DAYTONA BEACH, Fla – The 2019 NASCAR offseason was a difficult one for Joe Gibbs. The team owner lost his son J.D. Gibbs after a long battle with a neurological disorder. For a family man like Gibbs, it was a tough time to cope.
That’s why Sunday’s 2019 season opener was so emotional for Gibbs and the entire Joe Gibbs Racing organization. J.D. Gibbs was such a big part of the team. He was the president of the entire organization and was the one who hired Denny Hamlin back in 2006.
In fact, the reason the car number is No. 11, is because it was JD’s number he wore at William & Mary when he played football.
On Sunday, the first race after losing Gibbs, No. 11 was No. 1 and crossed the Daytona International Speedway’s finish line first in the season’s most prestigious race – the Daytona 500.
If that wasn’t big enough, JGR finished 1-2-3 in NASCAR’s Super Bowl, a feat only accomplished one other time – 1997 (Hendrick Motorsports). That alone had team owner Joe Gibbs saying Sunday was the most emotional he’s ever been and was the biggest win in his life.
“I’d just like to retrace for a minute what happened tonight, which is — it’s the most emotional and the biggest win I’ve ever had in my life in anything,” said Gibbs. “J.D. built our race team, was the guy that ran day-to-day operations for 27 years. He invested his occupational life in our race team.
“And as a part of that, he went up to purchase some late model stuff from Denny (Hamlin) and struck up a relationship with Denny, put him in a test, put him in a truck, put him in an Xfinity car at Darlington, and finally he said, We need to sign this guy.
“And so that started the relationship and everything.”
Hamlin joked that the first check JD gave him he bought a plasma TV and rims for his truck.
Gibbs, took it further and admitted that at the time, Hamlin had nothing. Now, he lives next to him in a bigger house than he has.
“That was the truth,” Gibbs continued. “He had nothing, okay. And three years later, he bought a house next to me that was twice as big as my house. So it tells you I get in the wrong end of everything. But I wanted to retrace that.
“And then to say, J.D.’s favorite number was 11 when he raced. That’s what he had. Denny’s number is 11. Denny put J.D. over the door post on that car, and to have that take place, everything that took place tonight, everybody knows, we’ve been to Daytona 27 times. We had won twice before. And so, you know, you’re thinking about things, and I guess everybody could say, well, that just happened. I don’t believe that just happened. I honestly believe it was — I think the Lord looked down on us, and I know J.D. and everybody in my family was emotional. I called home to Pat, and I called sponsors that were emotional, too.
“It was just an unbelievable night, unbelievable crowd. The whole thing was just a special memory for me, and it’s one I’ll never forget, and it was the most important night of my occupational life.”
To say that this is a big deal to Gibbs is huge. Gibbs, is a three time Super Bowl champion and said that Sunday was the biggest day of his life. That’s big.