NASCAR: The rising star on a Chase Elliott-like trajectory

The start of Ty Gibbs' NASCAR Cup Series career has looked very similar to that of former series champion Chase Elliott.

Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, Ty Gibbs, Joe Gibbs Racing
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, Ty Gibbs, Joe Gibbs Racing / Jonathan Bachman/GettyImages
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Joe Gibbs Racing's Ty Gibbs finds himself still pursuing his first career NASCAR Cup Series win after a strong start to the 2024 season, his second full season in the sport.

Through his rookie season and the first seven races of the 2024 season, Gibbs finds himself in a situation similar to that of another rising start from several years ago: Chase Elliott.

At this point in Elliott's career, the question was always when, not if, he would get his first win. It was a question that, despite Elliott's consistent frontrunning pace, continued to be asked week after week, as that breakthrough moment continued to elude him after more than one full season with a top-tier organization in Hendrick Motorsports.

At a certain point, fans truly started to wonder if, not necessarily when, it was coming -- until it came.

Ty Gibbs is almost exactly where Chase Elliott was seven years ago

Both won Xfinity Series championships before their promotions to the Cup Series, doing so in their first full seasons in the series, and both made select Cup Series starts the year before they competed full-time at the top level.

Both drivers also replaced legends at top teams, with Elliott replacing Jeff Gordon behind the wheel of the No. 24 Chevrolet at Hendrick Motorsports and Ty Gibbs replacing Kyle Busch behind the wheel of the No. 18 Toyota at Joe Gibbs Racing. Both did so at the age of 20.

Rick Hendrick's team ended up giving Elliott the No. 9 after two seasons; Joe Gibbs' team renumbered the No. 18 Toyota to No. 54, though that happened before Ty ever got behind the wheel.

Elliott did make the playoffs in his rookie season in the Cup Series, doing so on points in 2016. Gibbs would have gotten in on points, had it not been for a number of regular season winners below the points cutoff who got in instead. Neither driver won any races, though Elliott's numbers were admittedly a bit stronger across the board.

And in year number two, just like it was for Elliott, it's been all about that seemingly nonstop idea that the win is surely coming for Gibbs, even as it continues to be elusive.

Through seven races in 2017, Elliott sat second in points with three top five finishes -- two thirds and a fifth -- and two additional top 10 results -- a ninth and a 10th.

Through seven races in 2024, Gibbs sits in fourth in points with three top five finishes -- two thirds and a fifth -- and two additional top 10 results -- a ninth and a 10th.

Elliott's worst finish at the time was the best worst finish in the series; Gibbs' is currently second. The extremely high level of consistency is almost exactly the same, yet the pair found/find themselves still in pursuit of win number one.

The longer that first win remains elusive for the 21-year-old Charlotte, North Carolina, the more this comparison is bound to be made to the now 28-year-old Dawsonville, Georgia native.

Elliott ended up qualifying for the playoffs and advancing to the round of 8 in 2017, though he again finished without a win. His first win didn't come until past the halfway mark of the 2018 season, but once the floodgates opened, they truly opened, with Elliott reeling off three straight seasons with at least three wins, including a five-win championship season in 2020.

Elliott is now an 18-time race winner after adding a second five-win season in 2022, a season which saw him lead all drivers in victories, laps led, average finish, and total points scored, four categories he did not lead en route to his 2020 title.

Surely Gibbs would love to experience a similar career path.

Elliott did struggle in 2023 after returning from an injury -- and a suspension -- and ended up snapping a number of streaks.

Series-long runs of five straight multi-win seasons, seven straight top 10 points finishes, seven straight round of 12 appearances, six straight round of 8 appearances, three straight Championship 4 appearances, and a whopping 134 straight races as a championship-eligible driver all came to an end last year.

But he was able to guide the No. 9 team to a series-best seventh straight round of 8 appearance in the owner playoffs, and after seven races in 2024, he finds himself eighth in the standings, six spots higher than he ever was at any point in 2023. At no point this year has he been any fewer than five spots higher than his best spot last year.

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So let's end with the question everybody was asking seven years ago, but with a different name attached: when will Ty Gibbs get his first career NASCAR Cup Series win?

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