Gibbs' change includes a tire Ex-coach wants to get hands dirty in race game

March 08, 1993|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Staff Writer

RICHMOND, VA — RICHMOND, Va. -- Joe Gibbs was telling everyone yesterday that he wants to know stock car racing inside out. He wants to get his hands dirty, get under the hood.

"I'd even like to change a tire, if I could get up enough confidence," he said.

When that statement made its way to J. D. Gibbs, who was busy attaching lug nuts to tires in the pits at Richmond International Speedway, he rolled his eyes skyward.

"Great, now he wants my job," said J. D., Joe Gibbs' oldest son. "Heck, I'd let him do it just to watch. It might be pretty funny."

In fact, J. D. knows it would be pretty funny. Saturday night, the right rear tire on his Blazer went flat, and Joe Gibbs helped his son change it.

"It took us about 45 minutes," J. D. said, laughing. "It was me trying to find the jack and stuff and him trying to read the directions."

Joe Gibbs retired as coach of the Washington Redskins on Friday. He said the primary reason was to spend more time with his wife, Pat, and their two sons, J. D. and Coy.

J. D. Gibbs is the director of marketing for Joe Gibbs Racing -- "which means I'm everybody's go-fer," he said. He also serves as the NASCAR team's left rear tire changer on race day. Coy Gibbs is a sophomore at Stanford.

Joe Gibbs wants to see Coy play football for Stanford. He also wants to come to races and spend time with J. D.

"The good news for me is I won't have to try to schedule my wedding around the Redskins and figure out if Dad can helicopter in," said J. D., who will marry in late November.

Joe Gibbs talked yesterday about how much he missed being around his kids, particularly when he went to training camp. "Suddenly, I was all alone. . . . For 5 1/2 months, I'm up there by myself," Gibbs said. "That was a big change for me."

And then, within the past two years, Gibbs lost three people who were very close to him: his father, who died at age 72; "my spiritual father, a Sunday school teacher in Fayetteville, Ark., who I'd talk to every week for hours"; and Washington sportscaster Glenn Brenner.

"Each one had an impact on me," Gibbs said. "My dad told me he was sorry he wasn't there for me and my brother. My dad was a great guy, a tough guy. He ran around the hills of North Carolina as a cop and sheriff. I admired him, but he was caught up in a lot of other things and wasn't there [at home] a lot.

"I started thinking about those things. I'm 52, my dad died when he was 72. I started wondering how much longer I had to really enjoy some of the other things."

According to J. D. Gibbs, a former football player at William & Mary, his father took it hard when he was separated from his other son.

"You know, Dad's soft," J. D. said. "He cried a few times last year when he couldn't be with Coy. Mom gets on him, though. She just says, 'Quit your crying!' But he's definitely soft when it comes to us, and he definitely wants to be with us more."

And J. D. says he is happy to have his dad around more, and glad his father came to terms with retiring from the Redskins.

"Dad is always exhausted after the season," J. D. said. "And I think it was even more noticeable after this last season. I think Mom is the happiest of all, because there are a lot of things they want to do."

But J. D. said he never felt deprived growing up because his father was always busy coaching the Redskins.

"Are you kidding?" he said. "What kids wouldn't want to be able to go to practices and games and play catch with the pros? For me and my brother, all the time we were growing up, Dad has been a coach. That's just the way it was, and we enjoyed it. If anything, Coy and I have had more terrific experiences because [of that].

"I think this is really for him. I think he wants to be a dad."

Yesterday, Joe Gibbs said not only does he want to be with his family more, but he also wants to be with his race team more.

"The racing kind of got me excited about everything when I got involved two years ago," Gibbs said. "It's like anybody who's done their job for so long. You get tired of it and want to do something else. After 25 years of doing what I was doing, I was getting a little tired . . . and racing got me excited. . . .

"When I had to leave Pocono [International Raceway] last summer and go to summer camp, it was kind of tough. I always had the races taped and watched them."

He said he realizes his job with the race team -- which Dale Jarrett drove to a Daytona 500 victory last month -- is to "get enough money for the team to go fast." And though he plans to do his part in bringing in the money and overseeing the hiring, Gibbs said that when he comes to the races each week, he'd like to be in the garage working with one of his crewmen, learning something new about each individual's job.

"I'd like to spend time working on the cars," he said. "I love it. Pat surprised me with an '84 Corvette a while back, and I work on that. I'm not very good at it. I work on it, but they don't run all the time."

Gibbs said yesterday that he hopes to balance his time among Coy and Stanford, J. D. and the race team and perhaps some television broadcasting.

"We'll have to see if I can get a job," Gibbs said, smiling. "But if football doesn't work out, I'd like to do some motivational speaking and be involved with the inner-city problem with kids and be part of that solution. I'd love to do all that. And if I find I miss coaching in a couple years and Pat misses it and I'm miserable, I'll see about getting back into it."

Though Gibbs has left the stress of everyday coaching, he obviously doesn't plan to slow down.

"If you ever see me on a tour bus or in the grocery store pushing the cart for Pat, just wrap me up," said Gibbs. "Just send me to the home because I'm brain dead."

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