J.D. Gibbs, who prompted his father, Joe Gibbs, to first enter the motorsports world, died on Friday. He was 49.
The oldest son of the NASCAR Hall of Fame owner, J.D. had been battling a degenerative neurological disease. In 2015 he underwent treatment for symptoms that were impacting areas of brain function, including speech and cognitive processing. The origin of the illness was never diagnosed, although doctors suspected it was likely related to head injuries suffered earlier in his life.
Born Jason Dean Gibbs on February 21, 1969, J.D. led an outgoing and active lifestyle. A defensive back and quarter from 1987-’90, Gibbs attended The College of William and Mary in Virginia.
“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 when giving an update on his son’s condition. “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 two, 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.”
Joe Gibbs Racing was formed in 1992 and J.D. was named the president of the company in October 1997. When Joe Gibbs headed back to the NFL, it was J.D. who took the company’s reins and led it through the mid-2000s.
Under his guidance, JGR began to expand into what it has become today. Gibbs signed Denny Hamlin, who would win the Daytona 500 in 2016, and brought in Kyle Busch. In 2015, Busch won the organization’s fourth premier series championship.
During that time, Joe Gibbs Racing made the switch from Chevrolet to Toyota and expanded to four cars in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and three in the Xfinity Series. J.D. was also instrumental in the company moving to Toyota Racing Development engines.
Gibbs was named co-chairman of Joe Gibbs Racing alongside his father in February 2016. Behind the wheel, Gibbs made 29 starts from 1997-2002 between the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, Camping World Truck and Xfinity Series.
He is survived by his wife Melissa, and sons Jackson, Miller, Jason, and Taylor.