One of the most interesting stories of the 2021 season so far in NASCAR has to be that of young Ty Gibbs. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver has definitely proven that he can win races at the NASCAR Xfinity Series level as well as on the ARCA Menard’s Series. His most recent effort this weekend at Watkins Glen International only further cemented the fact that he can wheel a race car as he won the Xfinity Series Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey 200 in convincing fashion by leading more than half of the contested laps on the road course located in upstate New York.
That win marked the third time in ten starts Gibbs has pulled into an Xfinity Series victory lane in 2021 with victories at the Charlotte Motor Speedway and on the road course at the Daytona International Speedway having also been added to list of accomplishments.
Although he did not win the ARCA Menards Series-sanctioned Clean Harbors 100 at the Glen, Gibbs has crossed the finish line first in seven of his 13 starts on that series so far this season.
Of course, Gibbs is the grandson of NFL and NASCAR Hall of Fame member and team owner Joe Gibbs and has seemingly been groomed for the role he is currently playing for quite some time. The driver who will turn 19 in October is almost certainly bound for the NASCAR Cup Series at some point in time in the seat of a JGR Toyota.
With so much success coming so quickly for the native of Charlotte, some might be tempted to wonder if Gibbs is truly that talented of a race car driver or is he simply the product of the situation he finds himself in.
In a highly unscientific poll I posted on my Twitter account(@RichardAllenIDR) recently, I asked that very question and the responses were almost evenly divided.
Ty Gibbs is a — #NASCAR
— Richard Allen/InsideDirtRacing.com (@RichardAllenIDR) August 8, 2021
The answer to the question, as is the case with many polls, is that the truth probably lies somewhere in between. It’s just a matter of which direction the real answer leans most toward that is up for debate.
For those who say Gibbs is merely a product of his situation, I would counter by pointing out the statistics of other drivers who are driving similar equipment. Brandon Jones, Harrison Burton and Daniel Hemric also compete on the Xfinity Series for JGR.
In 20 starts so far this season, Jones ranks 9th in the overall series standings. However, he has failed to score a win in twice as many starts as his younger teammate. The 24-year-old who is currently in his sixth season on that tour has scored a total of four wins over the course of his career with a best finish of sixth in the final standings back in 2020.
Burton is highly placed in the standings at the fifth position but he has not won a race this season in a JGR Toyota. The 20-year-old future driver of the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford on the NASCAR Cup Series did win four times last year and has scored more top-10 finishes(13) than either of his current teammates, however.
Hemric sits in in a very respectable third place in the series rankings. Like Jones and Burton but unlike Gibbs, he has yet earn a checkered flag for JGR so far in 2021. The 30-year-old driver has never won an Xfinity Series race in the four years he has competed on that series.
So by straight up comparisons to his teammates, Gibbs is winning while they are not in what could theoretically be considered equal machinery. With that taken into account, it would not seem as if it can be said that Gibbs is winning races solely based on the equipment he is driving, at least on the NASCAR Xfinity Series, because others have that same equipment but are not winning.
But on the other hand, his standing as the grandson of one of NASCAR’s top team owners is certainly not hurting his cause.
With no disrespect intended to these teams, but would Gibbs be having anywhere near the same type of success he is having right now if he were driving the same equipment as Jeremy Clements, Ryan Sieg or Brandon Brown? It’s highly unlikely that he would have three wins in ten starts driving any of those cars. So yes, having good equipment does make a difference no matter how talented the driver.
Bad drivers rarely win, even in great equipment. Bad equipment does often win, even with great drivers. It takes both to be successful.
Ultimately the answer to this question would seem to me to be that Ty Gibbs is a very talented race car driver, but at the same time, he is in great equipment. As was stated earlier, though, the true answer will likely lean more one way than the other. Of course, Gibbs is going to be in great equipment for the foreseeable future, but without talent, that might not matter very much.
Using the comparisons with his teammates as a guide, I would have to conclude that this is one very capable driver who seems to get the most out of the machine he is driving and that is often the quality that sets the great ones apart from the good ones.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association
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