Inevitably, a changing of the guard among the owners of NASCAR’s premier teams is going to occur in the next few years. In some cases, the transition of power is already in progress.
With team owners Roger Penske, Jack Roush, Joe Gibbs, Richard Childress, and Rick Hendrick all over the age of 72, Father Time isn’t on their side. And it’s only a matter of when, not if, someone younger and more vibrant takes the helm.
But who will succeed these five NASCAR Hall of Fame team owners at their respective organizations, and what’s the expected timetable for them passing the torch? We’ll explore this topic next.
More questions than ever surround Joe Gibbs’ future as race team’s leader
As the only member of both the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Joe Gibbs has accomplished more in his lifetime than most people could even dream of.
Sadly, Gibbs has also endured more than his share of tragedy, having lost both of his sons — JD Gibbs and Coy Gibbs — at the age of 49. After JD’s passing in early 2019 from a degenerative neurological disease, Coy Gibbs assumed a larger role in the day-to-day operations of Joe Gibbs Racing and was expected to eventually replace his father as the organization’s chief executive officer.
But, sadly, Coy died unexpectedly on November 6, 2022, leaving the entire organization shattered by the sudden loss of its vice chairman and chief operating officer.
With no natural successor now in line to replace Joe Gibbs — who founded JGR in 1992 and turns 82 on November 25 — it’s really anyone’s guess who will ultimately fill the void when the five-time Cup Series champion team owner decides to step away.
And it’s also harder than ever to predict when Gibbs will retire. Prior to Coy’s death, it stood to reason that Gibbs might pass the mantle to his youngest and only living son sooner rather than later. But with Coy no longer around, Joe Gibbs might be inclined to hang around for a good while longer so he can groom someone else for the CEO role.
It seems safe to predict that Ty Gibbs — Joe’s grandson and Coy’s son — will eventually become the team’s top executive, but Ty — whom JGR recently announced will go full-time Cup racing in 2023 — is just 19 years old and has a lot of learning and maturing to do before he’ll be ready to take on such a major responsibility.
Despite his aging bones, Roger Penske shows few, if any, signs of slowing down
At age 85, Roger Penske is the oldest team owner in the NASCAR Cup Series. The legendary founder of Team Penske — which fields both NASCAR and IndyCar programs — has been involved in motorsports for 56 years, winning multiple championships at every level at which his teams have competed.
While Penske appears to be in decent health — he was present and highly visible at Phoenix Raceway, where Joey Logano delivered Team Penske’s third Cup Series championship earlier this month — it’s hard to imagine “The Captain,” as he’s nicknamed, continuing in his present role that much longer.
The most likely successors to Penske in the organization’s primary leadership position are executive vice president Bud Denker and team president Tim Cindric — who is the father of 2022 Daytona 500 winner and Cup Series playoff qualifier Austin Cindric.
Rick Hendrick has already put the wheels in motion for life after him at Hendrick Motorsports
At age 73, Rick Hendrick is the youngest of the NASCAR Cup Series’ aging crop of elite team owners. Ironically, he’s also the owner who’s probably most prepared to hand over the reins.
Hendrick — whose drivers have won a record 14 Cup Series championships — entered the sport in 1984 with All-Star Racing, which became Hendrick Motorsports, and has won 291 races at the sport’s highest level. The driver responsible for 93 of those wins — Jeff Gordon — has been Hendrick Motorsports’ vice chairman since January 1, 2022, and is second only to Rick Hendrick in the company’s leadership pecking order.
When Rick Hendrick steps away from the sport, which will likely happen sometime in the next 5-7 years, Gordon will become the organization’s chief executive — which Rick Hendrick has said on multiple occasions is the succession plan.
Any plans Richard Childress had of exiting the ownership stage have likely been delayed
Like the rest of the Cup Series’ top team owners, Richard Childress — at 77 years old — is no spring chicken. A winner of six Cup Series championships with the late Dale Earnhardt, Childress was enshrined in the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2017 but maintains an active presence in the Cup Series garage.
Any thought of Childress stepping aside anytime soon probably went out the door in September when he signed two-time Cup champion Kyle Busch to a multi-year contract as the driver of the No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet beginning next season. Childress’ oldest grandson, Austin Dillon, is the driver of RCR’s other full-time Cup entry and likely has at least another 8-10 years of racing still in him.
Childress obviously would love to remain in charge at RCR as long as Austin is driving and for the duration of Busch’s time with the company. So barring a health situation that could force him to hang it up earlier than he’d prefer, Childress will probably stick around until at least age 85. When he does decide to move on, look for his son-in-law, Mike Dillon — Austin’s father and a longtime RCR executive — to take over.
Jack Roush is inching closer to retirement, and his likely successor is quite familiar
A two-time plane crash survivor, Jack Roush is NASCAR’s ultimate man of steel, if there ever was one. However, the 2019 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee and two-time Cup Series champion team owner hasn’t been quite as visible at the track in recent years, and it seems that he’s already passed off a good number of his responsibilities as team owner to Brad Keselowski and others within the organization’s executive leadership.
Look for Roush — a noted mathematician and engineer whose drivers have won 138 races since he entered the sport in 1988 — to fade even more into the background over the next few years as Keselowski takes on an even more prominent role.
Keselowski, who became both a driver for and co-owner of the organization at the beginning of 2022, seems vested in doing whatever it takes to return the company to its glory days when it was a perennial frontrunner. So whenever Roush opts to retire, which will probably be sooner rather than later, look for Keselowski to slide over into the CEO’s chair.