The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Sports

February 23, 2014

Joe Gibbs Racing tries to complete Daytona sweepacing

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Speedweeks at the Daytona International Speedway is sponsored by Budweiser, but it’s belonged to Joe Gibbs Racing.

The Toyota drivers have won all three events on the 2.5-mile oval with Denny Hamlin winning the Sprint Unlimited event a week ago and the second Budweiser Duel on Thursday night, while Matt Kenseth claimed the first duel on Thursday.

All of that success adds up to Joe Gibbs Racing being a favorite to win today’s Daytona 500, but the former Super Bowl-winning coach of the Washington Redskins is quick to point out that doesn’t mean anything when the green flag flies at noon today.

“For me, I’m always concerned in pro sports that anything can happen,’’ Gibbs said. “I don’t think I ever go into something where I feel like, Hey, we got this thing. That’s just not the way I personally ever look at it. So many things got to go your way.

“I think drivers and crew chiefs — they’re more optimistic than I am. I don’t know, I’m always nervous about it.’’

And there is good reason for Gibbs to be cautious.

His team has claimed just one Daytona 500 victory in 22 years as Dale Jarrett won the 1993 event, the second-year of existence for Joe Gibbs Racing. The team has won 117 races with drivers like Jarrett, Bobby Labonte, Tony Stewart, Hamlin, Kenseth and Kyle Busch driving for him.

“We’ve come here with great cars over the years,’’ Gibbs said. “It shows you what a tough race this is, the 500. Like I said, we won once. Probably one of the greatest sporting experiences I’ve ever had. I was thrilled.’’

They also had a unique celebration that night.

“That night we got lost, we didn’t know what to do ... we wound up at the Steak ‘n’ Shake,” Gibbs said. “There were about 15 people in there hammered, and we showed up with the trophy out in the parking lot taking pictures with our family.”

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