Jimmy Makar has been with Joe Gibbs Racing in various roles since its very beginnings back in 1991. He won a Sprint Cup title in 2000 as crew chief for Bobby Labonte and saw Tony Stewart add two more titles to the team’s trophy case (2002, 2005) before becoming JGR’s senior vice president of racing operations.
He’s watched as the team has evolved from a single-car entity at the start to its new four-car squad, which will hit the track for the first time this upcoming Cup season.
But he says that JGR’s most recent expansion to include the incoming Carl Edwards has been the toughest to pull off.
“It’s been quite an ordeal,” Makar said during JGR’s press conference Monday for the NASCAR Media Tour in Charlotte, North Carolina. “It seems like to me, after going to a second team and then a third team, this fourth team is exponentially harder. Because you’ve got so many more people involved than the first team.
“We went from 17 people to 50-something people the first time around, so it wasn’t so bad. Now, we’re in the 400-500 people range, and that’s a lot more people to deal with. We had a new employee meeting and we looked around the room. The auditorium we had, there were about 100 seats…and there were people sitting on the steps.
“We filled that up plus, so it just goes to show you how much it’s grown and how much of an undertaking it is to do a fourth team.”
Adding to a busy offseason for JGR has been a major shuffle of its crew chiefs.
Darian Grubb, former crew chief for Denny Hamlin, is now with Edwards on the new No. 19 team. Kyle Busch’s former crew chief, Dave Rogers, is now running with Hamlin and the No. 11 camp. And moving up to replace Rogers on Busch’s No. 18 side is Adam Stevens, who had been Busch’s crew chief in the XFINITY Series.
Only one driver-crew chief pairing remained intact through it all – Matt Kenseth and Jason Ratcliff on the No. 20 team. However, Hamlin believes everything from the expansion to the crew chief shake-up will be worth it.
“All of those changes, the personnel changes and crew chief changes we’ve done with the organization, it’s the best move for everyone here,” he said. “A lot of the concerns that you have as a driver when you bring on an extra team is if [you’re] spreading yourself too thin. And I think JGR has done a great job of hiring really good staff over this off-season to accommodate that fourth car. For me, it makes me excited about the prospects of what JGR’s got in store for this year.”
Busch is also confident that JGR can be successful as a four-car team. He said that in addition to Edwards providing even more veteran leadership and “another bank to pull from” in finding performance on the track, JGR will benefit from the extra infrastructure as well.
“The money that’s left in order to add on the extra engineers, and the body guys, the chassis guys, and all that stuff just to build more cars and to keep up with all the demands NASCAR makes and requires for four teams – I think that’s a huge added bonus as well,” he explained.