INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK: COY GIBBS

JGRMX began in 2007, fielding Josh Hansen and Josh Summey, Since that time the Huntersville, North Carolina, based team has worked with James Stewart, Davi Millsaps, Justin Brayton, Justin Barcia and a host of other top-ranked riders. The team is owned by Coy Gibbs, son of Joe Gibbs of NFL and NASCAR fame. Coy, a former college football star turned coach turned mechanic turned race team owner, has a wealth of experience in knowledge. He’s been there and done that, which you wouldn’t guess given his unassuming demeanor. Make no mistake, Coy is a mover and shaker in the world of motocross (although he would never admit it). Read our Q&A with Coy below if you don’t believe us. He’s the real deal.   

By John Basher

“The big thing is that Justin [Barcia] needs to feel comfortable. The thumb injury was forcing him to change his grip, and by doing that his arms pumped up. Justin was able to ride, but he couldn’t push.”

What is the severity of Justin Barcia’s thumb injury, and how did he actually hurt his thumb? Justin called me the other day and gave me an update. He just had surgery on his thumb. It’s not a very complicated surgery, but it will take time for the ligament in his thumb to heal. Justin hurt his thumb on the Monday before Anaheim when he wrecked on a mountain bike. He tweaked it and didn’t think the injury was that bad. Then after Anaheim he realized that he hurt it more than he originally thought, so he went and got an MRI. He tried to race at San Diego, but the pain was too much. He decided to stop racing and get it fixed.

After learning that Justin injured his thumb while riding a mountain bike, is it hard for you to understand that? Barcia revealed a bit of his training regiment in an interview a few months back, which included a lot of seat time on a bicycle. Still, he’s out for six to eight weeks after getting injured doing something not involving motocross? It’s part of the deal. He uses mountain bike riding for training purposes. I could tell him to stay on the road, but quite honestly he could get hurt a lot worse while pedaling on the street. It stinks that he got hurt, but what can you do? It’s unfortunate. It’s hard for Justin, too. He worked really hard leading up to Anaheim. We have seen every year that a few riders get hurt in the time leading up to Anaheim 1. This year is a little bit different. There were more healthy guys than I’ve ever seen before.

Do you have a specific target date for Justin Barcia’s return to racing? I’m not really sure when he’ll be back. It will probably be eight weeks before he can get on the track, and then we’ll see how he’s doing. We’ll take it week by week after that. The big thing is that Justin needs to feel comfortable. The thumb injury was forcing him to change his grip, and by doing that his arms pumped up. Justin was able to ride, but he couldn’t push.

“FOR THE MOST PART, SPONSORS WILL JUDGE US ON OUR RESULTS FROM THE ENTIRE YEAR AND NOT JUST A FEW WEEKS. THEY OBVIOUSLY WANT US TO WIN RACES, BE ON THE PODIUM AND GET CHAMPIONSHIPS, BUT TO JUDGE US ONLY ON A TWO-MONTH PERIOD WOULD BE UNFAIR TO ANY TEAM.”

How have sponsors reacted to the news that Barcia will miss several months? It’s something that effects all of us. Unfortunately in our sport guys get hurt a lot. It’s the nature of the beast. Supercross is really hard in that way. You have to get on a roll in the first couple of weeks or the series will be a struggle. For the most part, sponsors will judge us on our results from the entire year and not just a few weeks. They obviously want us to win races, be on the podium and get championships, but to judge us only on a two-month period would be unfair to any team.

You’ve been in the inner sanctum of professional football after working under your father, Joe Gibbs, when he coached the Washington Redskins. Now that you’re a team owner and have been exposed to two-wheeled racing, can you tell me in which sport do the athletes deal with more injuries, Supercross or the NFL? They’re very similar. The difference in the NFL is that a lot of times you can play through injuries. If you’re a defensive lineman you can play with a broken hand. If you break your hand and then try to ride a motorcycle you’re not going to have much success. I see a lot of guys who ride motorcycles and they don’t have an ACL in their knees, but football players need that ligament. It all depends on what the injury is. The sports are somewhat similar. I do think it’s insane how many races we have. The Pro football player is maxed out. When they go to the Super Bowl their bodies are maxed out physically. To think we almost double that schedule is amazing. This sport is extremely demanding.

“We don’t condone what Weston did. It was extremely unfortunate. At the same time, I feel for the guy.”

Now that you’ve had to digest the Weston Peick incident, what are your thoughts on the events that transpired at Anaheim 1 and the repercussions that followed? We don’t condone what Weston did. It was extremely unfortunate. At the same time, I feel for the guy. He put so much effort into that event, and he was cleaned out two times by the same rider. It made him snap. I could see myself doing that [throwing punches]. It’s not the right thing to do, and it’s not what we or our sponsors want him to do. Hopefully he learned from it so that we don’t have to deal with it again.

“I’M PERSONALLY PUMPED TO HAVE A RACE IN CHARLOTTE. I’VE BEEN SO SICK AND TIRED OF PEOPLE ASKING ME WHEN THERE WAS GOING TO BE A MOTOCROSS RACE IN CHARLOTTE [LAUGHTER]. IT’S FINALLY HAPPENING.”

What role did you have in creating the relationship that formed between Charlotte Motor Speedway and Youthstream in holding a Grand Prix at the zMAX Dragway? I didn’t do anything aside from knowing Marcus’ team at the Speedway reached out and wanted to talk about having a motocross event. I told them that I just run a race team, and that managing events and a series was way above my head. I did explain that one of the guys in the industry I’ve always trusted is Eric Peronnard, and he’s familiar with those topics. I put Marcus and Eric in touch, and essentially after that they went down the road of bringing a motocross race to Charlotte. I’m personally pumped to have a race in Charlotte. I’ve been so sick and tired of people asking me when there was going to be a motocross race in Charlotte [laughter]. It’s finally happening. A lot of people in this area drive to the Atlanta Supercross, but to have a big race in our backyard is going to be huge.

Do you think there will be a lot of NASCAR presence at the Charlotte MXGP? Heck yeah! I really do think so. Anybody in car racing loves all forms of racing. It doesn’t matter what it is, either. I watch whatever type of racing is on TV. From dirt trucks to Trophy trucks and anything else, I’m watching it. That same mentality goes with people in NASCAR. The race will be close for a lot of people, and they can take their families. It will be a new experience.

What do you have to say to those motocross purists who believe that building an artificial track on a drag strip isn’t actually motocross? If you can get viewers and TV there, then it’s a positive for the growth of the sport. Our sport is way different than the car side. A lot of people haven’t gotten exposed to motocross. It’s similar to drag racing in a way. People judge drag racing without really ever seeing it. The same goes with motocross. NASCAR is totally different, because everyone knows about it. NASCAR is mainstream. It’s on ESPN and so people always see it. Our sport is about exposing people to it. I love our sport and think it’s phenomenal. The more people we can get to Charlotte for the MXGP the better, because they’ll actually form an opinion on it and get that exposure.

Do you believe the sport has grown since the time you launched JGRMX, which was in 2007? Yes, but at the same time I lived in the era when NASCAR went from nothing to everything. I keep waiting for motocross to do that. Maybe it won’t happen, but I’m hoping for it. This is something that I love and want other people to experience. The hard part is that a lot of growth relies on television. The better the TV package then the more people will see it. You need huge crowds in order to attract television. Parts of the sport have grown, while they’ve taken a step backwards in other areas.

Do you care to elaborate on the areas where you think the sport has taken a step backward? Not really [laughter].

I assume you’re giving the MXGP in Charlotte your full support, and what I mean by that is you’ll field your team at the Grand Prix? Monster is a big part of that race, and they sponsor our team. We definitely want to be at the race and support it. Right now the race is so far out on the schedule. We’re hoping the guys are healthy. That’s the hardest part. We’re excited about the event.   

Thanks for your time, Coy. You’re welcome.

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