Five weeks after the death of the owner’s son and the organization’s president, Joe Gibbs Racing got a much-needed uplift Sunday, winning the Daytona 500 behind Denny Hamlin in the No. 11 car, who won NASCAR’s premier event for the second time in four years.
Right there as a part of it all was Winder native Josh Shipplett, who was a tire carrier on Hamlin’s pit crew. It was the second time Shipplett has been a member of a winning pit crew in the Daytona 500, the first coming in 2011 in his Sprint Cup debut while working as a crew member for Trevor Bayne, who pulled off a surprising win that year.
“It was a lot different this time because I think the first time everybody was amazed that it actually happened, and this time we knew we had a real shot at it,” Shipplett said Monday before talking about the enormity of the moment following the death of J.D. Gibbs, the son of owner and NFL coaching hall of famer Joe Gibbs, last month from a neurological disease. “I think this meant so much to the company with everything that went on in the offseason. It was really huge and special to be a part of.”
Overall it was the seventh time that Shipplett, a 2007 Winder-Barrow High School graduate, has been on the winning crew of a Cup race.
His second came with Richard Childress Racing in 2017, after Monster Energy had taken over as the Cup’s top sponsor, when Austin Dillon won the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, triumphing in the Childress No. 3 car for the first time since Dale Earnhardt won at Talladega in October 2000.
Shipplett left Childress Racing and joined Joe Gibbs Racing prior to the start of last season. He was a part of four victories on the crew of Martin Truex, Jr., who won the Auto Club 400, Pocono 400, Toyota/Save Mart 350 and Quaker State 400.
Shipplett moved to Hamlin’s crew this season and said he is enjoying his time with the driver and the company.
“It’s great so far — so far, so good,” Shipplett said. “It’s a different environment. They’re very family-conscious. Joe believes it’s the people who make the company, and it’s just a really good place to work. You never had to worry about needing anything because it’s all very family-oriented and Joe will do anything for you.”
Shipplett, his crew mates and Hamlin will be back in action Saturday in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The race starts at 2 p.m. on FOX.
While Shipplett and his team were still getting to bask in the glow of victory Monday — they were treated with a big breakfast Monday morning in Daytona and got to see the winning car placed in the museum at Daytona International Speedway for the next year — they knew it was time to get back to work.
“This is one of the only ones you get to enjoy,” said Shipplett, who is just getting started with a long and grueling season.
“Come this time tomorrow, we’ll be getting ready to practice and move on to the next one.”