J.D. Gibbs dies He was 49. J.D. Gibbs, the son of Pro Football Hall of Fame head coach Joe Gibbs and co-chairman of Joe Gibbs Racing, died Friday evening of “complications following a long battle with a degenerative neurological disease”. He was 49.
According to a report by Zack Albert of NASCAR.com, Gibbs had been suffering from a neurological ailment since around 2014, which had affected his speech and processing functions. In a 2015 report by Bob Pockrass of ESPN, doctors had stated that Gibbs’ condition was related to “head injuries likely suffered earlier in life”. However, no specific injury was pinpointed.
Like his father, who won three Super Bowl Championships as head coach of the Washington Redskins, Gibbs had a background in football: He played college football at William & Mary from 1987 until 1990, serving as both a quarterback and a defensive back. But when his father entered competition in the then-NASCAR Winston Cup Series under the Joe Gibbs Racing banner, Gibbs would end up with his life’s work.
He began working at his father’s race team as a tire changer, and was on the over-the-wall crew when Gibbs claimed his first victory as a car owner with driver Dale Jarrett in the 1993 Daytona 500. By the end of the decade, he would both move into an administrative role with the team and try his hand behind the wheel: Between 1998 and 2002, he would run a total of 13 races between what were then NASCAR’s Busch Series and Craftsman Truck Series divisions. He had little success as a driver, with his best-career finish being a 20th at South Boston Speedway in a 1998 Busch Series race.
When his father returned to the Redskins in 2004, J.D. was left to manage the day-to-day operations of Joe Gibbs Racing. By that time, Gibbs’ team had become one of NASCAR’s powerhouses, winning the Winston Cup Championship twice with Bobby Labonte in 2000 and Tony Stewart in 2002. Under J.D.’s direction, the team would continue to grow: They would begin fielding a third full-time Cup Series car in 2005, and won the Cup Series Championship yet again with Stewart that same year.
By the 2010s, J.D. Gibbs had become team president, and was later named co-chairman of the team in 2016. However, his at-track presence gradually began to diminish as he continued to deal with his neurological issues.
By the end of J.D. Gibbs’ life, Joe Gibbs Racing had grown into an auto racing empire, boasting four full-time entries in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and having a role in race teams at other levels. For the 2019 season, their cars will be driven by former Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin, former Cup Champions Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr., and former Sunoco Rookie of the Year Erik Jones. They also field cars in the NASCAR XFINITY Series driven by full-time drivers Brandon Jones and Christopher Bell.