Where Joe Gibbs stands on dirt racing for Christopher Bell, Chase Briscoe

While signing with Joe Gibbs Racing will surely be a major boost to his NASCAR Cup Series ambitions, it may come at the expense of everything Chase Briscoe enjoys doing on dirt tracks in open wheel cars for the foreseeable future.

It’s no secret that the eponymous team owner does not like his drivers racing on dirt in their free time. It was a point of contention to Tony Stewart when he raced there and Christopher Bell has faced obstacles over the past half-decade too.

But Gibbs’ NASCAR equipment is amongst the best in the discipline, and he pays some of the highest salaries as well, so it’s generally a worthwhile endeavor when the Super Bowl winning head coach turned Cup Series championship team owner comes calling.

So, what is his current dirt policy for Bell and Briscoe?

“What we’ve developed here, if someone wants to run a race outside of our Cup stuff and everything, they just come to us,” Gibbs said during a press conference introducing Briscoe on Tuesday. “They go to the crew chief first and then they go to our competition guy Michael and then we all talk it over. It has a lot to do with the car and the race track and we’ll make a decision to go forward.

“There will be times, but definitely, we’ll use common sense. That’s the way we’ve developed a little plan moving forward because I know it’s important to them.”

For a while, it seemed like Bell had finally broken through and raced a good bit in his free time from 2020 to 2022 but then DJ VanderLey, a racer turned Stewart-Haas engineer, was paralyzed in a Micro Sprint race promoted by the Cup Series contender at the Texas Motor Speedway Dirt Track and everything changed.

Bell told World of Outlaws contender David Gravel on his YouTube channel in January 2023 that he was prohibited from dirt racing for the time being, including the past two Chili Bowl Midget Nationals, under orders from the boss.

“Joe is very vocal about me not dirt track racing, for the time being. And he doesn’t love it at all,” Bell said to Gravel. “I had a great relationship with Coy Gibbs (Joe’s son) and my dirt track racing was funneled through there.” 

Coy Gibbs died in November 2022 while attending the NASCAR championship weekend at Phoenix Raceway.

As for Briscoe, he still hopes to race some but his Sprint Car and Midget program is operated by his dad, veteran racer Kevin Briscoe, as a development program of sorts.

“I’ve been having way more fun on the owner side rather than the driver side.” Briscoe told FloRacing over the weekend in New Hampshire. “I’ve only run seven or eight races this year. My dad has been running the program day to day, Karter Sarff has done a really good job, I hope to continue to build that program.”

Bell has recently returned to dirt, but it was a one-off appearance in a Micro Sprint at Millbridge Speedway in North Carolina, a low speed, short bullring so that doesn’t answer much in terms of Sprint Cars or Midgets.

The current JGR policy is also different from that at Hendrick Motorsports, which allows Kyle Larson to race everything from Sprint Cars, Midgets and Late Models to the Indianapolis 500 last month, sponsoring his efforts along the way.

It has also permitted Alex Bowman to race on dirt and William Byron to race pavement Super Late Models.

Matt Weaver is a Motorsports Insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter.

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