you have to have all of the pieces right. You have to have the sponsor, you have to have the driver, you have to have the team…if you don’t have one of those aspects and we learned the hard way putting the 11 car together it’s going to be a rough road. So you’ve gotta make sure that just because it all looks good you have to make sure it all fits together. We have the room for a fourth car that we can do, we can be prepared but we’ve learned you’re better off with three and just making that work until you get all the pieces in place for a fourth one.
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