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Tony Stewart Surprise Guest at Media Day

Tony Stewart and Bobby Labonte surprised everyone in attendance (include owner Joe Gibbs) at the 2011 Media Day stop at Joe Gibbs Racing on Thursday. The event focused on commemorating Joe Gibbs Racing’s 20th Anniversary in NASCAR. At the end of the day, the stage was filled with JGR’s past Champions and current stable of drivers including Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, and Brian Scott. Dale Jarrett was unable to attend, but shared a video message for Joe and the audience.

What proved to be most enjoyable about the event (besides seeing JGR’s foundational members on stage together) were the insightful and sometimes hilarious stories shared between Joe, JD, Tony, and Bobby.

Joe Gibbs shared what was probably the funniest story of the afternoon when he recounted trying to track down Tony Stewart to recruit him as a driver.

“Trying to track Tony down was a nightmare. … I chased him from one side of the world to the other. I finally got together with [Tony’s manager] Harry Ranier, and he told me that he had two other partners and he told me how much cash it was going to take to get Tony out of his deal. So I go to meet Harry again later, and I like Harry a lot, I go to hand Harry the check and he says this to me [with a stern look]: “Are you sure you want to do this?”

The whole crowd broke into laughter at Gibbs’ story and then Tony jumped back in replying, “What a coincidence, I remember having to hand you a check for the same thing and you told me the same thing!”

After the laughter subsided Joe said it was one of the best deals ever made.

The friendly jabs didn’t stop there. Later on, a reporter asked Joe how he managed to take when he learned as a successful football coach and apply it to racing. Joe summed up his answer by saying “I’ve found that if you can be successful in football, you’ll be successful in racing, and visa versa.”

Kyle Busch interrupted for clarification, “So Coach, are you saying Joey Logano would make a good quarterback?”

“Yes, Joey could be a quarterback,” replied Joe.

“I was thinking linebacker,” said Joey.

But it was Denny Hamlin who got the last word. “I was thinking, more like a kicker.”

The memorable event kicked off what is sure to be an equally memorable 2011 NASCAR season.


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Boris Says: Joey Logano & Nicknames

Off Season Blog:

The NASCAR off-season has officially started and if you’re like me, you’re already excited about the next one firing up in Daytona. Joe Gibbs Racing was blessed with a successful season that resulted in a Nationwide Series championship, a Raybestos Rookie of the Year, and nine Sprint Cup Series wins. In April of 2009 I joined Joe Gibbs Racing as a kind of embedded reporter. My mission was to show our fans what it’s like to be a member of one of the most competitive racing teams in the world. Every weekend, during each race, I was on pit road and in the garage sending race updates and pictures to and thousands of followers on Twitter.

Needless to say, for someone who loves auto-racing, this has been the opportunity of a lifetime. I witnessed historic wins, was soaked with Powerade in Victory Lane, and experienced the agony of losing races we should have won. What’s more is that I discovered why Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) has risen to the top of this sport – it’s people. Through it all I was able to share my exciting job with fans all over the world. Now that the off-season is upon us, I wanted to recap some of my most memorable experiences in detail – that’s where “Boris Says” comes in. I hope you’ll find my blog unique and enjoyable. Each week during the off season I’ll be posting a new entry with stories you won’t want to miss. I’ll share my experiences with each of our drivers, many of our crew members, and recap some of the most exciting race moments.

Joey Logano and the Nicknames

Let me start with my nickname. There are a lot of nicknames at JGR, some that make a lot of sense and others that are a mystery. It’s not uncommon for someone at the track to be known by their nickname exclusively. In fact, there are a couple of pit crew members whose real names I can’t remember (apologies to Spike and Dawg). It didn’t take long for a nickname to attach itself to me. After my first race with the team in Talladega, I boarded the team plane for the trip back to North Carolina. Sitting in front of me was Joey Logano, driver of the No.20 Home Depot Toyota. I hadn’t met Joey yet, but he turned around in his seat and introduced himself. “Has anyone told you that you look like Boris Said?” he asked. “Yes, once.” I replied. He let out a friendly laugh and exclaimed, “Boris!” and then turned back around. From then on, Joey and practically everyone at the shop has called me Boris. I got the chance to tell that story to the real Boris Said when I met him at the race in California. “Oh yeah!? Sliced Bread calls you that?” he said. You can’t escape nicknames around here.

One thing is for sure, you won’t find these behind-the-scenes stories anywhere else! Feel free to ask questions and comment on my entries below. Check back next week when I reveal My Biggest Surprises About Being on a NASCAR Team including something you might not have known about Kyle Busch.

Boris Says: The Team Meeting

Our performance on the track for the past several weeks has been second-to-none. Win after win in the Nationwide and Cup series, weekend sweeps, and fantastic pit stops headline these springtime races. Morale is up and smiles are a little bit brighter around the shop.

None of it has happened by accident. I remember being in Texas and riding to dinner with one of our VP’s earlier in the season. “My goal is to win every race. I want us to be the best at every track. When our equipment is right, we can beat anyone,” he said. The engineers and specialists riding along with us nodded in agreement; fully aware of the pivotal role each of them plays in making those desires a reality. Everyone at JGR shares in that sentiment.

The Gibbs family knows the importance of celebration. It is tradition for the driver to buy the entire race team lunch after a win. And so, everyone converged on the banquet hall for a BBQ lunch courtesy of Denny Hamlin. Before lunch was served, team owner Joe Gibbs and President J.D. Gibbs stood on stage to conduct a brief team meeting.

“Obviously, we have had a great few weeks and that is attributable to everyone in this room,” J.D. began. At the beginning of the season he had encouraged everyone to remain diligent in their pursuit of excellence. Today, he took the time to thank them for taking that message to heart. Joe Gibbs did the same, understanding that the weeks move quickly in NASCAR and leave little time for celebration.

“What have we shown?” asked the coach rhetorically. “We’ve shown that we have focused our attention and resources on three cars, three teams. We’ve done it well and we need to continue to do it well.”

The message is clear in the minds of every person in the room – Enjoy this celebration. You deserve it. But, don’t forget the importance of your impact on the success of the team as a whole. Don’t get complacent; the competition is as fierce as it’s ever been.

What has it been like to be a part of Joe Gibbs Racing during these last few weeks of success? For me, it has been eye-opening. Finding the balance between pausing to celebrate and relentlessly pursuing a goal is a tricky thing to achieve. However, when I talk to people like Jay (who shapes our car’s hoods), or Patrick (who oversees everything to do with tires), it’s clear that JGR knows how to strike a balance. Jay, Patrick, and everyone else has a passion to succeed not just for themselves, but for their teammates, and JGR.

“You win with people,” Joe Gibbs always says, and this team is winning because it treats its people well.