Race Weekend Central

Eyes on Xfinity: Maturity Improvements Needed for Ty Gibbs

The season was off to a relatively quiet start for young phenom Ty Gibbs.

The 19-year-old driver started his first full-time season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with an 11th-place finish at Daytona, his first superspeedway race in the series. Last week at Auto Club Speedway, Gibbs spun while aggressively side drafting Daniel Hemric for the lead, putting him down a set of tires. He went on to finish 13th.

But the quiet start got deafeningly loud when, not even five laps into the season’s third race, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Gibbs let his presence be known in a not-so-flattering style.

Gibbs was one of several drivers making his way to the front of the field after dropping to the rear at the beginning of the race following an unapproved adjustment penalty. Through Turns 3 and 4, Gibbs was under Landon Cassill and quickly approaching the rear bumper of Ryan Sieg. Around the center of the corner, Gibbs’ Toyota stripped the air off of Sieg’s Ford.

Sieg bobbled, and Gibbs didn’t lift.

As a result, Gibbs’ right-front made just enough contact with the left-rear of Sieg to finish him off … sort of.

Damage to the No. 39 of Sieg was heavy and required significant attention from his pit crew. The caution came out for fluid on the track from Brennan Poole, allowing the No. 39 crew to get to work on Sieg’s car.

Sieg’s damage was repaired, but as quickly as the race returned to green, debris was found on the track, and the caution returned. Next came Mother Nature, who decided to rain and snow upon Las Vegas. The red flag was displayed and cars rolled down pit road, parked and drivers climbed out.

Sieg sought out Gibbs to have a discussion. Initially, the conversation looked OK by previous standards of driver-to-driver discussions on pit road. Television missed the initial moments of the conversation, but it ended with Sieg walking away after patting Gibbs on the shoulder. FOX Sports pit reporter Jamie Little was there, and Sieg spoke with her immediately following his dialogue with Gibbs.

Sieg said that what Gibbs did wasn’t “smart” and that the No. 54 was the best car on the track. After a follow-up question from Little, Sieg said, “He’s definitely probably gotta learn his lesson. If you know what I mean.”

Little replied, “So is this finished today?”

“I don’t’ think so. [We’ll] find out,” Sieg said.

Whatever Gibbs said clearly didn’t fit the bill of satisfaction for Sieg. Little caught up with Gibbs a few minutes later, and the end of the interview was subpar.

“I got into him, and […] It was my fault. We were all packed up underneath each other there,” Gibbs said. “Once he started to get a little aero free, once it happens, it’s so quick when they come to you, and I just didn’t have enough time to get out of it. We’ve seen it before, so I made my mistake on that part.

“And I told him, like I said, ‘If my goal [is] to wreck you and to ruin your day, you wouldn’t have made it around another lap.’ It was my fault.”

To Gibbs’ credit, he owned the mistake. He was mature enough to recognize his aggressive racing that early in the race was unnecessary and later apologized when, SPOILER ALERT, he was interviewed on the frontstretch after winning. But that doesn’t erase what Gibbs said in the final portion of his interview.

Despite driving the best equipment for his entire career, Gibbs’s talent behind the wheel is staggering. Not to take a cheap shot at Brandon Jones, but the driver of the No. 19 is in his fifth season with Joe Gibbs Racing and only has four victories. Gibbs now has five victories in 21 starts. It is only a matter of time, 2024 at the latest, before Gibbs is in the NASCAR Cup Series full-time.

Where maturity is lacking is in his aggression, coupled with decision-making. At Charlotte Motor Speedway in May 2021, Gibbs packed air off Chase Briscoe‘s car, sending Briscoe for a spin. Gibbs later won that race too. At Winchester Speedway last July, Gibbs cut the slower car of Brandon Varney zero slack in the first quarter of the race when he knocked Varney’s door down. As Varney spun, Gibbs then finished him off exiting turn 4.

See also
Xfinity Breakdown: Ty Gibbs Shines in Alsco Uniforms 300

A spat with Corey Heim started at Elko Speedway where on a restart Heim gave Gibbs the bump and run. Gibbs finished fourth that day, and Heim held on for the victory. Fast forward back to Winchester, and Gibbs was working Heim over for the race’s lead in the closing laps. With three laps to go, Gibbs had enough and dumped Heim. Gibbs won that race, while Heim finished third.

Then there’s the on-again, off-again rivalry with Sam Mayer. The two most recent incidents were during last year’s Xfinity playoffs. At the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, Mayer spun Gibbs on the race’s final lap. Maybe Mayer crowded him, or maybe Gibbs expected Mayer to yield more room. Either way, Gibbs spun and fell back to finish 21st.

Three weeks later at Martinsville Speedway, Mayer wanted past Gibbs, and Gibbs brake-checked him. Mayer was able to continue and finished fourth, despite the damage sustained.

And immaturity in decision-making doesn’t just pertain to on-track actions, but also off-track.

Gibbs has handled TV interviews well since his post-race interview after the 2021 ARCA race at Daytona. To some, he still comes off as a cocky rich kid, but 2021 was a decent year in front of the camera. But in Gibbs’ interview during the red flag at Las Vegas Saturday, insinuating that if he wanted to wreck Sieg, he wouldn’t have made it another lap was in extremely poor taste and displayed a lack of maturity.

There’s no room for the “he’s 19 years old” excuse. He is a professional racecar driver who drives for one of the greatest teams in NASCAR history. He isn’t a 19-year-old on a college campus with zero eyes on him. The expectations should be higher. The line, “If my goal [is] to wreck you and to ruin your day, you wouldn’t have made it around another lap,” sounds awfully like something Kyle Busch would say.

The difference between Busch and Gibbs is a straightforward one. Busch has earned the right to say whatever he wants, whether it is right or wrong, mature or immature. For example, his Wal-Mart comment after Sunday’s (March 6) NASCAR Cup Series race is peak Rowdy.

Busch has earned the right because he is an accomplished driver in NASCAR with over 200 victories and three championships to his name. Gibbs has five Xfinity victories, and no, I don’t consider his ARCA championship that much of an accomplishment based on the competition level he had and the equipment he was driving. Anything but a championship would have been a failure.

See also
Did You Notice?: William Byron Falling Behind at Hendrick Motorsports?

The discussions within Gibbs’ inner circle post-Las Vegas need to direct his focus on two areas for improvement. The first is on-track aggression. When is it appropriate, and how early is too early, as the highlight reel of on-track incidents is beginning to stack up. Furthermore, Gibbs needs to understand that he is in the best equipment. He will find a way around 80% of the field with ease.

If Gibbs is to garner respect from his competitors, the way he voices his feelings must change. If Gibbs did tell Sieg that if he meant to wreck him, he would have wrecked him, I’d be willing to place a wager that is what sent Sieg over the edge. The comment screamed arrogance and immaturity because, at that point, can you blame Sieg for wanting to teach Gibbs a lesson?

About the author

Josh Roller is a 2019 graduate of the Sports Capital Journalism Program at IUPUI in Indianapolis. While in school, he covered the 2018 Indianapolis 500 and the 2019 College Football Playoff National Championship. He was an extern for INDYCAR in 2019 and interned with Charlotte Motor Speedway's Communications Department in 2020. Besides writing the Xfinity Breakdown for Frontstretch, he also does a weekly podcast with a friend he met at the 2018 Indy 500, Rob Peeters, called the Racing with Rob and Roller podcast.

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Mike Kalasnik

He comes off as a phony. Yes he is talented, and of course, he is driving top level equipment. However its clear he is cocky and arrogant, using religion as a smoke and mirrors show. Everytime he talks I want to vomit. But if you look at a lot of kids his age, he isn’t that much different.

Tony Geinzer

I hate to say this, but, the Somebody Has to Lose Game is Going on at Gibbs is bad, and I feel it would be terrible to Pass Chuck Bown’s Final in Career Wins and join the likes of Chuck Bown, Johnny Benson, Randy LaJoie, and Jeff Green as Busch Grand National and Later Champions by taking the Winston Approach of Smokin’ ‘Em like he Got ‘Em, which would lead to worse racing.

Fed Up

Just more of the Gibbs/Hamlin/Busch “I’m entitled” personna.

DoninAjax

He got in too good a car too soon. He hasn’t been in a car that never had a chance to win.

Steve R

spoiled rotten and use to getting his way on everything, he is the worst kind of racer, everything is handed to him he has to work hard at nothing because grandpa will just give it to him no matter how good or bad he acts, so he has no clue about how others have to struggle and work hard just to get what he is just given

Tom B

I don’t find Gibbs’ remark so offensive, just true. Why is it drivers are so mad when air is taken off their car, that’s racing. It happens every lap in close quarters.
I love Ty’s post race winning interviews. He sounds Morel Orel.

Old Fan

There’s no need to take the air off their car and wreck them on lap 3 of a 200 lap race. Maybe Grandpa needs to explain this to the spoiled, rich, arrogant, entitled little kid, before someone else “explains” it to him.

Echo

Grandpa is no saint himself, despite trying to convince others he is.

Old Fan

I just loved how Ty needed his big, bad bodyguard crew member standing next to him when Ryan came over to discuss the wreck during the snow delay. Maybe Ty (the little kid who is still learning) needs to stand up for himself if he’s going to participate in an adult sport.

Larry D

I always say Old Joe will smile in a driver’s face, pray a prayer with the driver and then fire him the next day.
He is a hypocrite of the highest caliber. And yes, he uses his so-called religion to do it.

DoninAjax

Reverend Joe would fire him as he walked away.

DoninAjax

Put Brandon Jones in the 54 and Cry Gibbs in the 19 and wait for the results.

Larry D

I have written a lot of comments about Little Ty over the last couple of years. It’s very obvious how he has had everything handed to him. No matter what accolades he accumulates, he will truly know inside he didn’t earn them.

And I will guarantee you there is some “voodoo” going on in Little Ty’s cars somewhere.

Thomas R Weston

First getting a competitor aero loose isn’t the issue, the issue is NASCAR making these cars so aero sensitive, reduce the spoiler. Second , Gibbs isn’t the 1st privileged kid out there. Two generations of Perry’s, Dale Jr., two Dillons, Chase etc..

Bryan Eddy

I am not a fan of Nascar..just lived in Vegas so watched it all day ..cause it was on.I HEARD the most amazing thing and that was a seriously young guy (I’m aware of Joe GIBBS from his NHRA days )Ty Gibbs FIRST WORDS
out of his mouth upon winning a great race was giving ALL Glory to Jesus ..and God ..which just ROCKS ME to my core and then he apologized for bumping Seig. That is pretty mature if you ask me.Imagine doing any of this at 19 and keeping cool 😎.
I am a fan for life now ,and hope God continues to bless Ty ,his family and the entire JGR 🙏 TEAM With a lifetime of Championships .

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