DAYTONA, FLA — DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- When Joe Gibbs started his head coaching career with the Washington Redskins, he lost five games before he won one.
Yesterday, the 1992 Super Bowl champion coach lost his first Daytona 500 as a Winston Cup race team owner.
Even though his car finished 36th, knocked out in a 14-car pileup on Lap 93 of this 200-lap race, he found something to smile about.
"My driver walked away from a bad crash, and I think we showed we can run with the leaders," Gibbs said.
But Gibbs said he was more than a little shaken by the accident that put his Interstate Batteries Chevrolet Lumina behind the pit wall for the day.
"That thing scared me," Gibbs said. "I'm just real happy that Dale [Jarrett, his driver] is not hurt."
But Jarrett wasn't scared. He was angry. He had been forced to start this race in his backup car from the 18th row in the 35th position. By Lap 93, he had driven his way to eighth place and was closing on the five cars in the lead pack.
"We're not even halfway in the race, and these guys are going crazy," Jarrett said, referring to the race leaders, who showed little patience. "All I know is I had a hole [an opening ahead of him], and No. 22 [Sterling Marlin] came back in front of me off the wall and I hit him wide-open. Then somebody hit me. That's all she wrote. It's a shame."
The accident happened halfway down the backstretch of this 2.5-mile tri-oval. Bill Elliott and Marlin were running side-by-side, battling for first place, when Ernie Irvan made it three abreast.
During the drivers meeting before the race, Dick Beaty, NASCAR's director of competition, warned everyone that when cars are three abreast they can be unstable, because of factors such as air flow.
"Be a little kind to one another," he advised.
As the backstretch scene unfolded, Elliott and Irvan appeared to get past Marlin, but Marlin, who started on the pole, refused to give up his position and squeezed back into the middle.
"I knew it was going to happen," Marlin said. "I just didn't get on the brakes quick enough to get out of it. It was just enough to hang Ernie. It turned us all together."
And knocked out most of the top contenders. Of the top five on the track, only eventual winner Davey Allison was able to make it through what looked like a rolling junkyard on the backstretch.
Gibbs, whose primary car was wrecked in Thursday's 125-mile qualifying race, now must face heavy rebuilding of two cars for the next race, in Rockingham, N.C., in two weeks.
"We're in this for the long haul," Gibbs said. "Hopefully, we'll get by a few of these things that happened to us. [But] this is a different feeling compared to losing a football game for a couple reasons. The team part of racing means a lot, but you've got a guy driving the car and you worry about him. Cars are made pretty good. Dale got hit pretty hard, but he walked away from it.
"And we've got a lot invested in this team -- sponsors and everything else. That's a lot different than football. What's happened to us is just a part of racing. I know that. I also know that when we started with the Redskins, we had a tough time."
Gibbs said he is convinced he has a good race team.
"You've just got to stick with it," he said. "And that's exactly what we're going to do."