Joe Gibbs celebrated his first NASCAR victory as a grandfather, watching from the pits as 18-year-old Ty Gibbs won his Xfinity Series debut Saturday on the road course at Daytona International Speedway.
Ty Gibbs celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series road course auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
It was the very first NASCAR national series race for Ty Gibbs, who jumped two steps from ARCA to Xfinity for his debut. He plowed through the field on the last two restarts to beat Xfinity Series champion Austin Cindric in double overtime.
Gibbs became the youngest driver to win an Xfinity road course race at 18 years, 4 months, 16 days. Cindric held the record at 20 set on the road course at Mid-Ohio in 2019.
Joey Logano holds the overall record. He won 21 days after his 18th birthday in his third race — also driving for Gibbs. Ty Gibbs is the second-youngest winner in Xfinity Series history.
Gibbs drove through the grass, used the top lane on the oval and dove inside in the turns in his shocking first win. He’d never raced an Xfinity car before, never done a live pit stop before and COVID-19 restrictions cut practice and qualifying for Saturday’s race.
“Dreams really do come true. I’m completely depleted, I left everything out there,” said Ty Gibbs. “I thought maybe I was going to run in the top seven, eight? I completely surprised myself. In coming up to a bigger series like this, these are some of the guys I dreamed of racing. I’m a train-wreck right now.”
Joe Gibbs, a member of the NASCAR and Pro Football Hall of Fames, watched stoically from behind the pit stand. Shielded by a mask, he gave no indication of emotion. But as his grandson crossed the finish line, his glasses fogged and he hugged a Joe Gibbs Racing team member.
Joe Gibbs Racing has five Cup Series championships, 185 Cup wins and four Daytona 500 victories — none as emotionally fulfilling as this Xfinity stunner. When Joe Gibbs called home to speak to his wife, Pat, he said she was crying too hard to talk.
“This is such an experience for our family,” Joe Gibbs said. “I’ve been blessed to enjoy so much, but this, he had not made a lap in the car. We didn’t dream about him being up front like that.
“This is the only thing Ty has wanted to do since he was 2-years-old. Any parent or grandparent would tell you, it’s like a dream come true.”
Ty Gibbs dropped to his knees beside his Toyota and bowed his head into his hands.
Then he admitted he didn’t know how to do burnouts, either.
“I don’t even know what’s going on,” he said. Gibbs choked on tears, wiped away his eyes and apologized for giving a poor interview.
“I’m sorry I’m a wreck, I really didn’t think this was going to happen at all,” he said.
Ty Gibbs is the sixth driver to win in his Xfinity Series debut, joining Dale Earnhardt, Joe Ruttman, Ricky Rudd, Terry Labonte and Kurt Busch. He’s the son of Gibbs’ youngest son, Coy, who could not attend the race because, “Coach” took the one slot for a team owner inside NASCAR’s COVID bubble. His mother, Heather Gibbs, watched from a suite.
Ty Gibbs won eight ARCA races the last two seasons, and finally old enough to run at the national level, his grandfather gave him a shot at NASCAR’s second-tier series. Although JGR is one of the top teams in NASCAR with outstanding equipment, Gibbs showed he could drive it and stream-rolled through the field then held his own as Cindric tried to muscle him back into his place.
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“I haven’t raced him before but he seemed to be able to handle a lot of situations well, and I put him in some pretty tough spots trying to hang onto the lead and he did a great job with it,” Cindric said.
Cindric and AJ Allmendinger crashed racing to the finish of the first stage, and Cindric was left with a gaping hole in his front fender. He dropped to 34th in the field but still drove his way back to the lead.
Cindric, who led a race-high 29 laps, had a Daytona sweep in sight until caution with three laps remaining gave Gibbs a late second chance. They both pitted for fresh tires and Gibbs restarted 10th, Cindric in 11th.
On the first overtime restart, Gibbs blew past a pack of cars on the outside of Daytona’s oval and weaved his way in and out of traffic all the way to third. Another caution sent the race into double OT and Gibbs this time dove inside to gain ground.
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He drove deep into the grass — kicking up dirt all over his car — and somehow still surged into the lead. Gibbs then pulled away to win of 1.726 seconds over Cindric.
“I’m shocked that he didn’t rip the splitter off of it going through the grass heading into turn one on the final restart,” Cindric said.
JGR has yet to announce a full 2021 schedule for Ty Gibbs, but his grandfather said the details are decided by Coy Gibbs. They picked the Daytona road course for his debut because Ty Gibbs finished second here in last year’s ARCA race.