Joe Gibbs will go down in history as one of the greatest leaders of all time for his unparalleled success in two vastly different sports – winning three Super Bowl titles with Washington and five NASCAR Cup Series championships.
This track record shows that he knows what he is doing. Still, fans earlier this season slammed the JGR owner, questioning him after Christopher Bell called him for not allowing him to race on dirt, which he previously did with co-owner Coy’s approval before his shocking death last Year.
This week, with news that Alex Bowman will miss several races due to an injury sustained in a sprint car accident during a midweek competition, Gibbs doesn’t look so much like the bad guy after all. Unfortunately, that doesn’t bode well for Bell and his desire to race on the side in the future.
Christopher Bell calls out Joe Gibbs before backing down
In late January and on the eve of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season, Christopher Bell appeared on a podcast with sprint driver David Gravel, where he surprisingly revealed that his future in dirt racing was in jeopardy due to an imminent change in policy from above.
“I love the chili bowl. It’s a very special place for me,” Bell said. “Definitely the biggest event I went to as a kid and it means the world to me that I was able to win it. But Joe Gibbs has been extremely, extremely vocal about his — I don’t want to use the word hate, but it’s pretty close to hate — toward dirt track racing. He doesn’t like dirt track racing or open wheel racing at all.
“Me and Coy had a great relationship. Coy Gibbs, I used to run my dirt track stuff through Coy, and Coy loved it. He thought it was really good for me to do that and he told his dad that we had talked about it and he thought it was fine for me to do it. So obviously Coy died in November and I kind of lost that connection and Joe was talking really loud about me, not dirt track racing. So I won’t be competing in dirt track races for the time being.”
It was just days later, however, and the driver took a noticeably different tone when speaking to the media.
“I feel like I need to clear the air a little bit,” Bell said before the Clash at the Coliseum. “My comments definitely did not reflect my situation, my relationship with Joe Gibbs and you know my standing on the team. Joe himself and the entire Gibbs family have been nothing but helpful and inspirational to me.
“Joe didn’t mention an aversion to dirt track racing. The only thing he wanted was for him to keep me sane, whether it was running or out on the lake or anything. He only had my best interest in mind. I portrayed that badly. I don’t know what the future holds for me in dirt track racing but my comments were not well worded.”
Alex Bowman was injured in the midweek sprint race
Rick Hendrick probably wakes up every morning these days and the first thought that pops into his head is, “Who’s next?” And it’s hard to blame him.
In early March, the team owner got his first dose of bad news when Chase Elliott made the awkward call, telling his boss that he had injured his knee snowboarding. OP and six weeks on the shelf.
There was the natural reaction and debate over whether riders should be allowed to participate in dangerous activities and potentially sustain an injury and lose time like the 2020 champion. That debate and conversation had died down with Elliott’s recent return.
Enter Alex Bowman. Or quit in this case. The 30-year-old driver made headlines this week when he announced he would miss several races due to a compression fracture of a vertebra sustained in a frightening crash involving sprint cars at a midweek event.
Interestingly, Bowman, Elliott and several drivers from other teams have joined the growing trend of holding weekday sprint races outside of NASCAR, which found a lot of traction in 2021 with Kyle Larson in his first year at HMS winning 10 cup races and the Championship while a full schedule of sprint races runs across the country.
Gibbs looks smart but might want to reconsider
With Bowman’s injury, Gibbs for so much heartache he has captured from his son Coy due to his change of position regarding bell dirt racing seems like the smart one. He doesn’t have to worry about Bell or other drivers getting injured in races that are inherently more dangerous and missing time from his real job.
But if Gibbs truly cares about the future of his organization, and it increasingly looks like Bell and grandson Ty are that future, he should at least consider allowing the driver to race outside of NASCAR on a limited schedule .
Based on the driver’s comments, Coy previously signed it because, as Larson has repeatedly suggested and Hendrick agreed, it helps the driver hone their craft by being behind the wheel of any car. Having this opportunity to improve his racing suddenly taken away under tragic circumstances is something the driver will not forget. And he’s painfully reminded of that every week as he watches his fellow contenders go out and win trophies he could win if only he had the chance.
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