THE MODERATOR: Coach, we have a special guest who wants to ask you a question. Rick, can you still hear us?
JOE GIBBS: Not Rick. He’s taking up all my time, and now he wants to join in on my part (smiling).
RICK HENDRICK: I have a question, coach. We always text each other and congratulate each other after we win. If I happen to win, will you text me and congratulate me on Sunday?
JOE GIBBS: I will be forced to. I feel like I need to do that. Yes, I will. The problem is that I’ve been texting a whole lot more than you have. That’s the problem (laughter).
RICK HENDRICK: I just had to mess with you a little bit. I’m proud to be in there with you, brother.
JOE GIBBS: Well, I appreciate you too. Let’s go get it. Let’s have a good one.
RICK HENDRICK: Okay, buddy.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you once again for spending time with us today. We really appreciate it. Let’s take some questions from the media.
Q: With two of your drivers being eliminated the other day, how is the atmosphere in the shop? Do you think people are feeling deflated, or is Christopher’s presence enough to keep everyone energized?
JOE GIBBS: I think getting into the championship is extremely difficult. Our guys are thrilled that we made it in. We’re proud of being in it for the past years. It has been an exciting journey. We gave it everything we had at Martinsville and felt that Homestead was our downfall with the issues we faced with the 11 and the 19. Despite that, I believe our teams understand the opportunity we have and are excited about it. The meeting on Monday is a downer for those teams that didn’t make it, but overall, we all know how hard it is to get here and we are grateful for the chance we have.
Q: Christopher Bell is often ranked as the third driver among your team. What have you noticed in him and his team during the Playoffs that makes you think he can challenge on Sunday?
JOE GIBBS: First and foremost, Adam, our crew chief, is someone we highly value. We think he is special, as does Christopher. The fact that we have been able to make it in two years in a row with a young driver like Christopher is a tremendous accomplishment. If you look at Christopher’s performance in the latter part of the season, he has shown his ability to step up when it matters most. He did it last year, and he has done it again this year. There are four excellent teams in the Playoffs, and it’s hard to pick a favorite. But all of them are formidable competitors. Considering all the challenges and the length of the season, making it to the Final 4 is incredibly difficult. We appreciate the opportunity and everyone at JGR is excited about it.
Q: Denny Hamlin often faces criticism regarding his focus, concentration, and intelligence. Do you think that criticism is unfair, considering you see him in meetings and as his boss?
JOE GIBBS: I remember someone asking me why people boo Jeff Gordon. In our sport, the maximum number of fans you can get is limited. Even Dale Earnhardt had a percentage of fans who booed him. In NASCAR, you have drivers competing against each other, manufacturers competing against each other, and race teams competing against each other. Popular drivers will always have a certain number of fans cheering for them and some boos as well. It’s just the nature of our sport. People get emotional and passionate about it, and I think that’s what makes NASCAR great. When you go to different racetracks, you won’t find anyone sitting on their hands. They are all engaged and supporting their team.
Q: This year we see a group of younger drivers competing against each other in the final races, while some veteran drivers like Truex and Denny didn’t make it. How do you view this changing dynamic and the competition these younger drivers will bring without the presence of the veterans we are used to seeing?
JOE GIBBS: This year, we have seen a shift towards a younger group of drivers in the Playoffs. It’s something that has happened naturally. Of course, many of the veteran drivers could have made it as well. The Playoff schedule this year was structured in a way that favored the younger group. As for our team, a lot happened to us at Homestead that was out of our control. Sometimes cars encounter issues that cannot be predicted. That’s what happened to us. Overall, it’s an interesting trend, and everyone is talking about it. I can’t say for sure what it means, but it’s definitely something worth noting.
Q: This is the 10th year of the Championship 4 format, and JGR is the only team to have a driver in the Championship 4 every year under this format. What does this achievement mean to the team?
JOE GIBBS: Thank you for pointing that out. It’s an extremely difficult accomplishment. One thing that I dislike about our sport is that not everyone in our complex gets to experience the winner’s circle. After we win a race, we make it a point to have a banner displayed before our competition meeting and gather everyone on the floor. The driver, the crew chief, and I have the opportunity to address the team. It truly is a collective effort. Making it to the Final 4, or even competing in NASCAR, is incredibly challenging. In football, I won a Super Bowl in my second year. However, it took us nine years in NASCAR to win a championship. This is a perfect example of how tough it is. That’s why our fans appreciate it. We are grateful for our fans, and I believe they enjoy knowing the level of difficulty involved. Winning a race is hard, and even the best young drivers struggle when they enter the sport. The average number of races before they win is around one hundred…
Olivia Carter revs up excitement in the world of NASCAR. As a dedicated motorsports enthusiast, she covers race results, driver profiles, and the latest developments in the NASCAR world, keeping fans on the edge of their seats.