The 2022 NASCAR season can’t be a rollercoaster ride for Ty Gibbs. And that’s probably putting it mildly.
Performance-wise, it’s everything the 19-year-old grandson of legendary team owner Joe Gibbs wanted. But despite the wins and trophies, Ty Gibbs’ era was marred by controversy — mostly of his own making — and ended in tragedy with the loss of his father, Joe Gibbs Racing vice chairman Coy Gibbs, just hours after he win the Xfinity Series championship at Phoenix Raceway.
Although Gibbs has not spoken publicly since his father’s passing, he was in the news again on November 15 when Joe Gibbs Racing announced the company would promote him to a full-time drive in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2023 when he will replace Kyle Busch in the organization’s four-driver lineup.
Gibbs, who will campaign the No. 54 — his Xfinity Series number — instead of the No. 18 by Busch, is set to make its official JGR Cup debut at next year’s Daytona 500. While there is a segment of the population that believes Gibbs needs a second full year of Xfinity Series racing to smooth out some of his rough edges before going full-time in the sport’s premier division, this is not the case.
Next, we’ll look at three reasons why the teenager from Huntersville, North Carolina is Cup ready.
Ty Gibbs owns an impressive works team in the Xfinity Series
As the old saying goes: Numbers don’t lie. If that’s true, Ty Gibbs has done more than enough to solidify his Cup Series credentials in 2022.
His seven Xfinity Series race wins, 10 stage wins, and 990 laps led are second only to Noah Gragson — his arch rival and the driver he beat for the championship. Gibbs also recorded 23 top-10 finishes — 16 of them top-fives — to trail only Gragson and AJ Allmendinger in those categories.
Of course, Gibbs is no stranger to Victory Lane in the Xfinity Series even before the season begins. As a part-time Xfinity driver in 2021, Gibbs posted four wins in 18 starts — enough to convince his grandfather that he was ready to make the jump to full-time Xfinity Series competition in 2022.
Usually, when a driver enjoys back-to-back multiple-win seasons in the Xfinity Series, the next logical step in their career progression is Cup, so nothing about Ty Gibbs stepping up next season is not typical. Rather, it is to be expected.
Ty Gibbs stepped up to the plate when it mattered most
Ty Gibbs’ impressive numbers alone were enough to justify his promotion to the Cup Series with his grandfather’s organization. But arguably as important as the entire body of work was how Gibbs rose to the occasion in the biggest race of his life — the season-ending Championship 4 race at Phoenix, where he competed head-to-head for the title against three JR Motorsports drivers.
Unlike several other occasions during the season when Gibbs put himself — and others — in compromising positions on the race track, Gibbs drove a nearly perfect race in the Arizona desert, where he led 125 of the 200 laps from the pole and withstood a strong challenge in the second half of the event from JR Motorsports teammates Noah Gragson and Justin Allgaier to become the champion.
In contrast to the previous weekend at Martinsville, where Gibbs destroyed his teammate Brandon Jones to win in controversial fashion, the youngster stayed out of trouble in Phoenix after expressing deep regret in the days leading up to the race. about targeting his teammate on the final lap at Martinsville.
While this isn’t the first time in 2022 that Gibbs has apologized for having someone, his remorse seems sincere — and he’s made sure he doesn’t go out and make a similar mistake in Phoenix, where the The stakes could not be any higher and where he is under an intense microscope of scrutiny for his actions last week. Gibbs’ clean drive at Phoenix did not go unnoticed, even garnering praise from rival team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr., despite Earnhardt Jr.’s disappointment. that a JR Motorsports car was unsuccessful.
Ty Gibbs proved to be a quick study as Kurt Busch’s sub
The biggest curveball of Ty Gibbs’ 2022 season, at least on the race track, came in late July when 23XI Racing — an affiliate of Joe Gibbs Racing — tabbed him to fill in for Kurt Busch in the Cup Series race in Pocono.
Busch, who suffered a concussion in qualifying, did not know until the morning of the race that he would not compete, so Gibbs’ appointment to the No. 45 cars of 23XI could not have arrived on shorter notice.
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Despite being a clear disadvantage as a result of having no initial seat time in a Cup car, Gibbs finished a respectable 16th at Pocono and went on to record seven top-20 finishes in his 15 starts as a sub for the veteran Busch.
This experience will serve Gibbs well when he takes up full-time Cup racing next season for JGR, but, more importantly, it proved he can hold his own at the sport’s highest level.