Named president of JGR in October 1997 J.D. Gibbs has spent the past 13 years overseeing the team’s expansion from a single car team to its current three-car operation in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. In addition, JGR has grown to include two NASCAR Nationwide Series teams, a driver development program, and most recently JGRMX, a motocross operation.
The team’s growth, which now includes nearly 450 employees, has not hindered its overall success as JGR continues to be one of NASCAR’s premiere race teams with three NASCAR Cup Championships (2000, 2002, and 2005) to its credit and two NASCAR Nationwide Series Championships (2008 Owner’s Championship and 2009 Driver’s and Owner’s Championship).
J.D. has been with JGR since he joined his father, Pro Football Hall of Fame Coach Joe Gibbs, to launch the operations in 1992. Over that time he has had the opportunity to experience nearly ever facet of the business. In fact, he changed tires on the car that carried JGR to its first NASCAR victory – the 1993 Daytona 500. He also raced Late Model stock cars at short tracks throughout North Carolina. He even advanced to professional NASCAR touring series, competing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, NASCAR Camping World Series East and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. But ultimately it’s managing JGR where J.D. feels most comfortable.
Of course running an organization the size of JGR presents its challenges. In 2004, the challenge came in the form of its owner and founder making the decision to return to the NFL as head coach of the Washington Redskins, but JGR never missed a beat and even captured its third NASCAR Cup Championship in 2005 under J.D.’s leadership.
Coach Gibbs returned to JGR prior to the 2008 season but new challenges continued to surface. After a decade of success that included two NASCAR Cup Series Championships for the No. 20 team, Tony Stewart made the decision to leave JGR at the conclusion of 2008 season. Thanks to its driver development program, JGR didn’t have to search long for his replacement, naming Joey Logano to sit behind the wheel of the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota in 2009. The transition was a success as Logano became the youngest driver ever to earn NASCAR Rookie of the Year honors.
Keeping the organization rich in talent to remain competitive on the track each season is something J.D. places a high priority on for JGR. In addition to keeping its internal staff strong, maintaining the external partnerships that allow JGR the opportunity to be successful is equally as important. The Home Depot made the decision to continue its decade long relationship with JGR and the No. 20 team. In 2005, FedEx came on board to sponsor JGR’s third team, the No. 11 with Denny Hamlin, and continues to be a strong partner. Prior to the 2008 season Mars and their popular M&Ms brand joined JGR to sponsor the No. 18 team with driver Kyle Busch. Of course, maintaining those relationships has been essential to JGR’s success and nothing is more evident than the lasting relationship enjoyed with Interstate Batteries. Norm Miller, CEO of Interstate Batteries, made the decision to sponsor their first entry into NASCAR back in 1992, and remains a key partner to the organization.
In addition to its sponsors, J.D. oversaw an important change prior to the 2008 season when JGR decided to partner with Toyota. The change proved to be an unquestioned success as all three JGR Cup teams made the chase for the first time in the organization’s history in 2008 while its No. 20 Nationwide Series team captured the organization’s first owner’s championship. A year later Kyle Busch would help add another Nationwide Series title, claiming both the driver’s and owner’s championship behind the wheel of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs/NOS Toyota.
While each NASCAR season presents unique challenges 2010 also brings excitement to the Gibbs family with plans for a very special event in May. It was announced in January that Joe Gibbs Racing will partner with Charlotte Motor Speedway to host Taylor’s Finish Line Festival on the grounds of the track’s drag strip. The Gibbs’ family was greatly affected three years ago when J.D. and wife Melissa’s youngest son Taylor was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Fortunately, Taylor is currently in remission and the festival will celebrate the completion of his three-year chemotherapy treatment with a family friendly event that will benefit both the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Levine Children’s Hospital.
J.D. and Melissa make their home in Davidson, N.C., their four boys – Jackson, Miller, Jason and Taylor.