AVONDALE, AZ — While it’s not officially been confirmed, Ty Gibbs is likely the candidate to move up to the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2023. 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.”