NASCAR Cup Series
Ty Gibbs' impressive sophomore season missing just one thing — a victory
NASCAR Cup Series

Ty Gibbs' impressive sophomore season missing just one thing — a victory

Published Mar. 25, 2024 11:39 a.m. ET

AUSTIN, Texas — After the race at Bristol a week ago, Ty Gibbs crew chief Chris Gayle had an animated discussion with his driver.

Everyone knew that Gibbs was frustrated with himself, that he should have pitted a couple of laps earlier because of a tire issue.

But everyone also knew that Gibbs was there at Bristol as he led 137 laps.

"Chris really cares a lot about me and about the team," the 21-year-old Gibbs said. "He is really supportive, and he wants to win as much as I do every single weekend.


"It is one team. It is not just me that deserves to win. He does, too. We are just one big team, and I definitely can use a pep talk here and there to keep me back in shape. I feel like I'm pretty solid [mentally]."

Gayle figured his driver might be a little down after seeing a potential win slip away.

"I knew going to Bristol, that was one that he had penciled in that he was like, ‘I can go win this one' and I just didn't want him to get down from not doing that," Gayle said. "He's doing all the right things. He's trending up. So it was more just like, ‘Keep the course. You're going to win a race here quickly.'"

That isn't just a crew chief trying to pump up his driver with unrealistic expectations. After a third-place finish Sunday at Circuit of the Americas, Gibbs has three top-5s in the past four races and five consecutive top-10s. He sits second in the Cup standings.

About the only thing he doesn't have is a victory (which would be his first in Cup) in a season where his average finish is 7.8 — after a rookie season where his average finish was 18.4.

"He's probably ahead of where most guys would be at this point in time," said his teammate and former Cup champion Martin Truex Jr. "He's obviously got just a crazy amount of talent.

"He's going to be winning races for a long time."

Why is he running better? The grandson of team owner and Hall of Fame football coach Joe Gibbs said it is a matter of experience.

What makes his ascent that much more impressive is it has been harder to get that experience and improve for Gibbs than many previous rookies.

Up until 2020, NASCAR drivers had about 100 minutes of practice on a race weekend. Now they get 20 minutes of practice.

"I feel like it would be a lot different if we had more practice like they did years ago," Gibbs said. "You just have to use the valuable sim [simulator] time you can, study and go after it."

Ty Gibbs on having the speed to win races

There's another reason, too. NASCAR's Next Gen car that it introduced in 2022 is primarily a car assembled by teams with pieces from single-source suppliers. Teams no longer build chassis or make most of the pieces. Because they don't, it is more difficult to tailor a car to a driver.

"To be fair, you look at some of these rookies who won lots of races — these guys weren't doing it in the Next Gen car," Gayle said. "They were doing it when you might have had a better car and more control of what you can do and give guys advantages that it's just harder to get that level now."

Gayle guided Gibbs to the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship in 2022, Gibbs' first full season in the series where he won seven races on his way to the title.

A former crew chief for Erik Jones in the Cup Series, Gayle knows how to mold talent. And he knows his young superstar in the making gets impatient in wanting to win races, especially since he has won 12 Xfinity races in 60 starts.

"He really hasn't gotten down himself," Gayle said. "He wanted to win last year. He didn't. But I think that was just about setting expectations."

Martin Truex Jr. says Ty Gibbs has a ton of talent and will win a lot of races in his career

Gibbs' Xfinity career wasn't without some controversy as far as how he raced his competitors, often making questionable decisions on whether he went over the line when it came to contact to make a pass.

He has had fewer instances in Cup where people have questioned his decision-making and his maturity.

"He's been learning a lot, and his speed is there," said 23XI Racing driver Tyler Reddick, whose team has an alliance with JGR. "When you think about his experience level in the Cup Series, and how tough that transition can be. I think he is doing very, very well.

"He's hard on himself and wants to win races as any driver that comes to the Cup Series, but he's right there and it's just a matter of time. ... You see the speed that he brings to the racetrack. His ability. His race craft improving. It could be any weekend."

Tyler Reddick says Ty Gibbs has speed and his first Cup win could come soon

Gayle said Gibbs is telling the truth that some of his improvement is just having more experience.

"He's just way more comfortable," Gayle said. "He knows what to expect when we start talking about things. He feels like he knows where he's at."

So does everyone else know where he's at? Some believe he will win multiple races this season.

Gayle is trying to keep Gibbs focused on the goal for Year 2 of what will likely be a lengthy Cup career.

"The No. 1 goal is to make the playoffs and get a win," Gayle said. "I think outside of that, do we think we're capable of more than that? Yes.

"But I think that you need to crawl before you walk. Ty will tell you he wants to win three to five races, and I get that. My job is to show him there is a process every week. He is getting better. Keep him focused on the process and improving every week and the rest will handle itself."

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including over 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass.


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