• Sat. Apr 1st, 2023

Ty Gibbs silences the doubters with 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Championship victory

ByEvan McNelia

Nov 5, 2022
Gibbs celebrates his Phoenix win

Photo courtesy of Jared C. Tilton | Getty Images

Avondale, Ariz. – Joe Gibbs Racing No. 54 Toyota driver Ty Gibbs won the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Championship. He rose above a week of criticism, doubt and unwanted negative attention, to claim victory in his rookie NASCAR Xfinity season. 

“I think it comes down to compartmentalizing your feelings and your team doing the same and working hard,” Gibbs said. “They’re always behind me, and they make the right decisions, and my pit crew does a great job.”

Gibbs beat out three JR Motorsports Chevrolet drivers, executing against tall odds. He beat out No. 7 Justin Allgaier, No. 8 Josh Berry and No. 9 Noah Gragson in a contentious showdown. 

Gibbs took the pole in qualifying following a Media Day that placed him under heavy scrutiny from both media and drivers. This came after he wrecked his teammate No. 19 Brandon Jones last week on the final lap at Martinsville. The focus shows his team’s ability to put their heads down and work through any outside noise.

“Oddly enough, the best car or truck has won both races,” Allgaier said. “Zane won both stages, won the race. Ty won both stages, won the race. Both got the pole. I don’t know if that’s any omen for tomorrow, but if it is, you might want to go put some money on Joey [Logano] for the Cup race.”

Gibbs led the entire way in Stage 1 possibly untouched as he built a 3.5-second lead through the first 15 laps. His car had the speed advantage over the rest of the field.

Holding Gibbs off of the best groove in the track seemed to be the only way that the rest of the Championship 4 were able to keep pace with him. Some drivers elected not to pit during the first stage caution which put Gibbs back from the front though he fired past them almost immediately upon the restart showing the level of dominance he was going to have over the race. 

Gibbs led 125 of the race’s 200 laps and also won both Stage 1 and Stage 2, though with no stage points the feat meant little more than bragging rights.

“But what’s funny about that is is that when people look back at the box score at the end of the race, they’re going to see who won, who got the pole, won the stages, and it’s going to be like oh, man, these two dominated these races, but it wasn’t that way,” Allgaier said. “It was wheel to wheel, battling it out. I think that’s why, when you start out in Daytona, we want to get here. We want to get to this final four.”

Gibbs qualified first and had the top speed of any driver in qualifying. His JGR teammate No. 18 Toyota Sammy Smith qualified second with measurements near Gibbs, but there was much more of a difference between Gibbs and the rest of the Championship 4, Gragson, the best JR Racing qualifier, finished his run .179 seconds slower and with a top-speed .891 miles per hour less than Gibbs.

Allgaier and Gragson, the latter who had plenty to say about Gibbs at Media Day, were the two drivers able to give Gibbs the most problems in his run. Post-race, they both commended Gibbs for how clean he raced them in the championship, even in some tight situations. 

Gragson led a total of 35 laps in the race and was on Gibbs’ tail through the final ten laps but was unable to catch up with him, placing second overall and in the Championship 4. Gragson seemed to be gradually closing out the distance to Gibbs at the end of the race but ran out of time as the laps ran out before he could even catch Gibbs rear bumper. However, he came into the race with 975 laps led on the season and only needed 25 to hit a massive benchmark of 1000 laps led, he led 21.7 percent of the laps he ran in 2022.

Gragson was slow out of the pit in the race as he lost a total of nine spots on pit row in the race. He lost five spots in the final pit window. After the race, he said that it did not affect him as much as he still had the opportunity at the end to challenge for a lead.

Gibbs was able to stay clean through some lap traffic. That included a disgruntled JRM No. 1 Sam Mayer, who did not make room for Gibbs, while four laps down. Mayer took heavy damage to the rear of his car earlier in the race when Smith ran him up into the wall going into the dogleg. He was able to get back onto the racetrack but ran the rest of the afternoon down laps and slower in the field than he would have hoped. 

The race was Allgaier’s fifth Championship 4 appearance in his record seven NASCAR Xfinity Playoff appearances. Allgaier qualified for the championship this year via points when Gibbs passed Jones on the final lap at Martinsville. Allgaier qualified in 11th place. The worst of any of the Championship 4 drivers, but he was able to make his way into the top three by the end of stage 1. 

Allgaier hung around and pressured the lead a lot of the day with the third-most laps led with 26. He managed to stick with the Championship 4 despite losing his dashboard readings early in the race. He said post-race that they were likely knocked out while running across the apron. 

While he had the lead, Allgaier did a really good job of finding a groove that put his car at an advantage over Gibbs. He used the top lane into and coming out of Turn 2. However, once he lost the line it was defended well for the rest of the race and Allgaier fell back a little bit. Gragson was able to make the pass on him as well and Allgaier ended up taking third.

“I feel like we put on a good show,” Gibbs said. “I definitely know from inside the car it felt like there was a lot going on, and hopefully the fans enjoyed that. And that’s part of the Xfinity Series; names are made here. Hopefully, I made one tonight, and we’ll move on.”

Berry had the toughest day of any of the drivers as on a restart with 30 laps to go his car ended up having an issue and he hit the wall hard which set him back in the race with not a lot of time left. 

He ended up all the way back in 21st. But like earlier in the race when he had to make his way through a bit of traffic to reach the top four with Gibbs, Gragson and Allgaier, he was able to make up some ground. However, he ended up outside of the top 10 in 13th place. He was running in third after gaining a spot in the pit in the final window. 

“Yeah, I mean, it was better, but still, it was just such a battle on every one of those restarts,” Berry said on running near the front of the pack. “You just don’t know, It’s hard when you work through there. You obviously — I hadn’t really experienced a restart from the first couple of rows the whole time. I wish that I could say that I was really confident in what we were doing, but just after the weekend we had, it was tough. I put my car in a bad spot there, obviously, and slid up, but I could have — like I said, the traction compound is so unique. Everybody talks about it all the time. Sometimes it’s there, sometimes it’s not, sometimes it’s hard to tell. Unfortunately, I just overstepped it there.”

Brandon Jones ran a good race, but was unlucky again this week. His pit crew gained him multiple places nearly every time he went down pit road. However, he was spun out again this week, this time inadvertently for the races final caution. Gragson was coming off of Turn 2 and a bump to the left rear of Jones sent him spinning onto pit road. He finished the race in 11th.

The caution caused by Gragson and Jones was the last of the race and the final green flag waved with 30 laps remaining. 

In the caution it was noted that something was smoking out of Allgaier’s car. It continued on the restart, though he was able to gain first place for two laps but fell behind Gibbs as he took off from the pack with Gragson in pursuit. This was also the caution that Berry fell from near the top of the pack to 21st.

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

Allgaier started to fall behind once Gibbs took the advantage and Gibbs finished the race in first, ahead of Gragson by just over one car-length. 

Both Gibbs, who is just 20 years old and Gragson 24, are likely departing from the Xfinity series to join the Cup Series. Gragson is joining Petty GMS Motorsports – who just announced Jimmie Johnson as a new owner – to drive the No.42 Chevrolet, which is currently piloted by Ty Dillon. Dillon will be moving to Spire Motorsports No. 77 Chevrolet in 2023. Gibbs is also expected to have a Cup Series ride in 2023 though no official plans have been announced yet. 

“Well, I think the opportunity is massive for Petty GMS to be able to add Jimmie Johnson as a team owner role and teammate as he’s going to be driving some races,” Gragson said. “For a young guy like myself who’s moving up to the Cup level, it’s going to be a rude awakening. It really is. Justin knows the difference between Xfinity and Cup racing; everybody is good. Every lap, every restart, every trip down pit road, every single time, everybody is good in the whole entire field. You’re not racing 10 guys, you’re racing 30 guys, so it’s a lot harder.”

After the race, Gragson walked over to Gibbs to shake his hand and congratulate him on his win. A much different tune than earlier in the week. Though in his post-race interview he still let a couple of jabs fly saying it “definitely sucks to lose to someone like that.” That came after calling him a “P.O.S.”  

The win marks Gibbs eighth of the season and 12th of his Xfinity career. He got four wins in 18 races his first season as a part-time driver. Still looking for his first cup series win, Gibbs qualified 10th in JGR’a No. 23 Toyota.

“At the end of the day, racing is more important than celebrating is, and celebrating isn’t going to make me better in the race car at all,” Gibbs said. And I’m 20, so I might have another Monster and call it a night and go wake up tomorrow and go have a whole new day, one more race, last race of the year.”

 With the wrap of the 2022 Xfinity season, drivers are now afforded a three-and-a-half-month break from NASCAR racing. The 2023 NASCAR Xfinity series shifts into gear on Feb. 18, at Daytona International Speedway for the Beef: It’s what’s for Dinner. 300.

NOTE: Post-race inspection is complete in the NASCAR Xfinity Series garage. There were no issues, confirming Ty Gibbs as the race winner and series champion. The No. 54 had one lug nut not safe and secure and the engine of the No. 54 was good after teardown.