Jan. 12 (UPI) -- J.D. Gibbs, co-founder of Joe Gibbs Racing with his father, the former NFL coach for which it was named, died Friday after suffering for the last four years from a degenerative neurological disease.
"It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our co-founder, leader, and friend, J.D. Gibbs, who passed away earlier this evening at the age of 49 from complications following a long battle with a degenerative neurological disease," the motorsports team posted on Facebook.
J.D. Gibbs founded the NASCAR team with his father, Joe, in 1992. He remained as president until 2015 when the team announced he had begun treatment for symptoms affecting areas of brain function, including speech and processing issues.
Doctors determined that the cause was "head injuries likely suffered earlier in life," but no specific injury was known.
He was defensive back and quarterback at the College of William & Mary from 1987 to 1990, participated as race car driver and was involved other at-risk activities.
"I wasn't really stellar from an athletic standpoint," J.D. Gibbs told the Richmond Times-Dispatch in 2006. "So for me to go into business, starting a family business with my dad, was really great. I'm glad we had a chance to do that together."
He was a tire-changer for JGR in its earliest years, including a Daytona 500 win with Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett in 1993. He had 13 NASCAR national series starts from 1998-2002.
Under the younger Gibbs' leadership, JGR won four NASCAR Cup titles: Bobby Labonte in 2000, Tony Stewart in 2002 and 2005 and Kyle Busch in 2015.
"We were privileged to watch J.D. Gibbs grow within the sport, displaying an endearing personality, a keen eye for talent and the strong business acumen that helped grow Joe Gibbs Racing into a preeminent NASCAR team," NASCAR Chairman Jim France said in a statement. "The NASCAR family has lost a truly special member.
Another driver, Denny Hamlin, has credited J.D. Gibbs with giving him his first opportunity to compete in NASCAR.
He posted on Twitter "His car. His number. His signature above my door. I will always be grateful for what His family did for mine and the opportunity he gave me 14 years ago. Now more than ever #doitforJD."
Since 2015, another son, Coy, has helped run the race team.