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Ep. 214: Part II with Tyler Gibbs and Jack Irving of Toyota Racing Development's TD2 driver development program


Greetings Zan welcome to the NASCAR and ABC podcast. I'm your host Nate Ryan. This is part two of our podcast with Tyler Gibbs and Jack Irving they oversee the TD to driver development program at Toyota racing. If you haven't heard it yet go download and listen to part one from last week received good feedback there about that episode featuring the history and the infrastructure of the program also how Gibson Irving our messaging during the pandemic in this episode will cover ground on who are some of the up and commerce in the TD to program. How Toyota dealt with losing some major talents. Such as William Byron. How they handle NASCAR DADS and moms and how they counseled. They're young drivers about the consequences of what they do and say when the representing sponsors and also we talk a little bit about neck tattoos and the quick clarifier. I should have mentioned this before the last episode but Tyler Gibbs is not related to Joe Gibbs who just happens to own. Toyota's top NASCAR team before we get started just a reminder with Nascar back underway. You should be checking out the NBC. On motorsports Youtube Channel for Nascar America at home. Lots of good insight from your favorite NASCAR. Abc analysts we had Jeff Burton at junior and Stevo tart on a Nascar at home edition right after the first race at Darlington raceway. And we also had Tyler Riddick Colin as well so be sure to check out the NBC on Motor Sports Youtube Channel. Lots of good content there and now. Let's get to part two of our conversation with Tyler Gibbs and Jack Irving just this I want to give you guys a chance to put some names with some faces here people who are listening. We've mentioned Christopher Bell. You guys mentioned Harris and Burton. I was reading a motorsports analytics story today in which Jack was quoted very highly on Chandler. Smith just wanted to give you a chance to tell us a little about. Who'S IN THE LINEUP? Right now and we're the names. We should be watching it from the Toyota racing development driver program. So it's funny. I think we have some remarkable kids coming up of all different ages all different ranges But it's still development like Chandler. Smith is is a gifted driver. I mean in in we've been with Chandler for three or four years i. I don't remember how long it's been a few years. He's been fantastic. He's always been a strong late model. Racer Kinda in his family team was was quite gifted enabled to kind of compete at a very young age with some very high level guys in racing and then he transferred that into Arca adventuring end and has been fantastic and the more he matures the better. He gets Which is really exciting. He's similar to like a younger Jones in that respect where he's young and been around it and he seemed so much older in a car and so much more mature in so that is translated into the truck races he ran last year and and I have some pretty high expectations of him as he does of themselves but he's definitely one of our up and comers that is on the young side mean seventeen and still developing and then obviously there's the Raphael Lazard the neckaces that we've been with for quite a while and I think most people know of Kazan truck races now. That were pretty happy about. And then there's there's lots of kids that we actively engage with and develop in all different areas were lucky not geographically focused either because we have teams all over the place and that's helped us engage with maybe some kids we probably wouldn't necessarily always get access to so there's some good kids in California. There's kids racing for Keith in Indiana. There's just there's just a lot of strong drivers out there the thing that's so interesting though. Is that their kids and kids. You never know what's going to happen so it's still development. I mean it's it's People. WanNa say whatever they want to say about how what what it takes to make it? But they're a work ethic focused drive a passionate WanNa do it is all super important to to make it and at some point maintaining that from fourteen fifteen. Sixteen seventeen is very very difficult to do. Know we can talk about it all the time about being focused in wanting it and all that but the proof is in Monday through Friday. And how hard? They're working what they're doing and to to be on top of their game and and for whatever reason at times that lapses and you know you could take a great kid who's Fourteen Jesse. Love is a kid we've been with since he was twelve. I think thirteen stupid. How young that was East we're really excited about him and you know then. There's kids like Geo celts. Who came out of nowhere in dirt and had outlawed program in in our racing with us and pavement. That's a little bit kind of a different road that he traveled and then we have Holly Holland and Greasy Trotter. Who really come aboard and done a really good job in kind of in all of our testing have looked quite good still have a lot of development to do. You know there's there's kids we lost Based on Ford coming in that is painful to so. There's I think there's a lot of good crop of young kids coming out racing and as long as they all continue to work hard developing keep good people around him then hopefully we'll see him down the road. We really good group. We have a good team of kids. it's exciting to them kind of interact with each other watch the quote unquote older kids. Who may not actually be older but have been in higher level than others and back and forth and so he has Jackson. We're really excited about about our kids. You mentioned most of the ones I attend to hit their Jesse loved Yosemite. I think Logan. Cv also part of the lineup. I believe I mean so. Logan was Logan is not as involved now. We still are working through some things to see if there's ways to work together it's just difficult to the process is difficult and how everybody fits in where they go. I mean Logan is ridiculously talented. I mean it's it's just finding the path and making it work is always hard. You know I mean you look at the McNally Lineup or venturing lineup with I mean. You have Corey Haim and drew dollar and Michael Self Austin Hills Rachel H at hr e and in. He's ridiculously good. And He's twenty four with two kids for God's sake so I mean it's awesome right. I mean in in in in Austin Hugely Involved Maximum Laughlin with with a jury in there. There is an amazing group of kids in. What's interesting is we're kind of lucky. We have some really driven dedicated guy who want participate and show up every day. And I mean that's what's crazy about the performance central a lot of those that we talked about minus the group their local to North Carolina. Right you get into dirt kids in our dirt. Kids are Cap. GotTa be the younger kids we've ever had consistently with Daisin Ken McIntosh and Buddy I mean it. Just these they're all babies right in and so they're and they're out. There racing are trying to raise eighty times a year. I mean it's it's just an amazing amazing situation but I think we've been very lucky. I mean part of it is. I think what we've done is a little bit different and and our teams of Baden in. That's been a big part of it. That's it goes back to what I said before. The integration of the teams is pretty special and something. I think I'm probably most proud about. Is that all those teams engage in actively discuss things with each other to try to help develop the drivers. All those dirt guys is use. Axle considered really fertile ground. Is that kind of a primary starting spot? Yeah definitely I mean you sack for so for us. There's a reason for it so it's not just obviously tears. Roots are dirt racing in in general in the dirt in some form or fashion if it's with trophy trucks or whatever we were in before so so. There's there's this passion for dirt in general for us but we make an engine. Right that that we race midgets so that is part of the reason why we're actively involved at least initially and then what do you know it happens to be a really great place to find great drivers in different drivers right? The way they drive a car is different. A dirt drivers completely different than the pavement driver. So we're kind of lucky. I think to have a hybrid approach that you can find a Chandler Smith who is just a pavement driver and then you can find a decent personally or can tosh Jose dirt driver and hopefully develop that dirt driver to be a very very good hopefully great pavement driver in my opinion. If you were to Kyle. Busch in a midget he'd win races down the road. It would take some time. Don't get me wrong in. The midget series is ridiculously hard right now but I think a great driver like him would win in those kind of things and I think that's why it's important for us when Tyler mentioned range earlier is to have a wide range when you're driving because if you can rates and other vehicles and win than that that is a good sign for you should be able to win at the Cup level and that is a big thing of transitioning because being able to transition in and out of cars and to be competitive in them in whatever way that is for your to go to a world of outlaws race and win is extremely difficult to do. And you'll see the best of our guys go there finish top three top five and win consistently they're super gifted in the only way to do that is by competing in those series and consistently do that. So it's why we're such big fans of it and we will have world outlines G. next year. Oh really okay oh. Cool good plug. Gm commercial do that. You mentioned Lazard Neck. Also Being Party program obviously there in Kabul motorsports trucks. And you know you've got Burton Harrison Burton the JJ are expanding car. Christopher Bell and Eric Jones of course both came through those places. But there's often a talk I think about you guys and really just everybody all the OEM's about like how do you find more spots as you got this rapidly burgeoning pipeline that you're trying to keep drivers slotted into what's that like to sort of figure that out and I guess to like put those puzzle pieces together and you know how much agency do you really have over that because I guess that's a lot of that just depends on if teams if accomplish motorsports is going to feel the truck or Jj Jars GonNa feel fancy cars. How do you deal with all of that? So that's a good question. Nate and we get that question all the time. I think Jack and I have learned not to worry so much about that. When you look at the pads of some of these drivers and how they've worked out the opportunities that they've been given that you just never could have forecast the opportunity. They've missed again. Probably for the better on that. You just never could forecast so at this point. We're trying to develop the very best talent that we can and will wait for the opportunities to come people. Everybody wants pick a driver or they want. They want air some burden because he's nineteen years old and he's got one more year and then it be thane of swimming braces two years in xfinity. Men's that twenty one years old. He's GonNa be in Cup in our not everybody's ready to go to coupling. They're twenty one years old. I'm not saying that I won't be but not everyone is ready to go to copy. Twenty one years old some are at that agent. Some aren't and so we'll take time. We have some metrics that we all know that we communicate clearly to the kids and we work through that so in terms of having enough seats at the big dance That will work itself out where we're confident in the way that works That when the time comes the best drivers that we have from our program will be in our seats again to the best of our control that the kids ultimately had decisions in there as well and we like the relationships we and we hope that relationships we built in what we've invested in them Dave invested in US continues to to grow as as we take them forward. But but this goes back to the greater good piece. I think if you're approaching it would just knowing that you're helping the sport and sometimes it's not gonNa fall your way but that's okay then you're okay but if you try to to to map it out it's you won't you won't map it out nate. You'll quit because you know you're GONNA lose a lot of kids who love a lot and you really that that part of it. You have to hope that if you have a kid for one year three years or ten years that you've done something to help in their lives to make better in your hoping that if they go on and win a bunch of titles that you're a small part of it into small part of it and they have a good thought about us but ultimately it's our jobs as as stewards of the sports continue to help the sport row and become better and some of that is by working really hard with kids that will leave And again I would love to give every kid a guarantee that this is. What's going to happen if you do these things but the truth is you can win a whole lot of races and we can't do a whole lot for you at certain times. And there's there's no rhyme or reason to why that is and that's where the fortuitous luck of everything falling to you in kind of opening up when they need to open up happens in so that does happen differently for every kid but I I would have loved to have kept William Byron. We weren't able to keep William Byron and but I think both of us have fond memories of each other and have good thoughts about how we participated together. And that's kind of the. The point was to be there is best we could and and help along as best we could. And there's a patient's piece here from a driver's perspective that is needed more so than at least for us you know especially with us having limited limited cars that there's a certain amount of trust in patients that has to happen to wait for the opening as well right so there's sometimes if you know that that patience is reasonable and that it's going to happen in a or at least the opportunity should arise in a certain amount of time that. I think it's easy to kind of get that of trust when you really are just looking at each other going to hopefully You know but there's some honesty from us we've had honest conversations for how it fits in how it doesn't fit for us and we're not always right but at least we're honest about it and we do our best to give his best counsel as we can but we also help in whatever we can just because you're not in the program or you're not actively in the program doesn't mean that we're not here for you in some form or fashion to see if there's a way we can help you help your career down the road in some of that just comes down to the future of where things look. I mean and that's what's so hard about it is that you look down the road and you go okay. Where'd you slot in? How long until that happens in here all the contracts and where those GonNa be when you get there? And that's why some of the decisions are what they are in there a little bit more nuance than just. What did you do last week or did you win that or did you win that? I mean there's when you get to the higher levels you have to start dicing up a little bit differently. I'm with next. Gen around the corner made we all know that's GonNa Change Sport significantly and so at that point our first up and comer if he would it's going to be the Brandon Jones and it's going to be the the Harrison burdens okay. Those guys probably won't Reysen Cup before Nexgen. I mean there's a possibility next year but the likelihood is at that point. None of us could even guess what that what that landscape looks like. Detroit PAINT Pitcher Tyler. That point the Jacks Making Byron. I want to get a perspective on that. Is there an appreciation from the NASCAR INDUSTRY? Just NASCAR in general. I mean other. I don't know it just to me. That greater good thing is great. But that's a real magnanimous way of looking at just saying you know. Well we had this guy. William Byron might be a Future Cup champion. But them's the breaks. We sort of have to write it off as you can't keep everybody. Is there an appreciation for that or is an understanding of that collectively NASCAR across the industry? I don't know if there is. I don't know if there is in NASCAR COLLECTIVELY. I think if you were to ask. Most anybody who was in Nascar is the sport better off because it has bubba Wallace because it has air Jones because it has janice because it has no Gregson because it has todd gill and I would hope they would all say yes. I don't know I think from the Toyota side We take a certain amount of pride in having been a part of that journey. Would those people not have made it? As far as they had without Toyota some of them probably would have made it as far as they AP and others probably wouldn't and so we take pride in that fact. It's great for us to know that if William and Hendrik Reverend a position in which they were going to consider manufacturer change William would take a of US right. He wouldn't be. It wouldn't be negative while I don't want to go back to those guys again. That's just a hypothetical but it's all of those kinds of things. It's the same thing with Noah would like to for Toyota again some day. Maybe so I think we have that kind of relationship with. I think we have that kind of relationship with todd and with bubba. It's it's a good place for us to be for the future. We are helping the sport broadly. We're not trying to give a cup champions but again there are times in which you gotTa keep the Cup champions you have in the Daytona. Five hundred champions. You have or the ones that might be someday. are are stable is pretty good and you'd have a hard time kicking out any of the five that we have just got a couple more for you guys and they tend to deal with what. Jack was stressing earlier about these kids. You're dealing with kids and I heard some references. I think what I would call like NASCAR DADS NASCAR moms. I've got the next seven champion right here. Why won't you sign? My child is because I've heard that some drivers like refer to Jack Is. I've heard his nickname. His Daddy Jack in some quarters because he kind of plays that parental role like these parents. Hand these kids off to you in some ways. What's that like bearing that responsibility? And what's it like dealing with the NASCAR DADS IN THE NASCAR? So the good ones. It's great great great It's it's it's not easy Part of where we we have a weird kind of relationship as a whole there are some parents who were all in one hundred percent. You know relying you to to help guide what's going to happen next. And and we take that extremely seriously and how we engage with their kids in and you know ultimately. It's just like my kids. I mean we we are. I'm one hundred percent. What was best for them sometimes. What's best for them is not necessarily what's best for Toyota and tiered in that still. I think we've approached it that way. The whole time was that there may be advised that we would give. That doesn't necessarily help our program but does help the driver and the driver still make a decision on what's best in in their their their situation so the biggest issue we run into nate. Really is is just their parents who add more pressure to their kids. Then they know they don't mean to cause it comes from a loving place they really do mean it in a good way but the kids have to learn how to drive a car and how to go through the ups and downs in in by having mom or dad or uncle or cousin or whoever they're constantly giving advice or asking what's going on or in meddling in the team at some point there's a a level that you get to where they need to stay away and let those kids develop because falling down as necessary to building a better a better driver and so we're not. We don't approach this. We never have when we put kids even eat. The bell thing was probably the only time we ever approach something with such a naive approach that it was kind of ridiculous in the respective like well you got five races good luck and then kind of see what happens for the most part you get a certain amount of racism. We're just trying to observe. How are how you develop an again? You start you're probably here and we're hoping you're just a little bit higher and earn. You're getting a little better each time. And then you get to a spot where you really got us for producing but you got to build that in and so there's a lot of parents who struggle with that they they and this is me too. I've seen my kid play their best volleyball game. Their best soccer game best football game. These parents have seen their kid race. Perfect braces and they expect to happen every time they race. And it's just not going to. It's not the way that these people are built. Typically unless they're just happen to be that good and so there's a there's a transition of them learning how to compete. Then there's the just dealing with seventeen eighteen year old stuff and not going to prom or dating or all that kind of stuff that like it or not affect everybody's abilities and it affects their races and then are the mature enough to deal with it. Are The parents mature enough to let them go like no one is in bill? Bill Huddle Right. There is no dad going no. I'm Tom's Dad. I'm just going to hang out and see if the coach is doing good job like no one. Does that in our sport? It's amazing how many people think that they know more about a car than Keith. Coons or they know more about a car. Then Billy Venturini right. It's just you know so so there's some of that there's also the kind of unlucky misfortune that happens as a in racing right. I mean you're in a car and something breaks or someone cuts you off. There was a bad pitstop like we assess all of that so for mark scam point. I understand happened in the race. That allows you to win or lose. I know that if everybody wrecked in front of you and you drove through it one race. That's great but I also know that you didn't win the race in the traditional sense you want it at the end of it with the wave and flag and you crossed but the other six people watered it up and turn three right so there is a value to that. When we're analyzing races now the thing is that are racing is extremely expensive so I can kind of understand especially for the parents who have money involved that this stuff becomes very frustrating. So we're in a very weird situation of that where we get trusted a lot to help make decisions into to guide the good thing. I think for what we provide is there is no. I have nothing other than what I want for. Which is what I want for Toyota and I went for the kid. I JUST WANNA win. I WANNA compete. Ought to be competitive. I WANT THEM TO DEVELOP. I them to win races. We don't make anything off of this. There's no financial compensation it comes to us. I have no alterior motive other than winning races. So that part of it I think I really does linus up with the kids very well with the parents. But once you can kind of navigate to where an and if you look at this for the most part the parents who have learned to let go their kids typically are the ones who who've gone on and they're the ones who continually get better because that at that point that drivers making the decision. I WANNA raise. I WANNA be here. I'm the one who does this. I'm GonNa give it everything I got in the parents who've kind of let that happen there have been the most successful. The parents who feel the need to drive every moment to be part of everything and to make sure that kid knows when they get out out of the car that they're hearing their dad's voice reminds waste. Those typically. Don't make my mom always points out to me. I would not be the kind of I would like to work with Tunisia. Soccer Games toomey car rides home. My mom knows. I told her that she's exactly right. I I would say the jacket not so much a as twin when these kids are young in there before they can leave the house they need to be with their parents and they are but as these kids begin to get eighteen nineteen years old at some point the parents have to trust them and have to let them be adults and Jack and and the other group of people that are in our in our program are a safe set of adults to be able to do that. They will hold their kids accountable in a very fair way but they will be real with them as well. That's not acceptable. Behavior period that continues. Then these are the consequences of it but at the same time. They're there for the Jack. I know. That was a mechanical. I know you should have won that race in the backmarker took you out on the last lap from my perspective you won that race again. You don't have the trophy but we understand And again sometimes. The parents can't can't do that and and those those parents who who can enjoy it with their kids but not forced their kids. Those are the those are the best parents. The off the track stuff named the came up at the outset of our conversation here. Obviously Kyle Larson is remembered as being true to driver at the beginning of his career and moved on to other things and unfortunately had his ride disappear. I'm sure that you could point to all sorts of teachable moments like that throughout NASCAR history. That's a really recent one. How much time do you spend with kids that are in your program and say look? We're really concerned about how you drive on the racetrack. But you have to understand those real world consequences for what gets said or done outside the car there are few scared straight conversations that typically get get had revolve around all kinds of things. I think you could imagine that happens but yeah I mean it's it's difficult because you know especially with the kids are these kids don't realize how many people are listening and how many people are are paying attention to everything and how far back people will go to find something so you know. We've had kids that. Were fourteen years old and said something mildly inappropriate that suddenly come back in a board meeting and get brought up in A. Did you know that this was said seven years ago when they were thirteen So we do a lot of teaching moments with that Actually Golan does the PR for us. Eight they help out with putting some things together. We bring in people who are specifically geared towards that we've brought in media people to communicate to the kids even how to engage in some of that the hard part though real really though nate is you know. Obviously there's an appropriate inappropriate way to communicate but we also want them to be who they are in trying to navigate that there is something about being older That we lose what I have words. My kids use now. I don't know what they mean. And so what? What is considered bad? And what isn't considered bad? Obviously the obvious ones are definitely talked about But even you look at the way you know some of these kids text and you wonder if they got through sixth grade English right. But it's just a different way of communicating so for us. We we educate as much as we can We obviously so when bubba Wallace rage quit and and I thought it was absolutely hilarious and obviously sponsored did not but I only thought it was funny because I I love sports and so we rage. Quitting is a thing that they say so to hear the announcers on Fox say it was was great joy saying rage quiz. Might join man like squid like it was awesome but it then that then blue EMU comes outright and and so I am easily texted eighteen kids in our td to list and said just to be clear. People are watching this so you may be racing but if you're putting JBL or mobile or Toyota on your car you need to think these things through. Because I'm sure above did not mean it that way like it was just ridiculous in like I get it like I when I played Mike. Tyson's punch out man. I turned off the game all the time. So there's a certain amount of that that I understand but under a microscope that gets turned into a little bit more so so we just. We definitely speak to that. There's there's quite a few emails that come out and texts that come out mainly texts as can't read emails but mainly Mexico out. Well it's funny. They just don't use like they're not like old guys. We're all emailing each other. And that's just not the way they're communicating instrument. That's it just messaging. Yeah Yeah. Gm Yeah it's it's literally we have a private channel to communicate. It's hilarious like I mean it's just it's kind of the way it needs to be but but a lot of them it's funny and maybe it's sad right but like they're they've learned it already like that they've seen it. They've seen it with the kids at school. They seen it. You know whatever that even with them their themselves saying something and then suddenly getting you know 'cause even things that we think are benign. You know that. Are you know you go out and you do this every day? And it's it is but for whatever reason in your in your environment that's an acceptable way to to do something and then you go to southern California. That's not necessarily so. A lot of them have kind of learned that in a very small way. Nothing heavy but just kind of going. Gosh why would someone be mad that I was plinking in my backyard? It's a metal things well in. Somebody's mad that you're shooting a gun you know and it's like you know. Everybody has their thing so you kind of have to. You can't keep everybody happy in the real sense of the day-to-day parts of it. Obviously there are some extreme examples. Like Kyle's that are that that go over the line. Obviously but for us a lot of it is just trying to be thoughtful of. How would you WANNA be talked to if your grandma was in the room? Would you say that with her in the room if you wouldn't then you probably shouldn't be saying we want them to have personality? Jacqueline teases me. Because I'm usually the one who wants who wants it to be a little bit more. Pc but at the end of the day you know we do need personality right because and basis is diverse and so we need some personality in the mix and so certainly I'm not condoning what Said but by the same token we're not asking them all to be exactly the same in this cookie cutter robot kind of white either we need to relate to fans and build those those interactions in a in a healthy and positive way neck tattoos nate. That's what I'm looking for. I'm looking for lead. Driver IS GONNA come out just chatted up like I am terrified terrified that he says there's somebody is going to do this just because they heard him say it we're going to have. The parents is the next seven time. Even got a tattoo for you Jack. It's GonNa feel guilty and give them some races because he's got a neck tattoo. Oh Man Listen. Supercross does it. I don't know like Nascar. Nobody has twos if they do. They're hidden so it's a fair point. It's a fair point you're right. We have these guys show their personalities. That's the way I'm sensing the yen in the end of the Jack Irving Tyler Gibbs good cop bad cop saying insane whatever. Yeah so I'm hoping I get to see this at a racetrack again in the future. What is the prognosis for Jack? Irving and Tyler Gibbs getting back to racetracks. We see you in the Carolinas anytime soon. What's the plan as soon as possible? We're under the same restrictions as everybody else and certainly. Once those begin to open up we will be back as quickly as we can. Yeah it's it's crazy just so different harding crazy times noisy thompson. Did we appreciate you guys both give much your time? You're inside really enjoyed this conversation. Learn a lot thanks again. This was all along condo. I appreciate guys making time in a busy schedule. Thanks nate they are. Thanks again to Tyler Gibbs and Jack Irving for giving us a lot of their time to talk driver development in Nascar and also thanks to Lisa Hughes Candy for setting up the conversations before we get out of here. This is of course normally a big week for auto racing. We do have the Coca Cola. Six hundred coming up Sunday on Fox the Indianapolis five hundred though. We'll have to wait until August. Twenty third on C. But this is still race week in a way at Indianapolis Motor speedway and NBC will be broadcasting a back home again special. Sunday at two. Pm Looking back at the thrilling two thousand Nineteen Indianapolis five hundred finish host. Mike tirico be joined by winners Simon Patio. And runner-up Alexander Rossi to recall the highlights of that memorable ending at the brickyard should be a good time so check that out. Replay of the two thousand. Nineteen Indy five hundred Sunday at two. Pm EASTERN ON NBC THE NASCAR and ABC. Podcast is available on Apple. Podcasts stitcher Google play. Spotify please leave a rating and review if you're listening on apple podcast. That really helps us out in spraying the word and as always you have any feedback you can send me on. Twitter at Nate Ryan is my handle. Thanks again for listening to the NASCAR NBC podcast.

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