- Associated Press
Tuesday, March 29, 2011

COLUMBIA, S.C. | NASCAR owner Joe Gibbs went through NFL labor problems twice during his Washington Redskins’ coaching career. Now a fan, Gibbs doesn’t want the game he loves to suffer through a long work stoppage that costs the sport popularity and prestige.

The three-time Super Bowl winner and NASCAR owner said Tuesday the NFL lockout disturbs him and he hopes players and owners can settle things before football suffers.

“There’s too much at stake,” Gibbs said. “They may miss a few preseason games, but I think they’ll get this done because otherwise, I think it would hurt the sport.”

Gibbs spent Tuesday morning visiting inmates at the Broad River Correctional Institution in South Carolina’s capital. He was in the state six months ago on a similar mission at Turbeville Correctional Institution, telling those behind bars that they can find a second chance through religion.

“It could be the most important thing I do on this earth,” Gibbs said.

Gibbs, 70, has lived a life of accomplishment.

After winning the Super Bowl following the 1982, 1987 and 1991 seasons as Washington’s coach, he became a success in NASCAR. The teams of Joe Gibbs Racing won Sprint Cup titles in 2000 with driver Bobby Labonte and in 2002 and 2005 with driver Tony Stewart.

Yet, Gibbs told 150 or so prisoners at Broad River’s training facility that he, too, was laid low by mistakes. Gibbs pointed out one misstep was a real-estate deal in Oklahoma soon after he began at Washington that quickly soured and nearly led him to bankruptcy. He said he called on his faith and his family to lead him back to solvency.

“I don’t care what your mess is, finances, relationships, addiction,” Gibbs said. “God is bigger than any mess.”

Gibbs also gave the keynote speech at a luncheon hosted by Columbia International University.

He said his faith has helped him keep perspective on his professional life. Gibbs acknowledged that hasn’t always been easy. He recalled the long nights in his football offices, scheming plays and scouting teams to win another game. He said he apologized to his sons, J.D. and Coy, in the past few years for all the events and milestones he missed putting football coach ahead of father.

“So I’m probably a good study on not getting the right balance at times,” he said.

Gibbs said he often gets asked by fans who was harder to manage, Washington running back John Riggins or JGR star driver Kyle Busch. “I tell them, ‘Neither one’s a piece of cake,’ ” he said with a laugh. “I enjoyed them both.”

Gibbs second stint as Washington coach lasted from 2004 to 2007. He’s bothered that NFL owners and players haven’t come to agreement before now. Still, Gibbs believes a settlement will be reached before the regular season starts.

“I worry about it,” he said. “I think it’ll come down to the end.”

Gibbs left little doubt about a possible return to the sidelines in time to pick up another Super Bowl title after a season of labor troubles.

“The best answer to that is to ask my wife and she’ll say, ‘Read my lips: The big no,’ ” Gibbs said. “I think we’re done there.”

Gibbs said he’ll get to work with his NASCAR teams on engine problems that have plagued his three drivers, Busch, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano, at times this season. Gibbs spent much of his time out in California analyzing the problems and diagnosing a solution.

“We got several options, different things we can do,” he said. “It’s just a matter of making the right decision.”

That’s what Gibbs hopes the inmates he spoke too can do after their release. After the speech, state Corrections Department chief Bill Byars gave Gibbs a plaque that designated March 29th “Joe Gibbs Day.”

“We’ll put this in the race shop where everybody can see it,” Gibbs said. “There’s a lot of people there praying for you.”

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