NASCAR Xfinity Series: 5 takeaways from Phoenix

AVONDALE, ARIZONA - NOVEMBER 05: Ty Gibbs, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, embraces the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship trophy in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship at Phoenix Raceway on November 05, 2022 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

One week after his highly controversial Martinsville win, Ty Gibbs dominates in Phoenix to capture the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship.

It didn’t take any moving or wrecking. Ty Gibbs simply dominated at Phoenix Raceway on Saturday to capture his first NASCAR Xfinity Series title. Gibbs started from the pole and won both stages, surviving battles with both Justin Allgaier and Noah Gragson en route to his inaugural championship.

1. Better when it counts

On the day, Gibbs simply had a better car than his Championship 4 counterparts from JR Motorsports. Noah Gragson complained about a loose car on and off all afternoon, while Gibbs seemed to be on rails, even when he was battling his championship competitors. From qualifying, it looked like the #54 Toyota was a step or two ahead of his JRM rivals.

2. A NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship won with track position

The story of Gibbs’ championship race was about being in the right spot to win, right at the front of the field. Gibbs had a clean start to the race, going from pole to a stage win. When it mattered, his pit crew put him in an ideal place to clinch the championship. On the final stop of the day, following a caution on lap 160, his crew had their fastest pit stop of the night at 13.7 seconds. Noah Gragson, by contrast, had his worst stop at 18.8 seconds, which dropped him from third place to eighth. Gragson was quick following the stop, but couldn’t make up the track position in time, finishing in second place, his last-turn lunge coming up a few car lengths short.

3. “Remember, humble, humble bro”

When Gibbs took the checkered flag and the Xfinity Series crown, one message came over his team radio:

“Great job buddy, great job. Remember, humble, humble bro.”

After last week’s controversial victory at Martinsville, Ty Gibbs was anything but humble. He egged on the boos of fans in victory lane like he was a professional wrestler who just hit the good guy with a low blow. He compared himself to Jesus when asked about being hated by fans and drivers alike.

It was a very different Gibbs celebrating his championship win in Phoenix. He seemed circumspect in his words post-race, apologizing for his actions a week prior, and crediting his team for putting him in a position to win. This isn’t the first time Gibbs has made an about-face after some questionable behavior on and off the track. Both fans and drivers will wonder if Gibbs truly did learn his lesson heading into the 2023 Cup Series season, where he is seemingly headed following his Xfinity campaign, despite his transgressions.

4. If you’re not first, you’re last

A second-place finish in both the race and championship for Noah Gragson must feel like a total failure. Without a doubt, Noah Gragson was the most dominant driver in the Xfinity Series throughout the season, especially once the playoffs started. In a parallel universe where the championship is decided on a non-playoff points system, Gragson would have clinched the series championship with plenty of races to spare.

I predicted Gragson’s late-season form to hold true in Phoenix, and with a better late pit stop the #9 car is taking the checkered flag instead of Ty Gibbs. Gragson managed an incredibly loose car all afternoon, and if not for the aforementioned bad pit stop after the final caution, had the pace to pass Ty Gibbs late in the race. Gragson will see this championship as a missed opportunity for both himself and JR Motorsports.

5. A preview of Sundays for years to come

Just because the Xfinity Series season has come to an end doesn’t mean the battle between Ty Gibbs and Noah Gragson has. Both drivers will likely be making the move to the main show on Sundays starting next season, and if the Xfinity Series title fight proved anything, the pair will be rivals on track for the foreseeable future of the NASCAR Cup Series. It became apparent following Martinsville that Noah Gragson was no fan of Ty Gibbs. After Sunday’s performance, even Gragson had to shake the hand of the new champ. Saturday surely won’t be the last time these two young drivers square off with everything on the line.

Featured Image Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images