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At only 20 years told, Gibbs – the grandson of NFL and NASCAR Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs – has already enjoyed enormous success in NASCAR’s lower divisions.
He won the 2021 ARCA Menards Series title behind the strength of 10 wins and accumulated 18 victories in 47 starts. He also won in his first Xfinity Series start that season and ended the year with four wins in 18 starts.
Last year running fulltime Xfinity with Joe Gibbs Racing was more of the same, as he won seven races, including the championship race at Phoenix, and claimed his first series title.
Ty Gibbs, Joe Gibbs Racing, Monster Energy Toyota Supra celebrates his win
Photo by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images
Kyle Busch’s departure from JGR provided the opportunity to move Gibbs to Cup this year – perhaps earlier than anyone expected.
But can a driver who is used to turning into Victory Lane on a regular basis suddenly accept that running 16th may be a good day on the Cup side?
Both Gibbs and his crew chief, Chris Gayle, believe he can.
“For me, I don’t really try to look at expectations. It doesn’t really bother me. I work as hard as I can and I want to do the best I can every single weekend,” Gibbs told Motorsport.com. “If my best is winning the race, then it’s winning the race. If it’s finishing 10th, then it’s finishing 10th.
“I don’t go into any race and say, ‘I can’t win,’ unless we get damage or something like that happens. I’ll dream as big as I can dream and keep working as hard as I can.”
One of the biggest challenges Gibbs has faced so far is the difference in competition between the Xfinity and Cup series.
“I think it’s just a different style of racing. I think the racing is a little harder in Xfinity. In Cup, it’s a little bit more respectful, I think,” he said. “The Cup guys are a lot more mature, a lot more talented.
“But I also think the Cup guys look more at the bigger picture. I think looking at the bigger picture is very important and that’s something I’ve learned and will keep learning the longer I’m in the series.”
Gayle, who has served as crew chief to a young Cup driver previously (Erik Jones), said the pitfalls that came from the competition change on the Cup side can weigh heavily on newcomers.
“It’s a tough spot to be in, especially if you get down on yourself. He’s won all these races in Xfinity and to step up now and the competition level is so high – I don’t want to ever dampen his fire,” Gayle said of Gibbs.
“He has that internally and he wants to go be competitive right now. What I basically have to have conversations about is, here is kind of where we should be and we’re still on course, even if we haven’t achieved these super-high lofty expectations that most rookies never do.
“Every driver wants to set the bar higher.”
Finding his footing
In the very early going this season, Gibbs has made the most out of difficult situations.
He struggled in his Daytona qualifying race but ended up running well in the Daytona 500 until a blown tire late in the event. Last weekend at Auto Club Speedway, he was on course for a top-10 finish but got caught up in a big chain-reaction wreck on a restart. He rallied to finish 16th in a heavily damaged car.
So far this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Gibbs is off to a good start. He was third-fastest in his practice session Saturday and qualified fourth for Sunday’s race.
“I think it’s going pretty well. I think the nice thing about doing this transition from one series to the other is there is a comfort and familiarity there,” Gayle said. “I kind of know what Ty expects, his personality, how he reacts to things, even if that’s in the shop or outside of the car. I think that’s the part that has been easy for me.
“I don’t think we’ve had too many chances to really show what we can do yet, but I feel like we’ve shown flashes of speed here and there and that’s encouraging.”
Gibbs’ path to fulltime in the Cup series has already had its share of difficulties.
Last fall, he took a lot of criticism for a late-race move that wrecked his JGR teammate and gave him the win in the Xfinity race at Martinsville, Va.
He rebounded the next week with a near-perfect performance in the championship race at Phoenix. However, just hours after Gibbs claimed the series title, his father Coy Gibbs, the vice chairman and COO at JGR, died unexpectedly at age 49.
“I’d be lying if I said you couldn’t tell with him that a lot went on in the offseason,” Gayle said. “Distracted is not the right word but he was consumed with a lot of that as any of us would be.
“I think actually getting back to racing has helped him to have more of a weekly structure now. I think that kind of structure is better for him and as it becomes more consistent, that has helped.”
When it comes to earning the respect of his fellow competitors on the track, both Gibbs and Gayle believe his actions on the track will be the final determiner.
“The bigger picture, again, is the most important part,” Gibbs said. “I’m going to be racing these guys for a long time and I respect basically all of them. I like being around them and have been around them basically my whole life.
“Racing them every week is a new thing. It’s kind of cool racing guys like Kevin Harvick and other veterans like that. It’s special to me.”
Added Gayle: “There’s certain guys in the Cup field that have watched (Martinsville last fall) and will have a certain impression. They’re paying attention to your past and they may be on the fence one way or other.
“There are others who will let him start with a clean sheet and judge him on what he’s doing now and will race him how they see him race them. I would hope most guys would give him that benefit this year.
“He learns from all his mistakes. He’s had to live with conversations here and stuff that happens in the media that gets out there. He wants to be a tough racer and he wants to race guys hard but he also wants to race cleanly in the end. Every driver has to balance that.”
Ty Gibbs, Joe Gibbs Racing, He Gets us Toyota Camry
Photo by: Matthew T. Thacker / NKP / Motorsport Images
Gibbs insists that regardless of the circumstances, he’s remained committed starting off this season – and the opportunity it presents – in the best way possible.
“I stayed in the game the whole winter and worked as hard as I can to study the nature of this racing and study the car and get as much experience as I could before getting in the car at Daytona,” he said.
“I’ve learned from the things that have happened in the past, but you don’t sit there and dwell on it and talk about it forever. You can’t change the past. You can only change the future.
“You’ve just got to learn from the stuff you made mistakes on and keep working hard and learn from other people’s mistakes, as well. Use the world as your library.”