DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Joe Gibbs joined the list of heavy hitters defending NASCAR during one of its shakiest periods in decades.

The owner of powerhouse Joe Gibbs Racing said NASCAR has a bright future and noted top-level companies would not participate if the sport were a sinking ship.

“You don’t get the biggest and best companies in America involved in our sport, and going as hard as they are and re-upping and signing unless you’ve got a sport that brings value to the table,” Gibbs said Saturday at Daytona International Speedway.

The season opens Sunday with the Daytona 500, the showcase piece of NASCAR’s 11-month schedule. In the buildup to this version of the Super Bowl, NASCAR has been under scrutiny for its leadership, a new sponsor that is mostly using models to market the series, and a new format that gives longtime fans another chance to scream in angst against gimmicks.

An article in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week spotlighted all of NASCAR’s concerns, which range from a decreased and aging audience to the cut rate Monster Energy is paying for title rights. The industry hit back with a sponsorship extension through 2023 between Team Penske, Shell-Pennzoil and Joey Logano, as well as an extension for Gibbs with FedEx and Denny Hamlin.

“We announced FedEx the other day, a long-term extension. We saw Shell come in and make a huge decision with Roger (Penske),” Gibbs said. “We have four Cup cars that are well funded, going to go like mad with some of the biggest and best sponsors in the world.”

The news wasn’t all renewals, though.

Nature’s Bakery filed a counterclaim two days before the Daytona 500 to the $31 million breach-of-contract suit Stewart-Haas Racing leveled over a severed relationship with Danica Patrick’s primary sponsor. One of the smallest companies to take on a primary sponsor role in the Cup Series, Nature’s Bakery was to pay $15 million a year for three years to have Patrick promote its fig bars and brownies.

Nature’s Bakery alleges SHR took advantage of its naivete in the sponsorship world and the company was led to believe it should expect four times the return for sponsoring Patrick’s car. Nature’s Bakery accuses the team of misrepresenting the strong health of NASCAR.

“Nature’s Bakery would later learn that these statements about NASCAR’s health were untrue, as NASCAR was undergoing retraction – something that SHR well understood,” the filing states. “SHR’s promises were illusory and misleading. There was no massive increase in sales. NASCAR viewership was retreating.”


Ryan Reed picked up the second Xfinity Series victory of his career – both at Daytona International Speedway – by winning the wreck-filled season-opener.

Reed held off Austin Dillon and Kasey Kahne in a two-lap overtime shootout to win in a Ford for Roush Fenway Racing. Reed’s only other career victory came in this race in 2015.

Kahne finished second in a Chevrolet for JR Motorsports, which had five cars in the field and a rough day because of all the accidents.