On November 12, Suzuki Motor of America, Inc. announced the conclusion of its racing relationship with JGRMX.
JGR had been negotiating terms with Suzuki for the 2021 season, and the two sides were not able to come to an agreement. With JGRMX also still unable to secure a title sponsor, things looked bleak for the team. An Instagram post this evening--timed to coincide with Suzuki's announcement--indicates the team is no longer. The squad thanked the fans for 13 years of support.
This is yet another big blow to the motocross racing industry, following the closing of the GEICO Honda race team from earlier in this off-season.
The Joe Gibbs Racing MX team was established for the 2008 racing season. The team was owned by the Gibbs family and JGR Racing, which operates a top-flight squad in NASCAR. Run by Coy Gibbs, the son of Joe, the NFL Superbowl winning coach, the team attempted to usher NASCAR thinking and locations into the world of AMA supercross and motocross. Coy based his team in North Carolina instead of a traditional California spot, however, it did bring in veteran motocross faces to run the operation, including Team Manager Jeremy Albrecht.
JGR started as a Yamaha support team, with Josh Summey and Josh Hansen named as its first two riders. For the squad's second season in 2009, the team quickly scored its first victory with a legendary Anaheim 1 run for Josh Grant.
JGRMX began to set its sights on championships, especially when the team was upgraded to become Yamaha’s sole 450 factory squad. JGR signed James Stewart for the 2012 season, launching the deal with a splashy press conference at its NASCAR Cup shop, and even painting a NASCAR race car with Stewart’s number 7. But the Stewart season was short-lived, as he scored two race wins, first at Oakland and then Daytona, before crashing out of the next event in Indianapolis. He wouldn’t race for the team again, as instead the sides agreed to sever the relationship, and Stewart returned to the circuit during the AMA Motocross Championship on a Suzuki. However, 2012 had a silver lining when Davi Millsaps went through a late-season surge, taking his Yamaha to second in the 450SX standings. Millsaps also left to ride a Suzuki in 2013. JGR went ahead by bringing Grant and Justin Brayton back to the team for a second run.
Justin Barcia became the team’s next big signing for 2015, bringing him over from factory Honda. Barcia was injured in supercross, but did win two AMA Pro Motocross Nationals that summer. He never battled for a championship as hoped, though. Then, JGR’s Yamaha relationship changed when the manufacturer resumed its own factory race team operations for the 2017 season. The Yamaha factory team offered big money to Cooper Webb, a North Carolina native who had ridden with JGR engines in his amateur days. JGR had been waiting for a home grown talent, but with Webb instead moving to the reborn factory Yamaha team, JGR choose to leave the Yamaha fold, switching to Suzukis for 2017. When the RCH Suzuki team—which was Suzuki’s factory race team—then later folded at the end of 2017, JGR was upgraded to become the Suzuki factory squad, and added a 250 team. The results never came, though, as the team was continually hit by injuries. Weston Peick, considered an anchor for the squad, went down in a scary crash at the Paris Supercross that ultimately ended his career. Justin Hill, at the time the defending 250SX West Champion, won a race in his title defense for the team, but the rest of his results were mixed, aside from one amazing night in Tampa when he made his 450 debut, and ran up front before crashing.
JGR’s 450 hopes for 2020 were pinned on Joey Savatgy, but injuries again foiled those plans, as he crashed during practice at the Aus-X Open Supercross in Australia, sustaining a foot injury that kept him out of supercross. Alex Martin provided a consistent presence in the 250 class, but the season ended in bleak fashion: Martin, Savatgy and Fredrik Noren were all injured and out after practice at Fox Raceway.
JGR was placed in a tough spot for several reasons. It had run without a title sponsor for multiple seasons after Autotrader.com parted ways with the team. Suzuki’s support has wavered. Prior to the 2019 season, the brand was trying to cut the budget, and JGR was potentially in jeopardy again, but the team had a contract and Suzuki honored it. The same rumors came to a head again with Suzuki negotiations for 2021. Combine those factors with the economic disaster that was COVID-19 and 2020 in general—which surely had an adverse on the NASCAR side as well—and survival was not possible.
After more than a dozen seasons, Coy Gibbs has had to step away from his dream of owning and operating a motocross team.