|DIBENNEDETTO NASCAR'S ROCKY BALBOA
|FROM JOURNEYMAN DRIVER TO HALL OF FAMER
|WINNERS NOT ADDING UP
|THE 600 IS STILL A CROWN JEWEL
|NEXT TWO WEEKS COULD BE TOO GOOD
|WALTRIP A TWO-WAY HALL OF FAMER
NOT WHERE GIBBS WANTED TO BE
Joe Gibbs has one of the best organizations in NASCAR racing because "Coach", like an offensive coordinator in football, is a long term, strategic thinker. He's always ready to call the next play, but he always has an eye on the end of the game as well.
The game plan can get thrown out the window, however, by circumstances or moves made by others in which you have no control. That's exactly what's happened to Gibbs, making him look like a little bit of a bad guy for making the choice to let Matt Kenseth go and put Erik Jones in their #20 Toyota.
And it all traces back to taking a blindside hit from Carl Edwards.
A well thought out and very sensible strategy was in place until Edwards surprising decision this past winter to walk away. Gibbs took it all in stride publically, but privately he had to know in January what he'd be facing in July. "We did not expect to be where we are today," he said at Loudon. "We had a plan, and things kept coming up and kept changing with Carl Edwards just being one of those."
"All of a sudden things start changing, it's puts you in a situation where you have to make a tough decision. It was just a tough situation for us."
All this, by the way, also puts Furniture Row Racing Owner Barney Visser in a tough spot too. Although he knew Jones was only on loan from Gibbs when he put him in the #77 Toyota, Visser thought it would at least be a two-year deal. As for the original plan, when Jones left to return to JGR, Daniel Suarez was to take his place with sponsorship already in place for the young Mexican driver. Now, Visser has a surprisingly competitive second team with no driver or sponsor for 2018 and is the collateral damage that began with Edwards dropping his bombshell.
I seriously doubt Toyota is going to let Visser's second car disappear, but it has created anxiety for a team that thought everything was in place through, at least, 2018. "We didn't start the second team to shut it down after one season," FRR General Manager Joe Garone explained to me. "It's surprising some of the top drivers that want to drive that car, (and team up with Martin Truex, Jr.) but we have to have the sponsorship to go with it."
If a "name" ends up taking Jones' place that will probably make for another owner left in the same position as Gibbs, when he shook his head and admitted, "Things changed and we got forced into making a decision. We did not want to do that and we didn't want to do something to upset Matt."
When he was coaching the Redskins most of the training camp cuts he made were easy because a lot of players lacked talent and/or desire. But the final cuts were the toughies because these were the guys who had showed the will and the skill to get the job done, but a difficult selection had to be made to go in another direction for the sake of the team. Those were the gut wrenching decisions because those players had given you everything they had.
That's where I think Gibbs wound up with Kenseth and it's a place he didn't want to be.