“I just don’t like him,” Xfinity leader Noah Gragson said. “I’m speaking what everybody doesn’t want to say.”
- Ty Gibbs is one of the 4 drivers who will race for the NASCAR Xfinity title Saturday at Phoenix.
- On the final of a third overtime attempt last week in a race at Martinsville, Gibbs was running second on the final lap before he punted leader Brandon Jones out of the way to take over the top spot.
- Needless to say, the last lap punt by Gibbs wasn’t a popular one, among fans or other drivers.
Normally, NASCAR drivers who make the cut to be in the Championship 4 don’t seem to mind the extra obligations that go along with being among the final 4 drivers in their respective series to race for that series championship in the final race of the season.
Then there’s Xfinity Series driver Ty Gibbs.
Yes, Gibbs is one of the 4 drivers who will race for the Xfinity title Saturday at Phoenix, but after last Saturday at Martinsville Speedway he probably would like nothing more then to be invisible until the green flag falls to start the final Xfinity series race of 2022.
The penultimate race of the Xfinity season at Martinsville last weekend set the field of four for the final race this weekend, and Gibbs, who had won five races in the season leading up to that point, had locked himself into the Championship 4 on points before the race had ended.
Gibbs wanted more.
On the final of a third overtime attempt, Gibbs was running second on the final lap and punted the leader out of the way to take over the top spot and went on to his sixth series victory. But there was a problem.
Ty Gibbs (54) tracks down Brandon Jones at Martinsville.
Mike MulhollandGetty Images
That leader was Brandon Jones; Jones is a teammate to Gibbs at Joe Gibbs Racing—the team owned by Ty’s grandfather. Had Jones won the race and Gibbs held on for second, the Gibbs team would have had two of its cars in the Championship 4. Instead, only Gibbs will race for the title against the JR Motorsports trio of Justin Allgaier, Josh Berry, and Noah Gragson.
Needless to say, the last lap punt by Gibbs wasn’t a popular one, among fans or other drivers. Fans at the track greeted Gibbs with a loud chorus of boos and Jones himself was none too happy after the race.
“I don’t really understand the move,” Jones said. “I understand trying to get aggressive—you want to win the race. But to just destroy the race car, I don’t see it. I don’t get any satisfaction from it. Maybe he does. Maybe he likes to win that way? But I never have and never felt strong about racing that way. “
For his part in the aftermath of the event, Gibbs seemed to try and toe a party line.
Ty Gibbs says he didn’t mean to wreck Jones on the final lap at Martinsville.
Mike MulhollandGetty Images
“I definitely didn’t want to wreck him, but I definitely wanted to move him out of the groove so I could go win. I felt like we lost the spring race getting moved by him,” Gibbs said in his post-race media availability. “He’s my teammate, but definitely want to get the win here. It’s important to get the win. And now we’re going to the championships.”
The following day, Coy Gibbs, an executive on his father’s team and Ty’s father, was asked about the incident, his son, and the loss of one of the Gibbs cars in the Championship 4.
“Look, he’s my kid. I appreciate his aggression,” Coy said. “But sometimes you got to pull back a little bit. This is a place where we need to pull back some.”
Coy said he had talked to his son and pointed out that what he does doesn’t just affect him:
“It affects our whole company,” Coy said. “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.”
On that Sunday, Coy added that the leadership team will meet and come up with a way to deal with the situation.
“I think when you’re young, you make mistakes.”
“I think when you’re young, you make mistakes,” Coy said. “Hopefully you learn from ’em. I think that’s the message that we’ll deliver to him.”
On Tuesday, it was Joe Gibbs turn to face the media. The longtime team owner said he and the team, and the family, are walking through the next steps with Ty. Having had issues with drivers before, he admitted that this time was different as this time the driver in the hot seat is his grandson.
“I think it is definitely different, and I think everybody out there that’s got kids and grandkids know the feelings, so that’s all part of it,” Joe Gibbs said. “Sometimes that’s not easy to kind of walk through all that, but I think it’s just something that we have to — as a family and as a race team family, we have to just walk through this and try and go about it in the right way.
“Sometimes the question is, it’s different, because it is your grandson. I’ve watched Ty for 20 years. Just we know every single thing about him. I know what kind of kid he is. As a family, we just want to have what’s best for him, and we want to help him in every way, and we’re going to stay real close to him and just walk with him through this.”
The move wasn’t the first one that Gibbs has pulled that has been criticized as a bit too aggressive. One incident, with driver Sam Mayer at the spring Martinsville race ended with fists flying and Gibbs fined $15,000. Meaning young Ty Gibbs hasn’t made many friends among his competitors.
Thursday it was the drivers turn as Gibbs was in downtown Phoenix at the Championship 4 Media Day. He had to meet with reporters in the same room with his other 3 rivals for the title. There was little doubt Gibbs didn’t want to be there but had no choice as media day attendance is mandatory. He again seemed to toe a party line, however, this time there may have been a bit of input from his team, his dad and his grandfather.
“It’s definitely been really long and busy,” the 20-year-old Gibbs said of his week. “But you know, my actions put myself in this position, so I just have to learn from it and move on and, you know, I mean it’s just, it’s just hard.”
Gibbs said he had talked to Jones, and that he now understands his actions were wrong, he was selfish, and if he had it to do over again, he would do it differently. But a now humble, apologetic Ty Gibbs will still be facing a great deal of unfriendly competition on Saturday.
Noah Gragson had little respect for Gibbs move in Martinsville.
Sean GardnerGetty Images
Noah Gragson is also known as an extremely aggressive driver who has perhaps pushed the envelope a bit too far at times. However, he seems to have calmed his actions somewhat. He too, is among the Championship 4 and made his feelings about Ty Gibbs well known.
“I just don’t like him,” Gragson said. “I’m speaking what everybody doesn’t want to say.”
Gragson seemed to indicate that while he has learned lessons, he feels that Gibbs has not.
“I’m sick and tired of the ‘I’m sorry and I’m trying to learn’ deal,” Gragson said. “It’s been two years.”
As for how he will race Saturday, Gragson didn’t hesitate to answer.
“Race guys the way they race you,” he said. “I got no problem talking about it either. Just race Justin Allgaier, Josh Berry, and the rest of the competitors that race you hard and clean each and every week which is almost all of them except for maybe one or two, with the mindset of ‘hey we’re going to race this thing and we’re going to be men’, and race clean and do it right.
“And then you got other ones where it’s ‘okay we know the situation, we know what they would do’ and you can’t let your guard down around them…you just got to know who you are racing.”
Gibbs did say we I aware he might be target for retribution Saturday and added:
“You can’t drive off the rearview mirror. You have to use muscle memory and no, I don’t think I’ll be going too fast if I’m looking in the mirror. All I can do is look forward. You know? And if stuff happens, it happens and it’s out of my control.”