Ty Gibbs: NASCAR’s Newest Villain

MARTINSVILLE, VIRGINIA - OCTOBER 29: Ty Gibbs, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series Dead On Tools 250 at Martinsville Speedway on October 29, 2022 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)

After the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Martinsville on Oct. 29, NASCAR may have found its newest villain, 20-year-old Ty Gibbs.

Ty Gibbs shocked the NASCAR world on Feb. 20, 2021, becoming the first driver in NASCAR Xfinity Series history to win their debut race without prior experience in the NASCAR Cup Series.

When Gibbs won at the Daytona Road Course, the then 18-year-old seemed to be a new favorite in the eyes of many NASCAR fans. A humble kid, blessed to have an opportunity from his grandfather Joe Gibbs, who can absolutely wheel a race car. Now, 1.5 years, 10 wins (youngest driver in Xfinity history to reach this feat), 28 top-ten finishes, and 40 races later, Gibbs might have established his new role as NASCAR’s up-and-coming villain.

A Defining Moment

The Dead on Tools 250 NASCAR Xfinity race at Martinsville certainly lived up to the hype, even before the last lap of the race. After taking the white flag, Gibbs was directly behind Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Brandon Jones heading into turn one. The possibility of two JGR Toyota Supras making the Championship 4 was there for the taking.

Gibbs’, who already locked himself into the Championship 4 race, along with JR Motorsports teammates Josh Berry and Noah Gragson, decided his own teammate, who was in a must-win situation, wasn’t going to join him at Phoenix with a shot at a NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship.

The No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota Supra not only gave the No. 19 Menards Toyota Supra the bumper, but Gibbs simply drove into the corner with the intent of moving Jones. Effectively making sure he wasn’t going to be able to retaliate. Gibbs did just that. He hit Jones so hard, the front of the No. 54 caved in and the No. 19 was sent up into the outside wall, destroying his car and his hopes for a championship.

After Gibbs was done doing burnouts for the sixth time this season, he was greeted by the crowd with an overload of boos. This wasn’t the first time Gibbs has been booed after a NASCAR Xfinity race, and it certainly won’t be the last. This race also marks the second-straight race at Martinsville with controversy surrounding Gibbs, after he and Sam Mayer got into a fight there in early April.

Not the Plan?

To many, it looked like Gibbs intentionally wrecked his teammate to ensure he got the win himself. According to Ty, that’s not what was supposed to happen.

In a post-race interview, Gibbs commented on the incident and compared the boos he received after the race to a verse about Jesus Christ.

“I definitely didn’t want to wreck him, but I wanted to get him out of the groove. Jesus was hated first and among all the people. That’s a part of it […] silencing out the crowd.”

What Gibbs did today not only upset the fans, who started cheering “Thank You, Grandpa,” after his win, but it also warranted comments by multiple drivers in the field, including Berry, Gragson, and Jones. Berry joked that Jones, who is joining JR Motorsports next season, said that “Brandon might be Team JRM one week early.”

Gragson, who Jones is replacing next year in the No. 9, also made a few comments about Gibbs, including calling Gibbs’ actions a “dirtbag move.” He also noted that if he was in Jones’ shoes, Gibbs “wouldn’t be smiling taking pictures next to a clock right now.” An upset Jones was the man everyone wanted to hear from after the race. His comments about Gibbs only added fuel to the newly set fire.

Jones Not Following Suit

In multiple interviews, Jones stated that he and Ty Gibbs have always been friends, but he lost all respect today. Jones also said that he is looking forward to transitioning over to JRM next year. Jones was interviewed by most of the NASCAR media after the race. But some of the most interesting comments he made came on Motor Racing Network (MRN).

“I know Ty [Gibbs] enough to where I know he doesn’t care about what he did. You know, I don’t understand the move….I don’t get any satisfaction from it. Maybe he does. Maybe he likes to win that way. But I never have.”

Many are calling for Jones to give “payback” to Gibbs next weekend at Phoenix, however, this seems unlikely for numerous reasons. To start, since Jones is a non-playoff driver and Gibbs is, intentionally wrecking Gibbs would likely result in a suspension for Jones, that is if NASCAR follows the precedent they set not only with Bubba Wallace but with Matt Kenseth in 2015 as well.

Another reason is that they are still technically teammates, and it doesn’t seem like Jones is the type of driver to act in such a manner. Jones will be joining JRM next season, which is a team with three drivers in the Championship 4. It seems like Jones leaving JGR and Toyota Racing Development for JRM and Chevrolet is already a slap in the face to JGR. So the likelihood that he adds to that and possibly risks the chance of a suspension to start next season with a new team is slim.

Taking up the Villian Mantel

After today, it seems like it’s time for Gibbs to stop pretending to be the hero, and instead, choose the alternate route. The current driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Camry, Kyle Busch, has seemingly embraced the villain role in NASCAR. He has had success doing so, including Two NASCAR Cup Series Championships for Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing.

Like Busch, Gibbs’ talent as a young driver has had everyone talking. Now, Ty Gibbs is looked at as the main option to replace Busch in the NASCAR Cup Series in the No. 18. Those are big shoes to fill for any driver. But when Gibbs likely puts on the shoes for next season, does he embrace that same villain role the No. 18 has embraced since 2008? By the looks of it, he could, and he should.

Featured Image Credit: Mike Mulholland/Getty Images