Former Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs was recently named the No. 9 Coach in NFL history and was placed as one of the four faces on the proverbial Redskins Mt. Rushmore. That’s a pretty impressive life for anyone, but only tells half the story for one of the greatest sports leaders ever.
While still a member of the NFL coaching community, Gibbs created his very own NASCAR racing team and juggled both responsibilities for the final year of his first coaching tenure. When he left the NFL, he invested his free time in the day-to-day operation of Joe Gibbs Racing, and has only ceased to do so when returning to the NFL for his second stint with the Redskins.
While he has created some crossover fans between his Redskins and JGR brands, not many Redskins fans have seen the stoic gridiron commander on the back end of pit road. Last Sunday at Dover International Speedway, I was afforded the opportunity to observe Gibbs in action as he oversaw Denny Hamlin (11), Kyle Busch (18) and Matt Kenseth (20) on the Monster Mile.
Ever the gracious celebrity, Gibbs took time before the race to sign autographs for fans on pit road. The true crossover fans were in attendance, as Gibbs was given a number of Redskins items to autograph, including this Redskins mini-helmet:
One of the most refreshing aspects of Joe Gibbs is that he has never shied away from his many fans, and does not attempt to compartmentalize his life. His time with the Redskins is one of the most successful streaks in any franchise’s history, and Gibbs recognizes that that success opened the door for other possibilities like NASCAR.
When the drivers reported to their cars, Gibbs finally worked his way along to Denny Hamlin’s No. 11 FedEx car at the pole position at the end of pit road. Standing there in his blue Toyota polo and FedEx hat, Gibbs conjured up memories of his time on the sidelines of RFK and FedExField. Whereas he used to hold a clipboard and headset, his headset on race day was paired with a high definition television and a screen full of diagnostics from his pit crew.
The only difference is that football players don’t run at speeds north of 150 miles per hour.
Ultimately, Joe Gibbs Racing had a bit of a disappointing day, with Hamlin’s pole car fading and ultimately heading to the garage after an accident. He finished 34th on the day, joining Matt Kenseth (40th) among cars claimed by the Monster Mile.
Kyle Busch was the bright spot, taking fourth behind Tony Stewart, Juan Pablo Montoya and Jeff Gordon. Fellow Redskins die-hard Dale Earnhardt Jr. took 10th on the day.
Better luck to Joe Gibbs and company in upcoming races. As Gibbs himself once said after a Redskins game: “You take a long, hard look at a game like this and say, ‘Okay, what can we do to improve ourselves’ But I think we need to stay aggressive, and I think we all want to be aggressive.”