Ty Gibbs replacing Kyle Busch at JGR in NASCAR Cup Series
Some might wonder if Ty Gibbs is ready for NASCAR Cup Series racing, but ready or not, the Joe Gibbs grandson will be full time at NASCAR's top level starting in 2023.
The 20-year-old Gibbs will replace two-time Cup champion Kyle Busch at Joe Gibbs Racing, which announced Tuesday that Gibbs will retain the No. 54 that he drove in winning the 2022 Xfinity Series title.
Going to Cup with Ty Gibbs will be his crew chief, Chris Gayle, who has had Cup crew chief experience with Erik Jones. Sponsors were not announced but Monster Energy and Interstate Batteries are expected to remain with Gibbs.
JGR's signature car number, 18, will not adorn a Cup car in 2023, a way for JGR to allow Ty Gibbs to create a little bit of his own identity and separation from the 15-year Busch era.
But the comparisons to Busch — who announced in October he would leave for Richard Childress Racing in a stunning divorce from JGR fueled by the decision of Mars to end sponsorship of his car that eventually led to a breakdown in contract extension negotiations — will still undoubtedly happen.
Gibbs knows the move to full-time Cup won't be easy. He averaged a finish of 22.9 in 15 Cup races this year for 23XI Racing as the substitute for Kurt Busch, who missed the final four months of the season because of a concussion.
But Gibbs has accomplished pretty much everything he could in the Xfinity Series with 11 wins in 51 starts in 2021-22, including a victory in the championship race Nov. 5 at Phoenix Raceway. It was a great moment for the Gibbs family, which tried to help Ty navigate a rough previous seven days following his wrecking JGR teammate Brandon Jones to win at Martinsville.
Tragedy then struck the Gibbs family hours after the championship as Ty Gibbs' father, Coy, died in his sleep. The 49-year-old Gibbs was a co-owner and chief operating officer of the team founded by his father.
In the news conference after Ty won the championship, Coy talked about his son's accomplishments.
"I'm definitely proud of him," Coy Gibbs said. "I've always got his back as his father. Obviously, it's heartbreaking to go through tough stuff and watch – it's actually more heartbreaking to watch him go through it.
"I don't give a rip. I'm old and don't care. ... But to see a kid hurting – and he knows he screwed up; and to go through all that, it's tough."
Coy said that his son had the ability to make a living as a race-car driver.
"He's got skills and he's determined," Coy Gibbs said. "It definitely made me proud. I think it made my wife – we were both proud, just because he just hammered down and did his job. If he wants to do this for a living, he's going to learn how to do that."
David Wilson, President of Toyota Racing Development, said after the Xfinity championship race that Gibbs is ready for Cup.
"Because of his last name, because of the race team that he races for, obviously he is under a microscope, and he is always going to face – he has faced this question of does he deserve to be there, how much is he there because of his family?" Wilson said.
"Anyone who really watches the sport and watches what he has done can easily recognize that he's earned his spot, and he's ready to go to the next step. There's nothing more he needs to do. There's nothing more he's going to learn at the Xfinity level, given how radically different these cars are to the next generation [Cup] cars."
There is a feeling in the garage that no driver is ever fully ready to go Cup racing. The grind of 38 race weekends over a 39-week stretch does not allow for much time to dwell on bad races — but also little time to try to turn things around.
"Certainly, you look at it and say, ‘Is it too early?' That's always going to be a thought process," Joe Gibbs said after Ty won the Xfinity title. "But I think he has worked really hard."
Few have doubted Ty Gibbs' work ethic. If anything, he could be criticized for having blinders to anything but trying to figure out how to go fast and make moves with a win-at-all-costs attitude.
That has led competitors to feel Gibbs has made risky moves at times when they weren't necessary and moves that had no chance of working late in a race or were so blatantly beyond the driver code of acceptable racing.
"I just have to change my actions and earn respect going forward," Gibbs said Nov. 3. "And you know, I don't want to be known as a dirty race car driver. I don't want to be the one getting the boos."
The Martinsville incident was one that made people wonder if Gibbs was ready for Cup from a maturity level.
"I'm not the one to say that," Ty Gibbs said Nov. 3. "I feel like that's somebody else and that's out of my control. But I'll work as hard as I can to fix these situations and to learn from them."
That can only come with time.
"If you want to get really analytical, the one thing that he doesn't have perhaps are the number of reps that a lot of his peers have, and the reps really help you with race craft at his level," Wilson said.
"But my gosh, he is a talented, talented young man, and he's going to do some great things in the sport."
Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass, and sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass.