As a three-time Super Bowl champion coach, NASCAR owner Joe Gibbs has witnessed his share of comebacks.
He even had one of his own. After an 11-year hiatus, he returned as coach of the Washington NFL team in 2004 for a second go-around.
But even Gibbs admits he’s hard-pressed to put into words the comeback story being written by Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch.
Busch missed the first 11 races of the Sprint Cup Series season after suffering a broken leg and foot in the season-opening Xfinity Series race at Daytona. Sunday at New Hampshire, Busch registered his third victory in just eight starts since his return.
“I think it’s a great, great story. It’s a personal story for him because you see somebody like that suffer such a tough, tough injury,” Gibbs said. “He has a real fire and a passion for what he does.”
He has a real fire and a passion for what he does.
NASCAR team owner Joe Gibbs, on driver Kyle Busch
After Busch’s most recent victory, Gibbs talked about Busch’s recent run, his chances to compete for the championship and Joe Gibbs Racing’s improvement this season.
Q. You see in other sports where teams have their backs against the wall and make a run to a championship. Do you see that here?
A. I think obviously you get on a roll if you got real good teams. In pro sports what you find is if you have a weak link, you’re not going. Over here you have to have a great driver, pit crew and support team back at home. In our sport you have to have other drivers to add information and crew chiefs that add information.
It’s a very unusual dynamic, and certainly in sports we all love it because you can have great victories, you can have great defeats. We had a real terrible thing happen to us at Daytona. We come all the way back after 11 weeks. To be able to get three wins here is really special.
Q. How confident are you Kyle can get in the top 30 of points and make the Chase?
A. If you can see (the finish line), it’s a lot better than where we were before when we started being way back over 100 points behind. I think Kyle seems to just be still very, very aggressive. He’s not points racing. He’s after it. Probably he and (crew chief) Adam (Stevens) have talked that over. I think they’re trying to keep themselves up front and trying to get good finishes.
Anything can happen in sports. So, I’m always nervous about it. You can break a part. You can have wrecks. You can have freaky thunderstorms and stuff that’s already happened to us. I think you just have to keep your head down and keep digging.
Q. How does Kyle’s comeback stack up with some others you have seen in sports?
A. I think it’s a great, great story. It’s a personal story for him because, you know, you see somebody like that suffer such a tough, tough injury. We were really worried about Sonoma, even being able to drive that race.
I will say this. I went over to his house. Adam was over there visiting right after the surgery on his foot. He was bright-eyed and after it. He was already working out. He was trying to get out of the bed and everything else.
In sports you do see stories like this where somebody is really hurt, then to be able to come back in this amount of time, it’s a special story.
Q. What are the ingredients to those stories?
A. I think probably the reason why we admire great athletes, a lot of us dreamed about being a great athlete, and we weren’t good enough. Then you see the people that are good enough. But then there’s only a few that are really, really special in a sport.
I think Kyle is one of those in racing because he has an unusual ability, but also has a real fire and a passion for what he does. So that kind of comes through. I think it’s showed up over these last five weeks.
Q. You’ve talked about the improvement at JGR in general. Have you turned a corner?
A. Well, I think we’re certainly back closer. I don’t know that we’ve turned a corner. I think we’ve got a lot of intermediate tracks in the Chase. We’ll see when we get there.
But certainly I think we’re in a better position now. I think we worked extremely hard. To show you how hard this sport is, it took us a year and a half, realizing we’re behind where we were, then to put everybody to work trying to catch up.