NASCAR Icon Denny Hamlin Opens Up About Joe Gibbs’ ‘Unmatched Work Ethic’ and Legacy

by TK Sanders

NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin, an 18 year veteran of the Joe Gibbs Racing team, told Autoweek that his owner leads by example. Hamlin, a lifelong Redskins fan and the most recognizable driver in the JGR garage, also said that the former NFL coach-turned-racing owner still keeps the kinds of hours that first made him a success decades ago.

“The motivation for the team (to work relentlessly) comes by the example Joe sets,” Hamlin said after his victory at Richmond Raceway last weekend. “He’s not in his younger years, but he works full-time at the race shop. I couldn’t imagine, double my life from now (Hamlin is 41, Gibbs is 81), working as hard as he does. The guy’s work ethic is unmatched.”

After 31 years on the job, Gibbs knows what it takes to get the job done right. As a coach in the 1980s (and then later from 2004-2007), the future NASCAR Hall of Fame owner slept in his office most nights in order to wake up early and dive back into work. Now into his third decade as a racing team owner — this on top of winning three Super Bowls — Gibbs works as hard as ever, according to his own employees.

“He could crack the whip and go home and relax or whatever, but he doesn’t,” Hamlin continued. “He works hard himself. The people who work in the shop see him walking the floor for eight hours a day. It ain’t like he’s just an owner and makes the calls and ‘y’all just go do the rest.’ He’s a hands-on owner. I’ve been part of this organization from the very beginning and it’s not hard to want to work hard for him. He puts his life and blood into this race team.”

Before Denny Hamlin’s win, the Joe Gibbs Racing team started slow in 2022

Gibbs and his four-car Toyota team needed that blood, too, as the team began the 2022 Next Gen season winless in six races — a surprising and uncharacteristic start. Hamlin won last weekend to break the streak. The JGR team had not gone that long without an early-season win since 2007.

Though known as a cerebral yet effective motivator for decades, Gibbs said he leaves most of the team coaching to his employees these days.

“I (leave) that to the crew chiefs,” Gibbs said. “They’re the coaches over there. They’re in it; for them, it’s every day, 18 hours a day. They do a good job with it. At our meetings on Mondays, we talk everything over. There are discussions about how do we go forward, how do we make this up. I think generally as a group we just have real good people. We know we’re giving it everything.”

Gibbs also said he never forgets just how hard it is to get wins in the Cup Series.

“This (Denny Hamlin victory) shows how hard it is to win because we have great people working really hard,” Joe Gibbs said. “Every one of these (victories) are hard to get. We were top-3 about nine times last year and didn’t get the win. That’s why tonight is such a big deal for us.”