It would be easy to look at the record Ty Gibbs has achieved in the relatively short period of time he has competed at the higher levels of racing and attribute at least some of his success to the equipment he drives. But anyone who would do that simply isn’t watching closely enough. Yes, the 19-year-old rising star is the grandson of legendary NFL coach and NASCAR team own Joe Gibbs but there has to be more to his story than simply the fact that he has the right relatives.
After all, he is not the first driver in NASCAR history who has been well connected. This is a sport littered with examples of those who had access to great equipment because of who they knew or were related to but who ultimately accomplished very little.
Race car drivers or any other figures in sports don’t have this type meteoric rise through the ranks simply because of who they the right family ties. Saturday’s win in the Nalley Cars 250 at the newly revamped Atlanta Motor Speedway marked the sixth trip to a NASCAR Xfinity Series victory lane in just 23 starts for Gibbs with that series. Combined with his triumph earlier this year at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the Charlotte, North Carolina driver has now scored two wins in 2022.
Gibbs won his first ever Xfinity start on the road course at the Daytona International Speedway. He then followed that up with three more victories in 2021. Those impressive results came on the heels of a remarkable stint in the ARCA Menards Series in which he collected 18 wins in 47 starts along with last season’s series championship.
Certainly, the quality of equipment being used by the driver can make a big difference on the ARCA tour so the claim that Gibbs is only succeeding because of the Joe Gibbs Racing cars he drives might hold some water if that were the only evidence in his favor. But the fact that this driver has been so good so quickly at NASCAR’s second highest level is certainly an attention getter.
In comparing his championship season in ARCA with his current NASCAR Xfinity Series campaign, Gibbs pointed out during his media availability following Saturday’s victory at Atlanta that he has had to learn to adjust his driving style while moving up the ranks.
“When we were racing last year it was all you’ve got, hammer down, fighting for your life,” Gibbs said of competing in ARCA’s shorter events. “Then here, it’s so much different. The guys you’re racing are more competitive, they’re more experienced. Learning a different style of racing, it’s a different deal. That patience is a big thing for me, learning that it ain’t over ’til it’s over. You can’t get caught up in the moment, you’ve got to focus on the big picture. I feel like I’m still learning that, every race, that patience is a big key.”
One thing Gibbs has learned is that among drivers at this level who are trying to win races there is no room for being considerate. Remembering back to his recent run-in with Ryan Sieg, he was asked if he considered drafting with the driver of the No. 39 car at the end of the race at AMS.
“It would have been cool to help Sieg win tonight, they had a great run,” he replied. “But when it comes down to winning, you’ve got to be selfish, especially in those moments when there’s a gap.”
The son of Coy Gibbs says that life lessons that he learned while growing up and continues to learn during his racing career have helped mold him into the competitor he is today.
“Growing up around my dad and my grandpa was a great learning experience as a kid,” Gibbs recalled. “Winning, when I was a kid, there was still a lot of things I did wrong and he made sure I knew that. I think it built up in me. And being around Kyle Busch, stuff like that, even if you win there’s still stuff you did wrong and you’ve always got to improve on those things. If you can take one thing away from any race each weekend, that’s a big deal. I grew up with that kind of instinct. There’s a bunch of things I can improve on.”
Of course, the natural desire among followers of racing is to compare someone who is having this kind of success with those who have already achieved great things. In Gibbs’ case, a comparison is often made to his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch.
He was asked about that on Saturday in the AMS Media Center.
“I’m still trying to figure out where my pit stall is out there,” he replied with a laugh. “I don’t think I’m the next Kyle Busch at all.”
I will admit that when Gibbs first burst onto the national scene that I was a bit skeptical of what he could achieve. But after paying attention for the past couple of years, I have no doubt that this young driver is the real deal.
Richard Allen has been covering NASCAR and other forms of motorsports since 2008.
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