PHOENIX (AP) – T. Gibbs has learned that his teammate must win the final regular season race to qualify for the Xfinity Series.
However, Gibbs still took Brandon Jones off the lead on the last lap last week at Martinsville Speedway as Gibbs took his sixth win of the season.
Had he just settled for second, Gibbs and Jones would have advanced to the title race on Saturday to give Joe Gibbs Racing a pair of Toyotas in the four-man’s championship final at Phoenix Raceway.
Why did he do that?
“It’s about the moment, and you know, selfish acts led to it,” Gibbs said Thursday at the Phoenix Convention Center.
The 20-year-old Gibbs—his grandfather, Joe Gibbs, is a Hall of Famer in both NASCAR and NFL and the owner of one of NASCAR’s biggest organizations—had a miserable week preparing to race for his first national championship. He created it himself by preventing Jones from winning in Martinsville, As the crowd chanted, “Thank you, Grandfather.” Gibbs also celebrated the win.
Then after the race, Gibbs compared himself to Jesus when asked about him being the newest NASCAR villain. “I always return to the same verse, that Jesus was hated first and among all people.”
Gibbs said Thursday that he regretted the comment, and said he had not delivered the line the way he intended. But he’s regretting everything since last Saturday, and he’s made an apology tour at JGR, with Jones and with Toyota, which was furious that one of its cars was knocked out of the championship.
Because of Gibbs’ work, the title race goes back to the driver of one Toyota and three Chevrolets from the GR Motorsports trio of Noah Gregson, Josh Perry and Justin Algayer. Drivers from every series — including veteran JGR teammates — have criticized Gibbs because Martinsville is heading towards the finish.
“He doesn’t care. He lives in Fantasyland,” Gregson said Thursday. “I have no clue frankly what he had in mind. It must be badass to live in this kind of world where you have no real consequences or anything.”
But his grandfather insisted this week that there would be consequences for his grandson. Ty Gibbs said Thursday he doesn’t know what they will be, but will accept any punishment on his way.
He’s expected to be named as Kyle Busch’s replacement in Toyota’s No. 18 in the Cup Series – one of the best rides in NASCAR – and Gibbs doesn’t know if Martinsville has changed that.
“When difficult things happen, and certainly no one wants that to happen, I said, ‘Now there are consequences,’ and so we try to get through those with him,” said Joe Gibbs. “Tai walks through it, and I walks through it, and we’re still in the process. It was something that was hot to battle. Everything was happening. There was a lot going on.”
Complicating the situation is that Jones will be leaving JGR after Saturday’s race to drive to JR Motorsports next season and has no reason to help Gibbs win the championship. In fact, he could actively prevent him from the title by working with his future JRM teammates though.
Additionally, Jones’ father, JR, is the CEO of Rheem, which is Christopher Bell’s lead sponsor at JGR. Bale will be racing for the cup title on Sunday, and Reem has given no indication that he will take punitive action against the organization for Jones’ disappointing end with the team.
Ty Gibbs is a successful young driver: He won his NASCAR debut in 2021 and has 10 wins in 50 starts. He won the ARCA Championship last season and has done double duty since July as an injury substitute in the Cup Series for concussion-stricken driver Kurt Busch. Gibbs will start his 16th trophy the day after him in the race for the Xfinity Championship.
But Gibbs was also a fierce driver – he even used the word “dirty” on Thursday to describe some of his actions on the track – and he’s come under multiple criticism even before Martinsville. He got into a pit road fight with Sam Mayer as Gibbs, wearing his helmet, began throwing punches at Mayer. NASCAR fined Gibbs $75,000 for a pit road accident in the Cup Series in which he nearly forced a competition car on personnel.
Coy Gibbs is the Vice President of JGR and Tae is his son. He’s defended him in the past, and while he admitted the Martinsville race was “disappointing,” Coy Gibbs still has his son’s back.
“Look, he’s my kid. I appreciate his aggression. But sometimes you have to hold back a little. This is a place where we need to hold back.” Coy Gibbs said, “I just spoke to him and explained to him that this affects not only him, but our entire company. , and all the sponsors, all the people we deal with, Toyota, it’s clearly influenced Brandon.
“These are things that you probably don’t think about in this split second, but hopefully we can connect with him and educate him on these things.”
Gibbs still has a long way to go to change the perception he has created for himself, especially as he is on the verge of moving to the tougher cup series next season. Sure, he looked humble on Thursday, but he knows he has to prove himself on the right track to change opinions and earn the respect of his rivals and JGR teammates.
“I have to face the fact that I made a mistake and have to do everything in my power to fix these issues,” Gibbs said. “Putting myself in this situation, I didn’t have to make it a hard week. And it really hurts because it’s my family team, and we’re one big family. All the hurt and anger affects me. I’ve reviewed the script a million times. If I can redo it, I definitely will.”
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