From the look on his face to his body language, Ty Gibbs knew that Thursday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship 4 Media Day in Phoenix was going to be a test of resolve and contrition. And from the very first question from reporters to the very first answer he offered, Gibbs was resolute in his apology saying, “selfish actions” and “being caught in the moment” led to his highly criticized racing style last week.
Gibbs fully concedes, wrecking his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Brandon Jones for the victory in last weekend’s championship field-setting race at Martinsville was not a “good look” and it had very real consequences for his family’s team. Jones was leading the race at the time Gibbs hit him from behind with less than a lap remaining and drove by for the win — acknowledging Thursday that he understood the situation at the time, “I knew he (Jones) had to win.”
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“My actions put myself in this position and I just have to learn from it and move on, it’s just hard,” said the 20-year-old Gibbs, who will vie for his first NASCAR national series title against three JR Motorsports drivers — Noah Gragson, Josh Berry and Justin Allgaier — in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship Race (6 pm ET on USA Network, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Had Jones won the race last week, it would have been his ticket into the Championship 4 pitting a pair of JRM Chevrolets against a pair of JGR Toyotas. Now Gibbs — a six-time winner — will have to rise to the occasion representing his team on his own.
“I think the biggest thing is at JGR, we are all one big family and for me to kind of break that apart for my selfish actions really hurts me because I kinda grew up there,” Gibbs said. “And it’s not cool. These guys work so hard the whole year and it’s just hard, it’s a lot.”
Gibbs would not provide details but said he has spoken to Jones and “I can completely understand where he’s coming from, and I accept it. … I have to face the fact I made a mistake and have to work as hard as I can to fix these issues.”
Gibbs said he watched the television race highlights late last Saturday and that “it does affect me” watching the replay of a move he wishes he hadn’t made — and also hearing the loud and negative fan reaction when he emerged from this car.
Gragson, who has a season-high — and career best — eight race wins in 2022, was candid in his displeasure over Gibbs’ racing last week. The driver of the No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet said, “I’m just over it,” about Gibbs’ racing style.
“I’m just sick and tired of the, ‘I’m sorry, I’m trying to learn’ deal,” Gragson said. “It’s been two years. … I think all of us are definitely over being the pinball for him.”
Gragson brushed off the idea that perhaps Gibbs returns to the track this week a little more mindful. “He doesn’t care,” said Gragson, who added the two even had a conversation mid-season about Gibbs aggressive tactics.
“It’s crazy to me, but it worked out for JRM so now we’ve got a 75-percent chance to win [the championship],” said Gragson, who will move up to the NASCAR Cup Series next season and be replaced next year at JRM by Brandon Jones.
Gragson won at Phoenix in March. Gibbs best finish in two starts, is runner-up in 2021.
Gibbs acknowledged the possibility that Jones or someone else in the field perhaps another competitor he’s had a past run-in with may do something to hurt his chances at a race win and the series championship. But Gibbs reiterated, “There’s nothing I can do about that.”
“You just have to transition your mind to that,” Gibbs said, of resetting and preparing to race for the championship.
“For me, I love racing so much I can transition it pretty easy to my racing side, just because I love it,” Gibbs said. “And I feel like that’s a good trait I have but sometimes I make mistakes and have to own up to it and work as hard as I can to fix that as I do racing and studying data.”