Standing behind the No. 41 transporter in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage, Tony Gibson didn’t look like a man who had undergone an emergency appendectomy just three days earlier.
In fact, Kurt Busch’s slimmed-down crew chief, who recently has lost considerable weight with help and encouragement from Jimmie Johnson, drew a quip from the six-time champion.
“Jimmie came over during practice and asked me, he said, ‘Man, you’re losing enough as it is—they don’t have to take body parts out,’” Gibson said Friday after opening practice at New Hampshire. “It’s not what I wanted to do, but it is what it is. We all get old, and stuff breaks.”
After experiencing stomach issues on Monday, Gibson finally went to the doctor.
“I got home (from Chicagoland) Sunday night, felt great, no problem, woke up about 2 in the morning, and my stomach hurt pretty good,” Gibson recalled. “But I’ve had ulcers all my life, so I didn’t think much about it.
“Went to work Monday. Worked Monday. Went home. But it never got any better. Then about 12 o’clock in the morning, the pain started moving into my right side a little bit. My wife’s like, ‘Look, you’re not going to sleep anyway, so you might as well go (to the doctor).’”
The trip to the doctor turned out to be timely.
“They did a CAT scan pretty quick, and that’s when they saw my appendix was pretty close to rupturing,” Gibson said. “They shipped me by ambulance over to the hospital, got me in there, put me in a room, and it wasn’t two hours later they were doing surgery.”
On Friday, Busch sent his plane to fly Gibson to the track. Doctors had advised the crew chief to stay home until Saturday, but his wife gave the go-ahead for the Friday trip.
“I could have (stayed home), but I ain’t built that way,” Gibson said. “I love this stuff. I love the sport. That’s why it’s going to be so hard for me to stay home when I do decide to do that. It’s going to be tough. I miss it.
“It would have been worse for me to sit home and watch it. The guys are more than capable of doing it without me, that’s for sure, but I just feel like we’re a team, and leave no man behind. They were texting me every day and all day today, and I just feel like I’ve got to be here to support them and pull my weight.”
Even if the weight has diminished noticeably over the past few weeks.