• Fri. Jun 2nd, 2023

Countdown to the Clash: Ty Gibbs gears for rookie Cup run with JGR

ByEvan McNelia

Jan 20, 2023

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Ty Gibbs is moving up to the Cup Series in 2023 with Joe Gibbs Racing for his first full-time NASCAR Cup season.

At just 20 years old, Gibbs is on the younger end of the spectrum when it comes to drivers making their first full-season Cup Series run. Though, it may not come as a surprise to many as Ty is the grandson of team owner Joe Gibbs and has backed up his namesake with stellar performances in his time rising through the ranks of NASCAR.

Gibbs is coming off an exciting but simultaneously devastating year in 2022. He made his Cup Series debut, running for an injured Kurt Busch in the No. 45 for 23XI Racing through the regular season. He won seven Xfinity races and was crowned 2022 Xfinity Champion.

The championship victory was overshadowed by the tragic loss of his father Coy Gibbs. Coy passed away just hours after celebrating the victory with his son and the JGR family. It was a loss felt deeply across the motorsports community and not one that will soon be forgotten.

Coy ran in the NASCAR Busch series and in the Craftsman Truck Series between 2000 and 2003. He also started and ran the JGR Motorcross team, competing in AMA motocross and supercross. The team ended operations prior to the 2021 season after 13 years of racing.

Despite the heartbreaking circumstances that ended last season, Ty now has the opportunity to carry the torch in helping to extend his family’s legacy within the racing world.

Gibbs will be running in the newly introduced No. 54 Cup car in 2023, carrying over his number from the Xfinity Series. He is also retaining his primary sponsor Monster Energy at the Cup level. 

Last season in the Cup Series, Gibbs ran in 15 races and recorded seven top-20 finishes. His best race was at the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan in early August where he finished 10th. He also recorded a good finish at the regular season-ending Coke Zero Sugar 400 taking 13th in his final race in the No. 45 in 2022. 

During the playoffs, he and Cup Series veteran, driver of the No. 23 23XI Toyota, Bubba Wallace switched cars with the No. 45 still in contention for the Owner’s Championship. Gibbs closed out his debut part-time Cup season placing 19th at Martinsville after winning the Xfinity race the day before.

In his 2022 Xfinity title run, Gibbs ran the full 33-race schedule and finished in the top 20 28 times. He had 23 top-10 and 16 top-5 finishes. He finished the season with a win at Phoenix, his seventh of the year and the 11th of his Xfinity career. His other five wins in 2022 came at Las Vegas, Atlanta, Richmond, Road America and Michigan.

2022 was Gibbs first full year in the Xfinity Series after he ran 18 races as an 18-year-old the season before. Despite the limited schedule, Gibbs placed 13th in the driver point standings and was named Xfinity Rookie of the Year in 2021. He finished in the top-five nine times in his inaugural season and won four races.

He won his Xfinity debut in the second race of the 2021 season at the Daytona Road Course, becoming the youngest road course winner in Xfinity Series history. The victory made him one of six drivers to win in their Xfinity debut, putting him in a group alongside Dale Earnhardt Sr., Terry Labonte and Kurt Busch, among others. He was the first to complete the feat without prior Cup Series experience.

Gibbs ran three seasons in the ARCA Series between 2019 and 2021, running full-time and winning the championship in 2021. He also ran part-time in the ARCA Regional Series, running the majority of his time in the East. Across 80 total ARCA races, Gibbs recorded 57 top-5 finishes and 27 victories.

His success hasn’t been the cleanest ride to the top as he has had multiple issues and run-ins with other drivers in the field throughout his young career. He has built an established rivalry with Noah Gragson which saw a verbal peak at 2022 Championship 4 Media Day after Gibbs spun Brandon Jones out on the final lap at Martinsville the week before. At the spring Martinsville race, Gibbs got into a post-race altercation with Sam Mayer. And at the Cup level, Gibbs was fined $75,000 for an incident on pit road involving Ty Dillon. As he left his pit stall, Dillon bumped into Gibbs and Gibbs retaliated, sending Dillon toward a track official observing another car’s pit stop though Dillon avoided further and potentially dangerous contact. 

Now entering 2023, Gibbs will be focusing on improving on his past mistakes to establish himself as a cleaner racer at the Cup level. 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Champion Joey Logano talked about the situation Gibbs was involved in at Martinsville and how earlier in his own career he needed to mature and learn in a lot of similar ways. It will be interesting to see how long it takes before things get chippy, as Gibbs enters the Cup Series alongside rival Gragson and will compete for Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors against him. 

Coming off two back-to-back championship seasons at two different lower levels, Gibbs will likely have his sights set high in his debut full-time season.

The main-race field of 27 will be the main aim for Gibbs opening the 2023 NASCAR season. Can he set the tone for a strong year with a good performance in his first Cup Series preseason exhibition at the 2023 Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum?