Ty Gibbs takes Xfinity Series season finale, but it wasn't easy
The 20-year-old Gibbs, whose win a week earlier at Martinsville Speedway came as a result of him wrecking his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Brandon Jones on the final lap, didn’t have contact with any of his competitors on the way to the win.
"It just comes down to compartmentalizing the right way and make sure your preparation is key," Gibbs said. "It’s awesome to win."
JR Motorsports, which had three finalists, came up empty with Gragson finishing second, Allgaier third and Josh Berry 13th.
Here are some takeaways from the Xfinity championship race:
Gibbs stays focused
Gibbs knew he couldn’t have contact with the other drivers after last week, that he wanted to win the race clean. He accomplished that goal and was fortunate that drivers he has had run-ins with did not take frustrations out on him in the biggest race of the season.
"I just didn’t know how it would go down today," his crew chief Chris Gayle said. "All week long we just talked about controlling what we can control — that’s Ty driving the way he did tonight, that’s us putting the best car underneath him we could and whatever happens, it happens.
"If we don’t win and get taken out on Lap 10, it just is what it is. Sometimes that happens and you can’t really say anything about it when you’re aggressive the same way."
Gibbs won for the seventh time this season, his first full year in the series.
"Hopefully I earned some respect back, and we'll move on," Gibbs said.
Next stop: Cup
Gibbs is expected to replace Kyle Busch in the JGR No. 18 Cup car next season. Joe Gibbs said announcements should come "pretty quick."
"Certainly, you look at it and say, ‘Is it too early?’ That’s always going to be a thought process," Joe Gibbs said about elevating his grandson to the sport’s highest level. "But I think he has worked really hard.
"We are going to try to announce that at one time, our Xfinity [lineup] and what we’re going to do with our fourth Cup car."
Ty Gibbs has routinely deflected questions about going Cup racing.
"I’m trying to be humble, so I don’t really care for trying to say stuff on where I should be," Ty Gibbs said.
But the win amid the controversy shows his focus.
"He raced a great race," said Gayle, who is expected to move to Cup with Gibbs. "Young drivers are going to have ups and downs. He had a really tough weekend.
"He did a great job of dealing with the mental pressure of that ... and still stay focused on the car today."
JR Motorsports co-owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. talked to his drivers after the race and knew they just pretty much got beat. Gragson and Allgaier combined to lead 61 laps, but Gibbs led 125 of the 200 circuits.
"That was rough to watch, gut-wrenching even when you’re leading," Earnhardt said. "It’s a blessing to be successful and have a shot at it. ... We had a great opportunity but didn’t put it together."
Gragson went and shook Gibbs' hand after the race because he respected the way he raced Sunday. But that didn’t seem to relieve the sting.
"I used to be buddies with him when he was younger, probably three, four years ago, he was a super cool kid," Gragson said. "He really was.
"But I don't know, it's just kind of changed over the last couple years, and I've told him that, and he knows that."
Earnhardt said that Gibbs raced the JRM drivers hard but clean.
"Ty had a lot of opportunity to lean on us today," Earnhardt said. "He raced hard and clean. He earned it. We put up our best fight.
"We put him in a bunch of compromising situations, and he excelled. He had a great race car and was real patient. Can’t take anything away from him."
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.