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Joe Gibbs will go down in sports history as one of the all-time greatest leaders because of his unparalleled success in two completely different sports — winning three Super Bowl titles with Washington and five NASCAR Cup Series championships

That successful track record suggests he knows what he’s doing. Despite that, earlier this season, fans were harshly critical of the JGR owner and questioned him after Christopher Bell called him out for not allowing him to race on dirt, which he had previously done with the approval of co-owner Coy before his shocking death last year

This week with the news that Alex Bowman will be missing multiple races due to an injury suffered in a sprint car accident during a mid-week competition, Gibbs doesn’t look like the bad guy so much after all. Unfortunately, that doesn’t bode well for Bell and his desire to race on the side in the future.

Christopher Bell calls out Joe Gibbs before backing down

In late January and on the eve of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season, Christopher Bell made an appearance on a podcast with sprint car driver David Gravel, where he surprisingly revealed his future in dirt racing was in question because of a change in policy coming straight from the top.

“I love the Chili Bowl. It’s a very special place to me,” Bell said. “Definitely the largest event that I grew up going to as a kid and it means the world to me that I’ve been able to win it. But Joe Gibbs has been extremely, extremely vocal about his — I don’t want to use the word hatred, but it’s pretty close to hatred — towards dirt-track racing. He does not love dirt-track racing or open-wheel racing at all. 

“Me and Coy had a great relationship. Coy Gibbs, I would always funnel my dirt-track stuff through Coy, and Coy loved it. He thought it was really good for me to do, and he would kind of tell his dad that we talked about it, and he thought that it was fine for me to go do. So obviously, Coy passed away in November, and I kind of lost that connection, and Joe was very vocal about me, not dirt-track racing. So, for the time being, I’m not going to be dirt-track racing.”

However, it was just a few days later and the driver took a noticeably different tone in talking with the media.

“I feel like I need to clear the air a little bit,” Bell said before the Clash at the Coliseum. “My comments definitely didn’t reflect my situation, my relationship with Joe Gibbs, and you know, my standing with the team. Joe, himself, the entire Gibbs family has been nothing but helpful for me and inspiring for me. 

“Joe has not mentioned any dislike for dirt-track racing. The only thing was his wanting to keep me healthy, whether that was racing or being out on the lake or anything. He just had my best interest in mind. I did a bad job of portraying that. I don’t know what the future holds for me dirt-track racing, but my comments were not well put.” 

Alex Bowman injured in mid-week sprint race

These days Rick Hendrick is probably waking up each morning and the first thought that crosses his mind is: “Who’s next?” And it’s hard to blame him.

In early March, the team owner received the first dose of bad news when Chase Elliott made the uncomfortable call, informing his boss that he had injured his knee snowboarding. Surgery and six weeks on the shelf. 

There was the natural reaction and debate about whether or not drivers should be allowed to participate in dangerous activities and risk possibly suffering an injury and missing time like the 2020 champion. That debate and conversation had died down with Elliott’s recent return. 

Enter Alex Bowman. Or exit in this case. The 30-year-old driver made headlines this week when he announced that he would be missing multiple races due to a compression fracture of a vertebra suffered in a scary crash while racing sprint cars at a mid-week event.  

Interestingly, Bowman, Elliott, and multiple drivers from other teams have joined the growing trend of running mid-week sprint races outside of NASCAR, which gained a lot of traction in 2021 with Kyle Larson in his first year at HMS when he won 10 Cup races and the championship while running a full schedule of sprint races around the country. 

Gibbs looks smart but still might want to reconsider

Christopher Bell and Joe Gibbs at Charlotte.
Christopher Bell and Joe Gibbs in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Bank of America Roval 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on October 09, 2022. | Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

With Bowman’s injury, Gibbs, for as much grief as he caught due to his change of position from his son Coy regarding Bell dirt racing, it appears to be the smart one. He doesn’t have to worry about Bell or any other drivers suffering injury in races that are inherently more dangerous and missing time from his real job.

But if Gibbs genuinely cares about the future of his organization, and it appears more and more like Bell and grandson Ty are that future, he should at least consider allowing the driver to run a limited schedule outside of NASCAR. 

Based on the driver’s remarks, Coy previously signed off on it because, like Larson has repeatedly suggested and Hendrick agreed, it helps the driver hone his craft sitting behind the wheel in any kind of car. To have that opportunity to improve his racing suddenly taken away under tragic circumstances, isn’t something the driver is going to forget. And he’s painfully reminded about it each week when watching his fellow competitors go out and win trophies that he could win if just given that chance.

For the latest breaking news and information about NASCAR’s three national series, check out @kdsportswriter on Twitter.


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