Gibbs lands final word with walk off Xfinity Series win and championship at Phoenix, my top 3 takeaways

AVONDALE, AZ — Ty Gibbs was the talk of the town this week for his actions in the final lap of the Round of 8 elimination race at the Martinsville (VA) Speedway. He purposely moved his teammate out of the lead for his own glory but in the process, it also kept his teammate out of a spot into the Championship 4.

Most figured there’d be no way Gibbs would win a championship a week later at the Phoenix Raceway. Between three JR Motorsports cars and even his own teammate could potentially take matters into his own hands, how could Gibbs beat them all in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series championship race?

Even with that said, he did.

Gibbs started on the pole and led a race-high 125 of 200 laps en route to his second straight win on the season, his 11th of his career and as a result, his first career championship.

“First off, I just want to say thank you to my team,” a joyous Gibbs said in front of a raucous chorus of boos. “Every one of these guys, my pit crew, they did an awesome job. They put us here. Great job to my team.

“You know, what I did last week was unacceptable, and I apologize once again, but it was unacceptable because we could have had two shots to win this deal, and it was stupid from an organization standpoint. All my fault.

“I can sit here and tell you I’m sorry as much as I can, but it’s not going to fix it. I’ve got to fix my actions. I felt like today I had a good race, felt like I made some good moves. Me and the 7 were racing really hard. I felt like hopefully we put on a great show for you guys, the fans, and thank you for all that you guys do.”

AVONDALE, ARIZONA – NOVEMBER 05: Ty Gibbs, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship at Phoenix Raceway on November 05, 2022 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

The 20-year-old grandson of Joe Gibbs beat the JRM cars in every facet.

On track, on restarts, on long runs, on short runs and in the pits. He was just flat out untouchable. It all started earlier in the day when he won his 8th career pole. That allowed him to pick the pivotal first pit stall and use that to his advantage when needed in the race.

With all the breathtaking side-by-side racing, lap after lap, the difference came down to performance on pit road. When the Championship 4 drivers pitted under the seventh caution on Lap 160, an 18.8-second stop dropped Gragson from third to eighth for a restart on Lap 165.

Gibbs’ crew, in contrast, had its best stop of the day—13.7 seconds—and grabbed the lead from Allgaier off pit road. 

After a subsequent caution for Brandon Jones’ spin off the bumper of Gragson’s No. 8 Chevrolet on Lap 165, Gragson gained five spots on a Lap 171 restart, soon passed Allgaier for second and launched a ferocious pursuit of the eventual race winner.

Gragson closed within two car lengths through Turns 3 and 4 with two laps left but couldn’t get to Gibbs bumper. He crossed the finish line .397 seconds behind Gibbs.

“I gave it my best,” Gragson said. “I drove my ass off and gave it everything I had. Just got beat…

“He (Gibbs) raced like a champion tonight. He deserved it.”

Allgaier rolled home in third place. Kaulig Racing teammates Landon Cassill and AJ Allmendinger were fourth and fifth, respectively.

Sheldon Creed, Riley Herbst, Daniel Hemric, Austin Hill and Sammy Smith completed the top 10.

Championship 4 competitor Josh Berry was running in the top four in the late going but contact with the backstretch wall shortly after the final restart on Lap 171 dropped him to 13th at the finish.

Respectful Racing

It would have come to no shock at all if Ty Gibbs got dumped at any course of the 200 lap Xfinity Series season finale. Would it come from Brandon Jones, his teammate that he wrecked out of the lead on the final lap of last week’s race? Would it come from Noah Gragson who himself admitted that he didn’t like Gibbs? Would it come from a whole cast of other drivers that Gibbs has stepped in the way of?

“Yeah, for sure,” Gibbs said on if he went into this race worried someone would take him out. “That’s out of my hands, and like I said, just kept my head down and raced really hard.”

That would never happen however. Maybe it was because Gibbs was in a zip code all to himself. He started on the pole, led 125 of 200 laps and swept every stage. However, when the JRM cars got close to him, and they did get close on several occurrences, it was good clean racing from all parties. No funny games. It was further proof that you can race hard and not crash each other in going for the same piece of real estate and the singular trophy waiting for you at the end of it.

“Yeah, I feel like we put on a good show,” said Gibbs. “I definitely know from inside the car it felt like there was a lot going on, and hopefully the fans enjoyed that.

“Yeah, really cool to be able to race them. It’s really cool to be able to race with them like that. I mean, we’re 25 percent versus 75 percent. That’s part of it, and we raced really hard, and we were on the other side of the outcome. We raced really clean and really hard all day. And there’s definitely times where all of us could have taken advantage of each other, but we didn’t, and we raced really good.

“Hopefully that puts — I earned some respect back, and hopefully the fans enjoyed it.”

It did with the JRM drivers. Noah Gragson still mentioned that he can’t stand Gibbs personally, but professionally, he respects the hell out of him.

“Because they did a good job. They beat us,” Gragson said on why he went to shake Gibbs’ hand after he was defeated by the JGR driver.

Gragson says that Gibbs can still grow from the past incidents, and that he did a great job on track on Saturday. They won the race fair and square today he noted.

” It takes great people around you to learn, and I think he is capable,” he noted. “He has the potential to learn. He’s a great race car driver, and I’ve been in those shoes, too, where it just seems like you can’t do nothing right, and it’s you against the world and whatnot. But at the end of the day, I think he’s got potential, and he hasn’t reached his full potential yet off the track.”

“Sometimes you’ve just got to put him back in his place a little bit. He races really, really hard, but really, really clean. And he raced like a champion tonight, and he deserves it.”

Allgaier agreed.

“Yeah, I think going to that, Noah said something earlier, is that we all make mistakes,” the Illinois native said. “We’ve all been there. We’ve all done that. How he comes out of this is going to be on him. Whether it be another year here, in the Cup Series.

“As Noah said, he did the best job of any of us tonight. When we all moved up to the top, he stayed on the bottom and he ran his line.

“You’ve also got to think like he’s super young, he’s lived a different lifestyle than Noah and I have, and he’s making decisions based on what he thinks is best. Is that decision always best? Probably not.

“But we’ve all been there, we’ve done that. He did a great job tonight. He ran the best race, and they had the best car. You can’t knock them for that.

“I’m disappointed. Again, I’m disappointed we couldn’t beat him, but I mean, I don’t — everybody talked all this week like oh, such-and-such is going to wreck the 54 this week. I knew nobody was going to do that. It was a matter of us coming in here and trying to race it out and go for broke, and we did.”

At one point, the duo made some late moves on each other but generally, no damage was done.

“I think one time we made like slight contact. I was pretty impressed because I felt like I tried to take as much room as I could without having contact,” said Allgaier.

“You know, especially on some of those late race restarts, Josh and I were talking about when we were walking over here, like I pulled a couple moves to try to get clear and get to the lead, and you never know how that stuff is going to do. He had the opportunity to stick it on my door and potentially driving as hard as I do, and if he does at that point potentially we both wreck.

“I thought he did a good job in that regard.

“But I also felt like we all — like I would say as a collective group, the four of us, I don’t know why we end up 1, 2, 3, 4 in these races, but you look at the history of this race, whether it be here, Homestead, whatever, the Final Four rise to the top, and we were all racing our guts out.

“It’s not that anybody lets you go, I don’t think. Maybe they did, I don’t know. Maybe I look at it differently.

“But just it was cool to have all four of us up there battling. Obviously I know Josh had his issue on the one restart, but it was cool to have us up there battling and have it be as clean as it was for tonight.”

AVONDALE, ARIZONA – NOVEMBER 05: Ty Gibbs, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship at Phoenix Raceway on November 05, 2022 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Is Gibbs Ready For Cup?

Joe Gibbs said this past week that he didn’t envision an announcement on the future of the 18 seat until after the 2022 season came to a close. That’s because he wanted to focus on the championship ahead. The reason this is being brought up though is because Kyle Busch’s final starts with JGR will occur on Sunday as he’ll depart for Richard Childress Racing in 2023.

The 18 car is open. It’s clear who that rides going to and even more so now that Ty Gibbs landed the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series championship on Saturday evening.

While it’s not officially confirmed, it’s going to happen.

After his actions last weekend however, the question came up if he was truly ready to do so. Now, after the way he handled himself over the past week which started having his maturity being questioned, ended with him celebrating a championship at the ripe age of 20.

That has him back on track to land that big promotion and lets be honest, it was never not going to happen. With the chorus of boos surrounding this young kid now, some say he’s not deserving of this opportunity. He can’t handle it. He’s a spoon fed grandchild of Joe Gibbs Racing and isn’t going to cut it.

However, like it or not, his stats speak a different language. He truly does have talent. Gibbs has 11 wins in just 51 Xfinity Series starts. He’s also won 18 of his 47 ARCA starts too.

That’s a 22% win rate in the Xfinity Series and 38% in ARCA. He had a 25% chance of winning Saturday’s race and did so.

Compare that to other big drivers in the Cup Series right now that was fast tracked to NASCAR’s premiere series and you’ll see that Gibbs’ stats trump all of theirs.

Joey Logano had just 19 NXS starts and 1 Truck start before moving up to replace Tony Stewart in the 20 car with JGR for the 2009 season. Kyle Larson had 33 Xfinity Series starts and only 6 Truck races under his belt before being with Chip Ganassi Racing for the 2014 Cup season. William Byron also had just 1 full year in NXS and 1 full year in Trucks before moving up with Hendrick Motorsports.

Gibbs has 51 starts which is more than any of those three made before they went full time Cup racing. Gibbs has more wins (11) than those 3 had combined (5). He has 25 top 5’s. Byron had 12, Larson 9 and Logano 5. His 1,234 laps led is more than the trio combined to lead too with Logano leading 278 laps, Byron 262 and Larson 102.

So is he ready?

David Wilson of Toyota sure seems to think so.

“Ty is ready. He’s there,” Wilson said. “Because of his last name, because of the race team that he races for, obviously he is under a microscope, and he is always going to face — he has faced this question of does he deserve to be there, how much is he there because of his family.

“Anyone who really watches the sport and watches what he has done can easily recognize that he’s earned his spot, and he’s ready to go to the next step. There’s nothing more he needs to do. There’s nothing more he’s going to learn at the Xfinity level, given how radically different these cars are to the next generation cars.

“If you want to get really analytical, the one thing that he doesn’t have perhaps are the number of reps that a lot of his peers have, and the reps really help you with race craft at his level.

“But my gosh, he is a talented, talented young man, and he’s going to do some great things in the sport.”

Wilson doubled down later saying that he feels he’s more than ready and capable but he gets the question on is he emotionally ready.

“The question is he emotionally ready perhaps, right? How many kids at 19 or 20 years old are emotionally ready? Probably, if you’re absolutely analytical, critical, you’d say no. These kids are getting married at that age. Are they ready to get married? I’m veering way off topic here.

“But what Ty has going for him is he has a family that loves him dearly. He has a manufacturer that believes in him. I believe that the lessons — I believe that there’s a silver lining from what happened last Saturday night, and those lessons learned, those tough lessons learned will serve him and toughen him and bring some humility that was necessary and needed to allow him to take that next step.”

Still, that didn’t stop Wilson of opening up and being honest to what he truly felt about Gibbs’ actions last Saturday in Martinsville. The race that Gibbs selfishly and immaturely pushed a teammate who absolutely had to win in order to get to the Championship 4, out of the way in order for himself to win.

That cost Joe Gibbs Racing as a whole. It also cost Toyota. Wilson wasn’t pleased.

“Well, it’s obviously been a tough week,” Wilson said. “It’s been a tough week for our family, Joe Gibbs Racing, Ty. So I’ve talked to Ty, and I’ve talked to his father and have spent a tremendous amount of time talking to his grandfather. I think any young person, any gifted individual, athlete is well served to try and remain humble and appreciate where they are and appreciate that they’re not racing for themselves, they’re racing for a team. They’re part of a team.

“Unfortunately I think Ty forgot that a week ago and didn’t understand the ramifications, the repercussions of his actions because they hurt his teammate, they hurt his team, they damaged our brand, and that was a tough, tough lesson.

“For us, the messaging going forward is about humility and teamwork and respect.”

Wilson says that what he saw out of Gibbs during Championship 4 Media Day on Thursday was the mindset that Gibbs has to keep.

“What I saw Thursday from Ty was some humility, and it felt to me like he spoke from his heart,” Wilson said. “Wasn’t over messaged. It was a good first step.

“Of course, words are one thing, and ultimately your character and your reputation is defined by your actions, and that will happen one race at a time, one lap at a time.

“Tonight, that young man drove his rear end off, and that was one heck of a race. I mean, that was an incredible race by Ty and Justin and Noah. They raced each other with respect. It was similar to last night; that was an incredible race, and everybody was — again, they did it right.

“Tonight was a great first step.”

He says that tonight isn’t a one race cure-all. It’s one race and not something that’s going to change much if he’s honest.

“You know, I don’t think you can — one race isn’t a cure-all. It’s one race.

“Now, tonight was amplified because it was a championship race. Really what I find pretty remarkable is how in the end he had to strap in tonight after one of the toughest weeks of his professional career and do a job and race against the best drivers in the sport, and he was able to compartmentalize and do his job.

“I don’t think he was out there holding the steering wheel worrying about racing the right way. I think he knows how to do that.

“But it was on a national stage. I think it was really important. It was a tremendous opportunity for him to demonstrate what he’s capable of, and as far as when he gets the opportunity to drive a Cup car, it’s a reset. Of course in the background, he’s been driving a Cup car, that 23 Cup car, and he’s got a pretty fast race car for tomorrow.

“But again, tonight was a great look, and we’re really happy for him, really happy with what he did tonight.

“I don’t think the black hat is planted firmly on his head just yet. I believe that through his actions, through his words, through his sincerity that he can recover and be who he wants to be, be who he believes he is.

“But honestly, that’s up to him. We’re going to have to see how that plays out over his career. He’s going to be arguably in the sport another 15, 20 years, we hope.”

AVONDALE, ARIZONA – NOVEMBER 05: Justin Allgaier, driver of the #7 BRANDT Chevrolet, Ty Gibbs, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, and Noah Gragson, driver of the #9 Bass Pro Shops/TrueTimber/BRCC Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship at Phoenix Raceway on November 05, 2022 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

JRM Shutout

Noah Gragson drove his car onto pit road following Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series championship finale, climbed out, slammed his helmet on the roof, put his hands on his hips and look downward in disappointment.

After a valiant battle – all 200 laps of the race at Phoenix Raceway – he finished runner-up to season-long rival Ty Gibbs – a mere .397-seconds away from the title capping a career-defining season of triumph and statistical career highlights.

It hurt. But Gragson remained buoyed by his career-best effort in NASCAR’s spotlight.

“Execution on pit stops, we just needed to be better as a Bass Pro Shops team, but still proud of everyone’s efforts,” Gragson said as his team surrounded his car and offered up pats-on-the-back and encouragement.

Moments later, he walked over on pit road and gave Gibbs a handshake – a major sign of respect considering the intense and fierce relationship between the two rivals, who raced so hard for the championship.

“They did a good job, they beat us,” the 24-year-old Gragson said of the gesture, adding, “I think he has the potential to learn. He’s a great race car driver and I’ve been in those shoes too.”

From the outside, this championship battle actually looked like a lop-sided advantage for Gragson’s JR Motorsports team, which fielded cars for three of the four title-eligible drivers. Veteran Justin Allgaier finished third, just behind Gragson and their teammate Josh Berry was 13th.

For much of the race the foursome – Gibbs, Gragson, Allgaier and Berry – were some combination of 1-2-3-4 on the racetrack, the truest of championship battles.

“I don’t know why we end up one, two, three, four in these races, if you look at the history of this race – whether it be here or [past Championship 4 site] Homestead (Fla.) whatever, the final four rise to the top and we were all racing our guts out,” Allgaier said.

“It’s not that anybody lets you go. Maybe I look at it differently, but it was cool having us all four up there battling, obviously I know Josh had that one issue on a restart, but it was cool having us all up there battling and having it as clean as it was tonight.”

“The hardest part is that no one from JR Motorsports went to Victory Lane,” he added. “I wanted it for everybody that works there. … we just got beat. But proud of everyone’s efforts all week long.”

With his runner-up effort Gragson finished the season with eight wins, 21 top-five and 25 top-10 finishes in 33 races, leading more than 1,000 laps. He will drive the No. 42 Petty GMS Chevrolet next year in the NASCAR Cup Series.

“I can lay my head down after restarting eighth with 25-30 to go and getting up to second and almost having a shot to win the race, I’m content with that,” Gragson said, adding, “I gave my absolute best, I drove my butt off, I tried my best and gave it everything I had, just got beat. Can’t really hang my head after the season we’ve had.”

Allgaier’s third-place finish in the No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet was his 15th top-five and 23rd top-10 finish of the year. He won three races. Berry, was also a three-time winner in the No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevrolet, earning 11 top-five and 20 top-10 finishes in his first complete season in the series.

NASCAR Xfinity Series Race – 24th Annual NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship Race

Phoenix Raceway

Avondale, Arizona

Saturday, November 5, 2022

                1. (1)  Ty Gibbs (P), Toyota, 200.

                2. (4)  Noah Gragson (P), Chevrolet, 200.

                3. (11)  Justin Allgaier (P), Chevrolet, 200.

                4. (6)  Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 200.

                5. (16)  AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 200.

                6. (8)  Sheldon Creed #, Chevrolet, 200.

                7. (19)  Riley Herbst, Ford, 200.

                8. (10)  Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 200.

                9. (14)  Austin Hill #, Chevrolet, 200.

                10. (2)  Sammy Smith, Toyota, 200.

                11. (5)  Brandon Jones, Toyota, 200.

                12. (3)  Nicholas Sanchez, Chevrolet, 200.

                13. (9)  Josh Berry (P), Chevrolet, 200.

                14. (35)  Kyle Weatherman, Chevrolet, 200.

                15. (30)  Josh Williams, Chevrolet, 200.

                16. (21)  Jeb Burton, Chevrolet, 200.

                17. (37)  Rajah Caruth(i), Chevrolet, 200.

                18. (33)  Alex Labbe, Chevrolet, 200.

                19. (20)  Bayley Currey, Chevrolet, 200.

                20. (7)  Ryan Sieg, Ford, 200.

                21. (17)  Parker Retzlaff, Chevrolet, 200.

                22. (22)  Kyle Sieg #, Ford, 200.

                23. (18)  Kaz Grala(i), Toyota, 200.

                24. (25)  Joey Gase, Toyota, 200.

                25. (36)  Myatt Snider, Chevrolet, 200.

                26. (31)  Kris Wright(i), Chevrolet, 200.

                27. (28)  Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 200.

                28. (15)  Stefan Parsons(i), Chevrolet, 199.

                29. (26)  Brennan Poole(i), Chevrolet, 198.

                30. (29)  JJ Yeley, Ford, 197.

                31. (32)  Dawson Cram, Ford, 196.

                32. (24)  BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, 196.

                33. (34)  Mason Massey, Chevrolet, 196.

                34. (13)  Sam Mayer, Chevrolet, 195.

                35. (23)  Anthony Alfredo, Chevrolet, 194.

                36. (38)  Joe Graf Jr, Ford, 193.

                37. (27)  Brandon Brown, Ford, Suspension, 154.

                38. (12)  Dillon Bassett, Chevrolet, Engine, 152.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  91.174 mph.

Time of Race:  2 Hrs, 11 Mins, 37 Secs. Margin of Victory:  0.397 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  8 for 49 laps.

Lead Changes:  15 among 5 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   T. Gibbs (P) 1-49;N. Sanchez 50-53;S. Smith 54;T. Gibbs (P) 55-65;S. Smith 66-74;N. Gragson (P) 75-78;T. Gibbs (P) 79-94;J. Allgaier (P) 95-99;T. Gibbs (P) 100-116;N. Gragson (P) 117-147;J. Allgaier (P) 148-159;T. Gibbs (P) 160-169;J. Allgaier (P) 170-176;T. Gibbs (P) 177;J. Allgaier (P) 178-179;T. Gibbs (P) 180-200.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Ty Gibbs (P) 7 times for 125 laps; Noah Gragson (P) 2 times for 35 laps; Justin Allgaier (P) 4 times for 26 laps; Sammy Smith 2 times for 10 laps; Nicholas Sanchez 1 time for 4 laps.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 54,9,7,8,10,2,48,18,19,16

Stage #2 Top Ten: 54,7,9,18,10,1,19,16,2,8

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