J.D. Gibbs, the oldest son of car owner Joe Gibbs, died on Friday from complications following a long battle with a degenerative neurological disease, the team announced. J.D. Gibbs was 49.
The family revealed in March 2015 that J.D. Gibbs was suffering from brain-function problems but that doctors had no clear answer for it.
J.D. Gibbs was the president of Joe Gibbs Racing at the time, having done a variety of roles, including working on a pit crew with the organization.
“J.D. gains his strength from the fact that he has a personal relationship with the Lord, and I have got to tell you that he’s my hero when I kind of watch him,” Joe Gibbs said in 2015 at Martinsville Speedway. “I don’t know that anybody has ever deal with anything as courageous as J.D. does. He went through a situation with his son Taylor having leukemia at 2, and we fought through that for about three or four years … J.D. through his entire life has probably been the most courageous person that I’ve ever been around or knew.”
J.D. Gibbs was instrumental in helping Denny Hamlin join the organization when Hamlin was racing Late Models. Hamlin’s Xfinity car in last year’s race at Darlington Raceway honored Gibbs. Hamlin’s car was made to look like the car Gibbs drove in four Xfinity races in 1998.
After winning the 2016 Daytona 500, Hamlin spoke of J.D. Gibbs: “He’s the guy that took a chance on me. This is the biggest win of my life. He’s not at every race. But to have him here with me today, that’s just how it was supposed to be, wasn’t it?”
In the tweet below from last year, Hamlin explained what J.D. Gibbs meant to him.
J.D. Gibbs was there at Joe Gibbs Racing from the beginning. He was named the organization’s president in 1997 and led the company from 2004-08 when Joe Gibbs returned to coaching in the NFL. Along with Hamlin, the company added Kyle Busch during J.D. Gibbs’ tenure.
Born Jason Dean Gibbs on February 21, 1969, J.D. as he became known, always had an outgoing personality and beaming smile. From 1987-’90, Gibbs played defensive back and quarterback at The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.
The father of four boys with his wife Melissa – Jackson, Miller, Jason, and Taylor – Taylor was diagnosed with childhood leukemia in 2007 at age 2. At age 5 in 2010, Taylor underwent his final chemotherapy treatment.
Jim France interim NASCAR Chairman and CEO, issued a statement on Gibbs:
“We were privileged to watch J.D. Gibbs grow within the sport, displaying an endearing personality, a keen eye for talent and the strong business acumen that helped grow Joe Gibbs Racing into a preeminent NASCAR team. The NASCAR family has lost a truly special member. On behalf of NASCAR and the France family, I extend my deepest condolences to Joe Gibbs, Pat, Melissa, Coy and the entire Gibbs family.”
Kelly Crandall and Daniel McFadin contributed to this report.