- Last Updated on Tuesday, 01 February 2011 18:07
- Published on Tuesday, 01 February 2011 18:07
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Hard to believe but this year marks the 20th anniversary of Joe Gibbs Racing. Last Thursday the team invited present and former employees for a celebration at the team’s race shop. Former drivers Tony Stewart and Bobby Labonte returned for the celebration. Dale Jarrett, unable to attend, sent a video message. Members of the media in town for NASCAR’s annual pre-season tour were invited for a press conference.
Asked by one reporter who gave him the most trouble, his football players or his race car drivers, Joe Gibbs answered with a laugh: “Are you kidding? Both of them are up here.” With that, Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch, seated side by side on the stage, smiled slyly and bumped fists.
Gibbs went on to tell the story of the time he decided to recruit Stewart for his race team. This, he said, “was a flaming nightmare.”
“Stewart had three girlfriends at the time, so I’m trying to figure out which girlfriend he was with,” Gibbs said. “So I got all three numbers and I would literally call them and ask for Tony. I’d always know if I hit it right, because they’d be real friendly. ‘Oh yeah, I’m with Tony, I can get Tony.’
“Then the next time I called they’d go: ‘Don’t call this number again.’ So I guess he broke up with that one.”
Gibbs laughed as he recalled the many headaches Stewart caused over the years. Gibbs said Stewart was worth all the trouble though, saying it was one of the best deals he ever made.
Gibbs also told a story on his son J.D. Gibbs. Back in the team’s early days, J.D. worked on the pit crew. In the 1993 Daytona 500 J.D. was a tire changer for the team’s original driver, Dale Jarrett. It was a close race between Jarrett and Dale Earnhardt. The decision would come down to the final pit stop. After the stop J.D. was asked if he had gotten all the lug nuts tight. “I think I got three of them,” J.D said.
Joe Gibbs said nobody said anything to him, and nobody brought Jarrett back into the pits. Dale Jarrett went on to win the 1993 Daytona 500. It was the young team’s first major win.
Regarding the new points system and Chase for the Sprint Cup, NASCAR announced that it has added a wildcard element to setting the Chase for the Sprint Cup field and it has simplified its points system for 2011. The press release said they are, “Making it easier for fans, competitors and the industry to understand.”
While the 12-driver Chase field remains intact, the top 10 in points following the Sept. 10 Richmond race continue to earn Chase berths. Positions 11 and 12 are “wild card” qualifiers and will go to the non-top 10 drivers with the most wins as long as they are in the top 20 in points. The top 10 Chase drivers will continue to be seeded based on wins during the first 26 races, with each win worth 3 bonus points. The wild card drivers will not receive bonus points for their wins and will be seeded 11th and 12th, respectively.
In making the announcement Brian France, NASCAR Chairman and CEO said, “The fans tell us that winning matters the most with them. So we’re combining the tradition of consistency in our sport with the excitement that comes along with winning. This makes every race count leading into the 26th race at Richmond, when we set the field for the Chase for the Sprint Cup.”
The new points system will apply to not only the Sprint Cup Series, but also the Nationwide and Camping World Truck series. The Nationwide and Truck series will not have a chase format.
The points system awards points in 1-point increments. Race winners will receive 43 points, plus 3 bonus points for the win. Second place, 42, and so on down to 1 point for the 43rd place finisher. There will also be 1 bonus point for leading a lap and 1 bonus point to the driver who leads the most laps.
“Many of our most loyal fans don’t fully understand the points system we have used since 1975,” France said. “So, we are simplifying the system to one that is much easier to understand. Conceptually, it is comparable to our previous system, but it is easier to follow.”