Many privately funded motocross teams have shuttered their doors in the past decade, but Coy Gibbs’ JGRMX operation has forged ahead by fighting adversity and a challenging economic climate. Coy and the JGRMX race team have achieved success through a tireless work ethic, steadfast commitment to their partners, a star-studded cast of industry professionals, and managing the ebb and flow in an ever-changing environment.
In the final edition of our special Autotrader/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing Team Spotlight we sit down with the man who started it all—Coy Gibbs. Coy divulges what he has learned in the past ten years. Gibbs also talks about the new partnership with Suzuki, and provides candid dialogue about running a race team.
Can you believe that it has been ten years since the JGRMX team started racing professionally?
Honestly, I can’t believe that we have made it ten years. Racing is a tough business. There have been some difficult times, especially when the economy was so bad. We couldn’t have timed the start-up any worse, so to be racing ten years later is a testament to how hard we have worked. Racing for a decade is pretty darn good in this sport.
With your transition to the JGR Cup Shop the past two years, most of your time is spent working on that side of the business. Having said that, you’re still actively involved in the JGRMX race program.
Yes, I have shifted my focus more to the car side. Unfortunately, that’s the side that pays the bills. Honestly, every year I lose a little bit of money running the motocross team, but at this rate I would do it for another ten years. I love the competition and being around the riders. It seems like they’re getting younger and younger every year. Gosh, some of them are the same age as my oldest kid! Motocross can be difficult at times, even though it doesn’t have to be. The industry can make racing a challenge. Having said that, I’m encouraged by the television viewership numbers. They were up 22 percent this past year. That’s huge. I don’t know of another sport in America that is up in TV ratings. Feld Motor Sports is doing a good job with Supercross. I don’t know how smart it was to start a team, but it has been fun [laughter].
What have you learned in the past ten years?
I continually keep coming back and I don’t make any money by racing, so I’m not sure [laughing]. I love this sport, plain and simple. Supercross and the outdoors are so much fun for me, especially in the job I’m at now. This side of racing gives me a break from my day-to-day work. It allows me to go do something that I really like.
You’ve worked with a lot of riders through the years. What are your thoughts on the 2018 group of Autotrader/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing Team riders?
I really like all of the guys. I have generally liked most of the riders that I’ve worked with through the years. Very rarely am I with someone where it’s not a good situation. The problem I have is that it does cost me money to fund a race team, and if the rider is a jerk then it makes going to the track every weekend miserable. When that happens I start questioning why I’m putting myself through the torture. It’s so much better having a good group of guys, like the riders we have for 2018. They’re fun, personable, represent our sponsors well, and go as hard as they can on the track.
In prior team spotlight interviews several members brought up the challenge of installing an irrigation system around the motocross track.
I considered that a team building exercise [laughter]. We laid a staggering number of feet of irrigation pipe around the track. It was awful! No one had a clue about what they were doing, but we made it happen. My big thing about business is that I don’t like job descriptions. Whatever we’re working on we are doing as a group. That’s how I was brought up. I have learned that I operate better in a smaller group of people, because I like to work beside people. In the job I’m at now I don’t get to do that as much. Now I do a lot of office work, which isn’t as fun.
The general consensus around the shop is that you’re a person who likes to do everything yourself. Where does that drive come from?
I don’t really want to do everything myself. The irrigation install was mainly because it would have cost so much money to have someone else do it. I do some stupid things. It goes back to what I said about how I enjoy working.
How has the relationship with Suzuki been?
It has been amazing. It scares me, because it’s so good and I’m waiting for something to blow up! Kerry [Graeber] and Chris [Wheeler] from Suzuki, Don [Sakakura] from Yoshimura R&D, and everyone on that side have been great. They are very easy to work with and are the perfect partners. I’m hoping that we do well for them. It has been refreshing, and the way it should have been since the team started back in 2008. Our lives are way easier now. We’re more productive and focused on racing. I can’t say enough good things about them.
Why did you choose to start a motocross team in the first place?
I was coaching at the time. I quit driving cars because I was terrible, although I had fun doing it for eight or nine years. I went right into coaching after driving, which is something I thought I would always do. Then I realized that I missed racing, but I loved the athletic side of football. I didn’t grow up whole-heartedly into motocross. My brother was into it. He had all of the magazines and read every article. I would occasionally read them as he passed them down, but I wasn’t all about motocross. One day it hit me that a motocross team seemed like a good idea. You have the mechanical side of working on the bike, as well as the physical side of being an athlete. It was the opposite of the car side, where a driver can be fat and out of shape and still win races. Football was missing the mechanical side that I was interested in. Coaching was a grind, and it was boring. That’s when I decided to start a motocross team.
What’s one thing your dad taught you that stands out?
My dad is all about people. It’s never the trick parts or the newest thing out there. He always goes back to people. If you have good people, then you can get things done. We have a good group of people on the motocross team. We’ve doubled in size this year. It’s amazing. The company Christmas party had around 50 people in attendance. That’s exciting.
How will you measure success in 2018?
To me it has always been about winning championships. That’s how you know you’re successful. Winning races is a good thing. We keep hunting for that first championship. My dad told me when I got into this that it would take about ten years to establish the team. I told him that he was an idiot and didn’t know what he was talking about. Now ten years later I understand that he was right. It takes a long time to get the right people, the right sponsorships, the right manufacturer, and the right partnerships. We have that now.
How many Supercross races will you be attending?
I have to start going to the NASCAR races again soon. I’ll try to go to as many as my schedule will allow. It’s fun now, because I get to choose which races I want to go to. I’ll be at Anaheim 1, and then go to as many races as I can before my wife threatens me. I literally travel 10-1/2 months out of the year. My wife is actually pretty good about letting me do what I want. I’m more excited for the Anaheim Supercross opener than I have been in years past. It’s a good break from my other job. Although, to be honest, I’m not looking forward to traveling again. Still, it will be fun to go.
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About Suzuki: Suzuki Motor of America, Inc. (SMAI) distributes Motorcycles, ATVs, Scooters, Outboard Motors and Automotive Parts and Accessories via an extensive dealer network throughout 49 states. Suzuki Motor Corporation (SMC), based in Hamamatsu, Japan, is a diversified worldwide manufacturer of Motorcycles, ATVs, Scooters, Automobiles, Outboard Motors and related products. Founded in 1909 and incorporated in 1920, SMC has business relations with 201 countries/regions. For more information, visit www.suzuki.com.
About JGRMX: Joe Gibbs Racing Motocross (JGRMX), based in Huntersville, NC, was founded in 2007 by Coy Gibbs, son of NFL Hall of Fame head coach and multi-time NASCAR Championship winning team owner Joe Gibbs. JGRMX competes in both the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship series as well as the Monster Energy Supercross series with support from Suzuki Motor of America, Inc. aboard Suzuki RM-Z250 and RM-Z450 race machines.
About Yoshimura R&D of America: Yoshimura is “The Leader in Performance” and has been for more than 55 years. With unmatched skills, knowledge, and passion for racing, Yoshimura is on the forefront of the aftermarket exhaust industry. Yoshimura pipes are race bred and feature the same legendary performance, fit and quality that has been their trademark for more than five decades. To learn more about Yoshimura and view their wide variety of performance products, visit www.yoshimura-rd.com.