AVONDALE, Ariz. – All things considered, 20-year-old Ty Gibbs did not look like a driver frazzled by a frantic championship week.
Typically, the week leading up to the NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship Race has enough stresses and stressors with the press, fans and sponsors focusing their attention on the title contending quartet.
In this case, it was no secret that Gibbs had to fend off the negativity and fallout from his controversial victory last Saturday at Martinsville Speedway.
After taking Brandon Jones out of contention from the win and potential Championship 4 spot, Gibbs dealt with the aftermath of his move and his bombastic post race remarks on SiriusXM NASCAR.
For starters, Gibbs responded to a plethora of questions about the incident and his comments comparing himself to a religious figure during Championship 4 media day availabilities on Thursday.
Then, on Saturday, the 20-year-old rocketed his way to the pole. If ever in doubt, Gibbs was ready to play even if he was going up against the JR Motorsports trio of Justin Allgaier, Josh Berry and Noah Gragson.
When the season finale kicked off on Saturday afternoon, Gibbs drove away from his challengers as determined as Darth Vader on a mission to eliminate the Rebel Alliance.
The record will show Gibbs sweeping Stages 1 and 2 respectively over Noah Gragson and Justin Allgaier. Despite the war of words from Gragson prior to the race, Gibbs enjoyed the hard racing with the former and his the JR Motorsports organization.
At times, Gragson and Allgaier were able to take the fight with Gibbs, particularly when the trio battled for the lead from Lap 54 onward.
Although Gibbs took the lead for good when he drove past Allgaier on Lap 180, he had the unenviable task to fend off Gragson for the final 21 laps.
Certainly, during the denouement of the race, Gibbs and Gragson put on a chase like scenes from The Hunt for Red October and Crimson Tide.
The cat and mouse game, despite the duo driving past lapped traffic, was clean and devoid of the shenanigans evident at Martinsville and the pre-season finale verbal posturing.
Gibbs bested Gragson by 0.397 seconds to capture his seventh win of the season. More importantly, he won this year’s NASCAR Xfinity Series championship.
Indeed, Gibbs gave kudos where it was warranted, particularly the duels with Gragson and Allgaier for a good balance of the race.
“Yeah, really cool to be able to race them,” Gibbs said. “I feel like we put on a great show and really cool to be able to get our team a win I feel like that they deserved, our whole organization and manufacturer.
“It’s really cool to be able to race with them like that. And hopefully we put on a great show for the fans, and hopefully everybody enjoyed it.”
While Gibbs was showered by a chorus of boos from the fans, he remained ecstatic but was more subdued with his words.
Moreover, Gibbs showcased his determination and focus by doing his talking while racing the No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota Supra.
“It’s been a lot, but I feel like going into this weekend has maximized my compartmentalizing skills to race. It was definitely a lot, and I’ve learned a lot and moved on, and it’s cool to be a champion now,” he remarked.
Considering the magnitude and realization of a NASCAR championship, Gibbs took the time to reflect on the consequences of his prior decisions that may have ruffled the feathers of his peers and those in the grandstands.
“My actions over most of it is what’s going to happen,” he remarked. “People have had a lot of harsh things to say, and that’s their opinion. And some of it might be true, but I don’t really — that’s what they’re going to say, and I just do the best work I can, let my on-track performance show for that.”
With Gibbs’ 2023 plans not officially announced as of press time, the only certainty is his efforts to improve his ways as a person, racer and a new champion, to a degree.
“If I made some mistakes, then I’m working hard as I can to fix them, I know I have, and that’s what I’m going to do,” he offered. “I can’t control what they say.”
Stage 1 Top 10 Finishers
Stage 2 Top 10 Finishers
NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship Race at Phoenix Top 10 Finishers
Luis Torres contributed to this feature directly on-site from Phoenix Raceway in Avondale, Arizona.