The elephant in the room heading into Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series season finale at the Phoenix Raceway is Ty Gibbs. The lone representative outside of the JR Motorsports stable has a dark cloud surrounding his 20-year-old stature. It was the talk of the day from the Phoenix Convention Center to which one driver said what he feels like everybody’s thinking about Joe Gibbs’ grandson, who also is supremely talented and yet also extremely immature.
“I’m just voicing my opinion that I don’t like him,” Gragson said on Thursday morning from the Arizona capital. “I’m just sick and tired of the, ‘I’m sorry, I’m trying to learn’ deal. It’s been two years. … I think all of us are definitely over being the pinball for him.
“He doesn’t care. He lives in fantasyland. I have no clue honestly what goes through his mind. It’s got to be badass to live in the kind of world where you just have no real consequences or anything.”
This recent drama stems from Gibbs’ run-in with a teammate of all people during last Saturday’s playoff race at the Martinsville (VA) Speedway. Gibbs admits that he knew that by time the race neared it’s conclusion, that he was aware that he was already into the Championship 4 on points. Nothing would take him out. He also said he was aware that the only way for Brandon Jones, his teammate, to join him in the final round, was to win.
Instead, Gibbs purposely kept Jones from winning.
“My actions put myself in this position and I just have to learn from it and move on, it’s just hard,” said the 20-year-old Gibbs, who will vie for his first NASCAR national series title against three JR Motorsports drivers – Noah Gragson, Josh Berry and Justin Allgaier – in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship Race (6 p.m. ET on USA Network, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Had Jones won the race last week, it would have been his ticket into the Championship 4 pitting a pair of JRM Chevrolets against a pair of JGR Toyotas. Now Gibbs – a six-time winner – will have to rise to the occasion representing his team on his own.
“I think the biggest thing is at JGR, we are all one big family and for me to kind of break that apart for my selfish actions really hurts me because I kinda grew up there,” Gibbs said. “And it’s not cool. These guys work so hard the whole year and it’s just hard, it’s a lot.”
Gibbs would not provide details but said he has spoken to Jones and “I can completely understand where he’s coming from, and I accept it. … I have to face the fact I made a mistake and have to work as hard as I can to fix these issues.”
Gibbs said he watched the television race highlights late last Saturday and that “it does affect me” watching the replay of a move he wishes he hadn’t made – and also hearing the loud and negative fan reaction when he emerged from this car.
Gibbs acknowledged the possibility that Jones or someone else in the field perhaps another competitor he’s had a past run-in with may do something to hurt his chances at a race win and the series championship. But Gibbs reiterated, “There’s nothing I can do about that.”
“You just have to transition your mind to that,” Gibbs said, of re-setting and preparing to race for the championship.
“For me, I love racing so much I can transition it pretty easy to my racing side, just because I love it,” Gibbs said. “And I feel like that’s a good trait I have but sometimes I make mistakes and have to own up to it and work as hard as I can to fix that as I do racing and studying data.”
Gibbs also fully concedes, wrecking his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate for the victory in last weekend’s championship field-setting race at Martinsville, Va. was not a “good look” and it had very real consequences for his family’s team.
Both his dad (Coy Gibbs) and grandfather (Joe Gibbs) said earlier this week that there would be repercussions from those actions and would be dealt with internally.
“Yeah, yesterday (Saturday) is disappointing,” said Coy Gibbs last weekend in Martinsville. “That’s not what we wanted for our race team. We haven’t met as a group yet because we’ve been at the racetrack and all over the place. We’re going to meet and deal with that internally and handle that.
“I agree with it, it would have been awesome to have two cars. I thought we had two cars today until a white missile went by at the last second.”
Joe Gibbs agreed.
“Yeah, I think what’s happened there is we’re working through all of that,” Joe Gibbs said of Ty Gibbs’ actions. “There’s a lot to it. We’re trying to — as a family and as a race team family, we’re trying to work through every single part of that. We’re still going through it, because it isn’t easy, everything that happened.
“We want to go about this the right way, and we are walking — I am, and our family is — with Ty as he walks through all of this.
“When tough things happen, and certainly nobody wanted that to happen, I said, now there’s consequences, and so we’re trying to walk through those with him. I was also there, and so I think a lot about that, too. There’s things that I could have done a better job of.
“So I think together, Ty is walking through it, I’m walking through it, and we’re still in that process.
“I think being aware of the circumstances is one thing. But there’s other things there, too. It was something that was heat of the battle. Everything is taking place. There was so much going on.
“I feel like I could have handled it better.
“I think that’s it. All of us certainly wish that it had never happened. We think the world of Brandon and his dad, J.R., so we’re just kind of committed to at this point go through all of this and try and do it in the right way. That’s what I think we’re all focused on.”
Does this give either Gibbs reservations of moving Ty up to a Cup ride next year?
“Yeah, I mean, I think when you’re young, you make mistakes. Hopefully you learn from ’em. I think that’s the message that we’ll deliver to him,” he said of that topic.
“Obviously with teammates, that’s a whole different ballgame. There’s a couple things we need to go over. Like I said, we haven’t met as a group yet. Our leadership group will meet and we’ll deal with the situation.
“I think that’s part of the process and why you work your way up, so you can make those mistakes typically at a lower level.
“So, you know, look, he’s my kid. I appreciate his aggression. But sometimes you got to pull back a little bit. This is a place where we need to pull back some.
“Just talked to him and explained to him that doing that affects not just him, it affects our whole company, all our sponsors, all the people we deal with, Toyota, obviously affected Brandon. Those are things maybe you’re not thinking of in that split second, but hopefully we can get with him and educate him on those things.”