In life after Redskins, racing and family keep Gibbs feeling fortunate
Saturday, May 1, 2010
RICHMOND -- In the past year Joe Gibbs has dealt with a veteran athlete's reconstructive surgery, a coveted free agent's bouts of brilliance and tempestuousness, and a gifted rookie's coming of age.
Such is life as a NASCAR team owner.
"I'm still in the same spot!" Gibbs cackles in signature fashion. "Nothing has changed!"
Two years removed from his second stint as coach of the Washington Redskins and six months shy of his 70th birthday, Gibbs is fully enmeshed in the lives of his families: The stock-car racing empire he has built, which includes three front-running Sprint Cup teams; and his immediate family, which includes eight grandchildren.
At the moment, both are cause for one of the sporting world's more fortunate men to give thanks anew.
Heading into Saturday's Crown Royal 400 at Richmond International Raceway (the 10th of the 36-race season), Gibbs's drivers are well positioned for a run at what would be the former coach's fourth championship in NASCAR's top series.
Kyle Busch, the tempestuous driver of the No. 18 Toyota, is fifth in the standings. He'll start first in Saturday's race after winning the pole with a blistering qualifying lap of 127.077 mph around the 3/4 -mile oval.
Denny Hamlin is ninth in the standings, despite undergoing surgery last month to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament. And Joey Logano, the 19-year-old phenom, was among the top 12 in the standings until a wreck last weekend at Talladega dropped him four spots.
But the most heartening statistic in Gibbs's family is zero. That's the number of chemotherapy treatments that remain for his 5-year-old grandson, Taylor, now deemed cancer-free.
"He has been my hero through this whole thing," Gibbs said.
The youngest of J.D. Gibbs's four boys, Taylor had leukemia diagnosed at age 2, when his grandfather was launching into the fourth year of a five-year deal to coach the Redskins. Gibbs completed the 2007 season, which ended with a 9-7 record, but resigned immediately afterward to return to North Carolina to be closer to Taylor.
"I had missed the first nine, 10 months of his treatments, and that had a big impact on me," Gibbs said. "That was my reason for coming back at the end of the fourth year."