Joe Gibbs Racing team president to undergo medical treatment
Carl Edwards talks about his new team with Joe Gibbs Racing and their 2015 season.
Joe Gibbs Racing history, full crews of Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth
Driver will run fourth car for Joe Gibbs Racing starting in 2015; Suarez becomes full-time NNS driver for organization
Denny Hamlin talks about the recent announcement on J.D. Gibbs , president of Joe Gibbs Racing , saying that he will be starting treatment for symptoms impacting areas of brain function.
Title contender, team owner have long and unique history together RELATED: Follow your picks in the Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- It's a moment Denny Hamlin still remembers vividly, when as a bright-eyed 11-year-old fan of the NFL's Washington Redskins, he famously told Coach Joe Gibbs that he'd love to win a championship driving for him someday. Come Sunday, he'll have another great opportunity to make good on his childhood dream. Hamlin enters Sunday's season finale (3 p.m. ET, ESPN) at Homestead-Miami Speedway as one of the four drivers vying for their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. As he has for the duration of his nine-year career in stock-car racing's top division, he'll be carrying the flag for Joe Gibbs Racing behind the wheel of his familiar No. 11. "It would mean a lot. I'm still with the race team that gave me my start and not only that, the sponsor, too," Hamlin said. "We have a long relationship with Joe Gibbs Racing and FedEx and even the team members that work on my race car that have been with me from the very, very start -- it would be so gratifying to win the championship for them. They've worked their guts out and even though this year hasn't produced results that we expect and the expectations that we expect to hit when we hit the race track, we find ourselves in a winner-take-all type format for one race and we know anything can happen." In 1992, Hamlin was impatiently waiting at an autograph session to meet Gibbs , who had just finished leading the Redskins to their third Super Bowl title. The team owner was also getting his fledgling single-team stock-car racing operation off the ground with Dale Jarrett, now a NASCAR Hall of Famer, as his driver. That's when pre-teen Hamlin saw his chance to tout his still-developing go-karting skills, drawing what he characterized as a "there, there, now run along" type of response from the veteran coach. He also got the autograph on a hat he cherished, only to have the keepsake fly out his school bus window during one of his spells of restlessness on the ride home. Hamlin said he "cried for two weeks" after the autographed cap went missing, but that he never lost his loyalty to the man who would one day become his car owner. "He's a great guy and what I love is that I'm driving for a family organization," Hamlin said. "I want to win it so bad for them because they are all in this sport. If their race team goes under they got nothing -- they have nothing. To race for an owner that lives and breathes racing like Joe does and he's at the race shop every morning when that shop door opens and that means a lot to me. There would be no other person more gratifying to win this for than him, especially a guy that I looked up to as a kid." Hamlin's best shot at a championship before this weekend came in 2010. He led the Sprint Cup standings entering the Homestead finale, but an early race spin left his car with splitter damage and an uphill climb. Jimmie Johnson capitalized and went on to secure the fifth of his sixth titles. Gibbs said Hamlin was "absolutely devastated" by the defeat, taking the brunt of the blame. This time around, the coach says he sees a more mature driver on the cusp of a championship. Hamlin, for one, says he notices a considerable difference in his approach, four years later. "Just playing this game way more relaxed," Hamlin said, describing his self-induced tension on the eve of the 2010 finale. "I didn't do anything that night, didn't want anyone coming in -- just wanted to focus on what I needed to do, but that wasn't what got me to that point. It was being myself and having my friends and family around -- playing cards before driver intros, whatever it took to loosen me up. That's what I did for 35 races and I changed that for one race and it won't be the case this time around. Just racing much looser and having fun with this moment. You never know, especially with this type of format. Live it up and have some fun." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Team owner lauds spirit of his driver, NASCAR community Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kyle Busch is "resting comfortably" following surgery Saturday night at Halifax Medical Center, but how soon he returns to competition is unknown. "Kyle ... was kind of light-hearted and joking around with me and talking about wanting to get back in the car right away before surgery," said team owner Joe Gibbs . "(The doctor) said everything went very well. RELATED: See the updated Daytona 500 lineup "The major portion of what they did yesterday was his lower right leg ... they took care of that. They're going to wait on his (left) foot. ... They said there's no rush on that." Busch, 29, sustained a compound fracture of his lower right leg and a mid-foot fracture of his left foot in an accident on Lap 112 of the season-opening NASCAR XFINITY Series event, the Alert Today Florida 300. RELATED: Kyle Busch undergoes surgery on right leg His No. 54 Toyota was involved in a multi-car crash, slid across the track and struck the interior wall just beyond the exit of pit road on the frontstretch at Daytona International Speedway. After being treated at the scene, Busch was transported to Halifax. On Sunday afternoon, he tweeted for the first time since the wreck: Would rather b driving than watching the #Daytona500 but pulling 4 @Matt_Crafton and the No. 18 @mmschocolate team. — Kyle Busch (@KyleBusch) February 22, 2015 Two-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Matt Crafton will drive the No. 18 Toyota in today's season-opening Daytona 500. "Matt has driven some of Kyle's stuff," Gibbs said. "He's a veteran guy and we felt like it was the perfect fit. "As far as time or length, I don't have a good understanding of that with the doctors and everything -- I think we're just going to pray for him to bounce back." "I can tell you this, Kyle's already telling (wife Samantha), 'Hey, I just want to get back to racing .' He has a great spirit about things like that. "... I told him before surgery, 'Hey, I love you.' And that's the way we feel about it." Gibbs said no further surgeries dealing with Busch's right leg are anticipated and that the left foot injury can be dealt with at a later date. "As far as going back to Charlotte, we're on standby with the plane," he said. "Whenever he feels that he can travel, we'll get him back to Charlotte." Crafton, driver of the No. 88 ThorSport Toyota, will be making his first start in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series. He has driven Sprint Cup cars previously, qualifying for Robby Gordon in 2008 at Dover International Speedway as well as testing for JGR a year ago. Busch was slated to start today's race from the fourth spot, but because Crafton was not the driver of record during qualifying, he will be required to drop to the rear of the field. "We're going to ride in the back for a little bit, get comfortable with the car," Crafton said Sunday morning. "We've got 500 miles to figure it out. I'm sure for the first half of the race, we're going to ride, be smart and just see what I can learn." The area of the wall struck by Busch's car is not protected by the SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) barrier, although much of the 2.5-mile track features the energy dissipating system. Saturday night, track president Joie Chitwood III said tire packs would be place along the wall as a safety measure for today's race, and that SAFER barrier would be installed "on every inch at this property" following the race. "This is not going to happen again," he said. "We're going to live up to our responsibility. We're going to fix this and it starts right now." Defending Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick said Sunday he had hit close to the same spot as Busch during last year's 500 "and kind of voiced my opinion." "Unfortunately I was just a dot on the chart and there was no reaction," the Stewart-Haas Racing driver said. "Hopefully this is a lesson learned. "We know what fixes these walls. ... That's why we wear a helmet. That's why we wear HANS. That's why we wear fire suits. That's why we have fire bottles. It's for that one moment that you have to protect yourself against." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Owner won two titles with 'Smoke' RELATED: Complete coverage of Tony Stewart incident Joe Gibbs , who won 33 races and two championships with Tony Stewart from 1999-2008, said Tuesday from his team's headquarters in Huntersville, North Carolina, that the time hasn't yet been right for him to reach out to the racer. ''I didn't feel like it was the right time (to call him),'' Gibbs said, according to the Associated Press. ''We all love Tony. I love what he did for us here. We all know he's a racer's racer, and he's big for our sport.'' Stewart has missed the past two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races since an August 9 sprint car tragedy in which fellow driver Kevin Ward Jr. died. Several drivers at Michigan last week said they had reached out to Stewart to offer support, and had not yet heard back. All those drivers also reiterated that racing sprint cars was a passion for Stewart, something Gibbs picked up early in their relationship. ''I had to spend 30 minutes listening to him how he won a dirt late model race," Gibbs said. "He was so excited. I came to the conclusion that was him -- for him to be happy and doing the things that he wanted to do, he was going to be racing . ''Tony's got great courage. He's smart. He loves this sport. He's totally focused on it. He doesn't have distractions. He's very important to our sport. This is a horrible thing to have happen for the Ward family, for him.'' MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news WATCH: Latest NASCAR video PLAY: NASCAR Fantasy Live FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Learn more about the impact across four NASCAR racing series
Organization to utilize Team Penske alliance in 2015 Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live Leavine Family Racing team owner Bob Leavine recalls when he signed his driver Michael McDowell with a fondness that stems from respect on and off the track. "We interviewed four drivers and I had seen Michael in the garage,” Levine said during Charlotte Media Tour on Wednesday. “The time he took with fans was in line with our family values, the way he treated people. “A good driver, and he wasn't driving the best cars in the world. I knew that we didn't have many, but what we were putting on the track was good. So I just thought that it would be a good fit from what we were trying to accomplish." Fast forward a year and the small family-owned Sprint Cup Series team is headed in a direction that both the driver and team are excited about. McDowell, 29, is expected to run a minimum of 20 Sprint Cup Series races in 2015, trumping last year’s number. Last season, he qualified for all but three Cup events that he attempted, nabbing notable finishes at Daytona (seventh) and Bristol (18th), a victory that McDowell said he would have celebrated by popping champagne at his hauler if any had been available. “The thing about that (Bristol) race for us is we ran where we finished most of the day,” McDowell said with a smile. “For a small Sprint Cup team to be in the teens and the low 20s, that’s a great day for us. “For us, to run where we’ve run all night and to finish it off was definitely a confidence builder and momentum for us.” The No. 95 driver appears to be sticking with the big boys for now, despite his strong finishes in the few races run with XFINITY Series in 2014. “I love running in the XFINITY Series. I’ve had a lot of great runs in the last few years,” McDowell said. “… I hope that I’ll have a few opportunities again to run some races, but there’s nothing permanent on the schedule right now. But having a part-time schedule in the Sprint Cup Series gives me a little bit of flexibility. “Now with a tighter alliance with Team Penske and a tighter alliance with Ford, it’s eliminated some of the opportunities with Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota and those things.” This season marks the second season of the organization’s technical alliance with Team Penske , a partnership that Leavine thinks will aid the 14-person team on improving from last season. “It’s just a different mindset,” Leavine said. “… Roger (Penske) wasn’t willing to accept anything less than perfect. And that’s contagious." The fever seems to have spread to the organization's shop in Concord, North Carolina, as Leavine describes the team’s readiness to improve and be even more competitive next season. And that’s just what McDowell plans to do. “We want to be in the mix and we want to be in the conversation and we feel like at the end of the year last year, we were getting to that point,” McDowell said. “But we’d just like to be able to do that more consistently. And that’s the focus this year. "You can’t always hit home runs, but if we could hit doubles every game and eventually we’re going to get a few home runs in there and that’s really what we’re focused on.” FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule