NASCAR: Ty Gibbs was exposed, and he can only blame himself

Ty Gibbs, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Ty Gibbs, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

It didn’t take long Ty Gibbs to prove the critics correct, given the way he acted at the end of Friday night’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Martinsville Speedway.

It’s no secret that there is a narrative about rising NASCAR star Ty Gibbs, one that isn’t exactly a favorable one. But that particular narrative is one that he can’t control.

The grandson of team owner Joe Gibbs, Ty has long been seen by a portion of the fanbase as a “silver spoon” kid who has gotten to where he is thanks to “granddaddy’s money”.

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There is no way around the fact that his name has something to do where he is now. But the talent shown by the 19-year-old Charlotte, North Carolina native during his rise to the Xfinity Series, where he now competes full-time, is also undeniable.

He won on debut at the Daytona International Speedway road course last year and went on to win three more times as a part-time driver in 2021. In the first eight races of the 2022 season, he has earned three more wins.

But good luck convincing some fans that his success comes from anything other than the fact that he is in the best car.

On one hand, it’s a lose-lose situation — almost an unfair situation. If he has success, you hear nonstop cries of nepotism, even among the fans who claim to value talent above all else. Some will say that he was born on third base and thinks he hit triple.

But if he doesn’t have success, you hear not only cries of nepotism, but you hear that he shouldn’t be here and that the seat should go to someone else more deserving.

He’s certainly not the first driver to face this narrative. But Gibbs found himself in hot water with a number of competitors early in the 2022 season for on-track incidents, most notably RSS Racing’s Ryan Sieg at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and teammate John Hunter Nemechek at Richmond Raceway.

At Las Vegas Motor Speedway, he made a way-too-aggressive move on Sieg early in the race which ruined Sieg’s race. Sieg tried to get revenge, but his payback attempt was quite disappointing, leading many to believe that he has something in store for the driver of the #54 Toyota at some point down the road.

At Richmond Raceway, Gibbs pulled a bump-and-run on Nemechek in the final corner on the final lap and went on to win. While Gibbs admitted after the race that he is “owed one”, many fans questioned how he would respond if somebody raced him the same way.

We found out less than a week later at Martinsville Speedway.

Gibbs had dominated the race and led the field to the green flag on the final restart, but he was passed by teammate Brandon Jones on the last lap. But he still had his own battle for the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash prize to win.

In turn four of the four-turn, 0.526-mile (0.847-kilometer) oval in Ridgeway, Virginia, Gibbs was on the outside of a three-wide battle, with longtime rival Sam Mayer of JR Motorsports in the middle and Kaulig Racing’s Landon Cassill on the inside.

Cassill made the move to secure a career-high second place, and Mayer, one of the other drivers competing for the $100,000 prize, got into the side of Gibbs, shoving him wide to make the pass.

Unfortunately for Mayer, he was also passed by Kaulig Racing’s A.J. Allmendinger, who walked away with the $100,000 thanks to a third place finish. Mayer finished in fifth with Gibbs in eighth.

Gibbs proceeded to damage his own #54 Toyota on the cooldown lap by running into the back of Mayer’s #1 Chevrolet, and he made further contact with Mayer’s car in the pits, a violation for which he was fined $15,000.

He then approached Mayer, shoving a NASCAR official out of the way in the process, and shoved him before making the move to get away. Mayer, who had just taken his helmet off, tried to confront Gibbs again to continue the discussion, but Gibbs started swinging at his head, leaving Mayer with a bloody cut above his left eye.

All in all, in the matter of a few minutes, Gibbs proved all of his critics correct. It’s so easy to dish it out. It’s even quite easy to say he is “owed one”. But talking the talk is just that — easy. When he actually gets driven the way he drives anyone else, you get the violent, cowardly response he showed us on Friday night.

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While there will always be those who resent Gibbs because of his name and the whole “nepotism” argument, that is a narrative that he can’t exactly control. However, his reputation as a driver can be controlled. As far as his temper goes, he showed the world that, at least for now, he can’t control it. And he did that to himself.