20 Years of JGR: Meet Vince
Joe Gibbs Racing is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. We wanted to stop and recognize the people that have been with us from the beginning. Vince, our Chief Finance Executive, has had a front row seat as JGR has grown, changed and evolved over the years. He offers a unique perspective from his time as a tire carrier on the racetrack, to serving on the pit crew, and now as an accountant.
Q: Where are you from, and how did you get started in racing?
A: I’m from Concord, N.C., went to college and got an accounting degree, then started working for Deloitte in sales before I decided to get into racing. I joined up with Alan Kulwicki back in his rookie days, back in the days where the only way you got on a race team was work for free, sweep the floors, and basically do whatever you could to get your foot in the door. I was on the Cup team when Kulwicki won Rookie of the Year, but I left in 1991 and he won the Championship in 1992. Left Kulwicki and went to Bahari racing, worked there for three years and then came here in 1994. I was always a big race fan and wanted to get involved in some way, so whatever job was available I did to get my foot in the door.
Q: What have been your responsibilities with JGR?
A: When I first came here from Bahari, the only way I really got the job was to be the tire guy and travel with the team, and work on the pit crew, and do the accounting work. Over the years it has evolved into a full-time accounting position. When I went to work we had 14 or 18 people on the pay roll- that was it. It was real small and a lot of work, but you could get the job done. You could do the traveling, come back and do the accounting work- you just didn’t have any time off. That’s just the way it was back in those days.
Q: How many years were you on the pit crew and what was your position?
A: I worked on the pit crew from 1994-1997. I was the tire carrier at the racetrack. And then on the pit stops I carried the tires. That was back before you had individual tire carriers, I carried two to the right side and came back and got the left rear. That was back before each tire changer had a tire carrier.
Q: Do you miss working in the pit crew?
A: Not really, not anymore. I started in 1986 with Kulwicki, and did it for 11 years and that was enough traveling. Back then, we didn’t fly everywhere, in fact, we rarely flew. We drove everywhere. We didn’t have the luxury of planes like they do nowadays.
Q: Do you have a favorite win from those days?
A: The one that sticks out most to me was the last race when I was on the road in Atlanta. We had gone all year without a win, and I knew I was coming off the road because I was getting married the next month. It was pretty emotional for me, to win the last race I was on the road. I have been in accounting ever since.
Q: How have things changed over the years?
A: Well, like I said when I came in 1994 we had 18 people. And now we have 400 plus people. It has expanded a huge amount. It was just myself in the accounting department until 1997, when we moved into this building and added another person to help me. Now I’m up to two people to help me since we’re up to three teams. I spend more time now making sure we get sponsor money in, paying the drivers, making sure they get paid right, taking care of the team bonus and stuff like that.
Q: You are the one who handles the incoming purse money. Can you help fans better understand how that works?
A: In the early years you actually got the purse money from NASCAR, while all the contingency money came from the little contingency sponsors. Now, in the last couple of years, NASCAR has taken control of all the money so all the money flows through them. The great thing now is that it is all electronic transfer, and every Friday after a race you get the bulk of the money (mainly the purse and TV money). It [the process] has gotten a lot smoother over the years and has become less to keep up with, but we still reconcile after every race and make sure we get what we’re supposed to get. You run into issues where Denny may finish 6th, but the car in front of him may not run a decal, so he actually gets 5th place money. You have to reconcile that back and make sure you get everything you’re due.
Q: How do you see things going forward? What do you look forward to in the next 20 years for JGR?
A: It is getting to be somewhat of a challenge because the driver salaries are getting so high- they tend to be going up and sponsorships tend to be going down. It is a challenge, you’re aware of what is going on, having to cut people and departments, but I think all sports have that challenge now.
Q: What do you think has made JGR successful?
A: People, good people. I wanted to come work here. When I found out Joe was getting into racing this is the place I wanted to be. I kept pounding on people that I knew worked here until I finally got here. It helps the whole team succeed when everybody wants to be here working. That is the biggest thing. We’ve also had good sponsors and good drivers over the years, and we’ve done what it takes to get where we are.
Q: Which JGR Championship has been your favorite?
A: 2000, the first one with Bobby, it was pretty special.
Q: I think you are most known around the shop for your great taste in music. What is your favorite band?
A: The Eagles.
Q: What is your favorite Eagle’s song?
A: Hotel California, I’m old school.