Joe Gibbs may have caught the NFL off guard yesterday when he announced his retirement as Washington Redskins coach, but in the garages at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, crew chief Jimmy Makar wasn't surprised.
"I saw it coming for a long while," said Makar, who runs Gibbs' Winston Cup stock car team. "And he's been thinking about it ever since the NFL season ended. It wasn't a snap decision by any means. He's been thinking about it a long time."
Makar said that in particular, Gibbs had talked about wanting to spend more time with his family.
Gibbs, 52, created Joe Gibbs Racing and the Interstate Batteries/Food Lion team 16 months ago. Gibbs' car, driven by Dale Jarrett, won the Daytona 500 last month.
Tomorrow, Gibbs is expected to be in Richmond for the Pontiac Excitement 400.
"I don't think our winning Daytona had anything to do with his decision," said Jarrett, who won the Super Bowl of stock car racing on the team's second try. "But I know he enjoyed winning Daytona. I hope he doesn't expect that every week. We might not be able to do that every week. But we're going to try."
Jarrett said the Redskins' loss is the racing team's gain.
"Having Joe Gibbs around can only help us," said Jarrett, who was busy yesterday qualifying for tomorrow's race. "He brings such a positive outlook to us. It's obvious when he's around we do well. He helps give the race team that mental edge."
Gibbs, who grew up in Knoxville, N.C., developed a love of racing early, and as a teen-ager in California he spent time competing on the local drag racing circuit.
In his first news conference as a Winston Cup race team owner, Gibbs talked about his passion for the sport and about its appeal as a family operation.
"I always dreamed of two things when I was growing up, playing sports and being a race car driver," he said then. "I think you really have to understand the love of the speed and the competition that I have, to understand just how much I want to do this."
He said his older son, J. D., would continue to be involved with the team. J. D. now serves as Joe Gibbs Racing's director of marketing and also works as a tire changer at some races -- including Daytona. Gibbs also said that his younger son Coy, a sophomore at Stanford, will have a role with the team "after graduation."