NASCAR Xfinity Series winner Ty Gibbs still focused on ARCA Menards Series wins and championship

NASCAR Xfinity Series winner Ty Gibbs still focused on ARCA Menards Series wins and championship

Ty Gibbs’ father is not much of a talker. Coy Gibbs, the son of NASCAR and Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs and the owner of his son Ty’s car in the ARCA Menards Series, generally keeps news to himself until he feels the time for its disclosure arrives.

So yes, Ty Gibbs was caught off guard in December when his dad turned a simple television-viewing session into a moment that would change the 18-year-old’s career trajectory as a race car driver.

Gibbs at the time was coming off an ARCA Menards Series season that saw him earn the General Tire Victory Bonus for winning the most races (six), plus the season-long Valvoline Lap Leader award for leading a series-high 969 laps. He did not win the series title, as his age prevented him from running the complete schedule.

The chance to race for that championship in 2021 was viewed as the next step in his budding career … until Coy Gibbs, also the Vice Chairman and COO of Joe Gibbs Racing, abruptly placed another carrot in front of his son.

“We were sitting there watching (TV),” Ty Gibbs recalled. “He’s like, ‘I’m going to put you in for about 11-15 (NASCAR Xfinity Series races), and we’ll see.’ I was like, ‘Alright.’

“That was the only conversation we had. It was the most casual conversation for a really big thing to happen. That’s kind of how my dad handles stuff like that; he’s really quiet about it. But that’s what he told me, so I was like, ‘Alright, let’s do it.'”

A couple months later, Joe Gibbs Racing announced plans for Gibbs to make his Xfinity Series debut in the team’s No. 54 Toyota Supra at the Daytona International Speedway Road Course, and that he would run enough Xfinity races to compete for Sunoco Rookie of the Year. This in addition to confirmation that the Charlotte, North Carolina, native would indeed compete for the ARCA Menards Series championship in the team’s No. 18 Toyota Camry.

Nobody anticipated how quickly this plan would yield success.

Gibbs climbed into the No. 54 car on Feb. 20 for the Super Start Batteries 188 at Daytona Presented by O’Reilly, his first Xfinity Series race, and climbed out after parking the car in the infield grass following a victory burnout. He became the sixth driver to win in his first series start and the youngest driver to win an Xfinity Series road course event (18 years, 4 months, 16 days).

A couple days after Gibbs’ triumph at Daytona, JGR announced details of the 14 additional Xfinity Series races he would run in 2021. On March 13 at Phoenix Raceway, a few weeks after his Daytona win and the day after he took the checkered flag in the ARCA Menards Series race at the track, he finished P2 in his second Xfinity Series race.

Many in NASCAR circles were surprised to see a rookie succeed so quickly and convincingly at the Xfinity Series level. Few in the ARCA Menards world were struck by the same astonishment having seen Gibbs collect nine wins and 21 top-fives over two-plus years of ARCA Menards Series racing.

And they can expect more, because Gibbs is far from finished with the ARCA Menards level despite his newfound challenge in the Xfinity Series.

“I definitely want to get the championship,” said Gibbs.

This is how the grandson of the legendary football coach and NASCAR car owner is wired. From the time Ty Gibbs began racing Go Karts at age 9, his family has made clear he would be required to earn every step of his journey in motorsports.

“The only thing I’ve really been told is just, you have to win where you’re at. And I have to make sure I’m doing that so I can prove I can make it. Everybody thinks it comes easy; whatever I do comes easy. It’s a fight. I have to fight for everything I’ve got and work hard and win these races. Wherever I’m at, I have to keep focused and keep winning.”

Gibbs said running a partial Xfinity Series schedule on top of a full ARCA Menards Series schedule feels like being on the junior varsity team, getting a chance play a little varsity, and then returning to JV. The situation can give a driver a false sense of superiority.

“You can’t tell yourself that,” Gibbs added. “Because if you get your butt kicked (in ARCA), which easily could happen, you’re going to get all messed up.

“I’m running for a championship, so I might as well do the best that I can. Every weekend, trying to get the best finish that I can.”

In addition to the prospects of a title, Gibbs sees his racing in the ARCA Menards Series as a vital medium to continue his development. For example, he was able to race on an oval track a mile and a half in length or larger just twice last season. He admits he has “a lot to learn” on those types of tracks in 2021.

So while Gibbs is motivated to continue to perform in the Xfinity Series — he’ll run 13 more races this season, including this weekend’s event at Martinsville Speedway — in reality, his mindset has not changed.

Because his mindset is not tied to his long-term goals as a driver. Nor can it be considering he has been shielded from any kind of career timeline.

“I don’t really get told that much,” Gibbs said with a laugh when asked what could be next. “There’s a lot of distractions in life. I feel like the biggest thing for me is to focus on my dreams and my goals. I don’t necessarily have a timeline that I know of.”

Gibbs’ mindset instead is tied to what he believes is his strongest attribute as a competitor: simply outworking his rivals.

“I enjoy working harder than anybody,” he allowed. “That’s something I just enjoy to myself; I feel like I get satisfied from that — just working harder than everybody.”

So that’s what Gibbs will aim to do in 2021, both as a full-time racer as he chases the ARCA Menards Series championship and as a part-time driver as he runs for the NASCAR Xfinity Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year.

And if he keeps winning, maybe his dad will randomly interrupt another TV show with more good news.