J.D. Gibbs, co-chairman of Joe Gibbs Racing, died Friday after a long battle with a degenerative neurological disease. Gibbs was 49.

“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Joe Gibbs Racing Co-Founder and Co-Chairman, J.D. Gibbs, who passed away earlier tonight at the age of 49 from complications following a long battle with a degenerative neurological disease. Joe Gibbs Racing appreciates everyone’s respect for privacy of the Gibbs family during this difficult time. Additional information regarding details for a memorial service will be forthcoming at a future date.”

Joe Gibbs Racing

During Gibbs’ longtime association with JGR, he also served on pit crews and drove in 13 NASCAR races from 1997 to 2002, five in the Xfinity Series and eight in the truck series. His best finish was 20th in an Xfinity race at South Boston (Virginia) Speedway in July 1998.

Health issues for Gibbs, the eldest son of Joe Gibbs, first became a concern late in 2014. It was revealed in March of 2015 that J.D. was battling the disease. He was serving as president of JGR at the time. Speaking to reporters before a Cup race at Martinsville Speedway. “We’ve been dealing with this for about six months,” Joe Gibbs said, “and basically what the doctors say is that they really don’t know.” In a statement earlier that week, JGR revealed Gibbs had been receiving treatment for “symptoms impacting areas of brain function.” The statement said, “Doctors believe the complications he has experienced were triggered by head injuries likely suffered earlier in life, but no specific injury was referenced or identified.”

Gibbs, whose personality made him a favorite in the NASCAR community, knew early on his future wasn’t as a driver.

“If it was just me, I could be a pretty good racer, but then you put 42 other cars out there and that causes some issues.”

J.D. Gibbs

In 2014, Gibbs displayed that same sense of humor, when he said, “My dad, he fired me in a nice way. He gave me an office and said, ‘Hey, you’re now the president, because you’re a horrible driver.’”