Joe Gibbs has enjoyed success on both the NFL sidelines and as a NASCAR team owner.
Gibbs won three Super Bowl titles as head coach of the Washington Redskins, and as team owner of Joe Gibbs Racing, he has overseen four Sprint Cup championships and now two Daytona 500 victories following Denny Hamlin’s win Sunday.
With a narrow margin between the best and the worst after a three-month offseason when every team is focused solely on preparation for the 500, Gibbs appreciates how difficult it is to claim a win in the Great American Race, admitting Monday that it's just as hard as winning the Super Bowl, per Bob Pockrass of ESPN.com:
It says in this sport, professional sports, how hard it is. That’s the reason why it means so much when you do it. We came here with real good cars, real good teams and worked real hard at it.
The thing about Daytona is you spend so much of your offseason [on it]—it's crazy, why would we dedicate that much time? But it's such a big deal. You spend all that time and resources and everybody working on things, and then you come down and have something happen.
Gibbs, who also shared last year’s Sprint Cup title with Kyle Busch, went 23 years between wins in the Daytona 500—the last victory being Dale Jarrett with a Chevrolet a year after the organization was founded.
Gibbs and the rest of the team celebrated in the same fashion they did in 1993—with a visit at a Steak 'n Shake in Daytona Beach, Florida, bringing the Harly J. Early Trophy in tow, as shown by Joe Gibbs Racing:
Joe Gibbs Racing @JoeGibbsRacing
"Yes, that's the REAL #Daytona500 trophy." 😂🏁☝️ #NASCAR https://t.co/66YI17F6ZQ2016-2-22 02:59:58
If Hamlin hadn't won, Gibbs might’ve reached Victory Lane with another of the three cars he had running in the top five in the final turn Sunday.
Hamlin maneuvered teammate Matt Kenseth out of the way and up the track to power through on the final turn, and Busch finished third, riding right behind when the two made contact.
Courtesy of NASCAR, here is a look at the final lap of Hamlin’s narrow win, which at 0.01 seconds marked the closest finish in Daytona 500 history:
All four Gibbs cars qualified for the Chase for the Sprint Cup last year, and Hamlin already took a big step in securing his playoff berth with Sunday's victory.
|NASCAR Sprint Cup Series—Active Owners All-Time Wins List|
|Richard Petty Motorsports||288|
|Roush Fenway Racing||135|
|Joe Gibbs Racing||130|
|Richard Childress Racing||105|
|Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates||45|
Now in his 11th full season, Hamlin has won a race in each year he’s competed and is among the top drivers on the circuit. Before Sunday, he had no championships or Daytona 500 victories to his name, but now that he’s scratched off one major milestone, he should be in the thick of title contention later this year to possibly give Gibbs his fifth Sprint Cup championship.