Sunday, October 2, 2022

CUP: Ty Gibbs avoids “The Big One” on Saturday, but not on Sunday

Gibbs during last week's race at Texas.
PHOTO: Sean Gardner, Getty Images

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Ty Gibbs picked up the 2nd last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Yellawood 500 at the Talladega Superspeedway when his #23 Monster Energy Toyota crashed after 23 of 188 laps.

The finish, which came in Gibbs’ 11th series start, was his second of the season and first since Richmond, seven races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 39th for the #23, the 180th for Toyota, and the 637th from a crash. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 71st for the #23, the 386th for Toyota, and the 1,309th from a crash.

Since his most recent last-place finish, Gibbs has continued his determined pursuit for a first XFINITY Series championship. Despite a crash while battling for the lead at Bristol, he easily made the cutoff for the Playoffs and since finished 3rd in Texas. He’s also continued his unexpected relief driver role for Kurt Busch at 23XI Racing, though now running the #23 in a number swap with Bubba Wallace to pursue the Owner’s Championship. The swap paid off with Wallace’s second career win at Kansas, and Gibbs earned solid finishes of 13th at Daytona and 15th in his first Southern 500. 

But there has also been controversy. First a debate over “team orders” at Bristol, where both Wallace and Gibbs lost several laps with steering issues. When fellow Toyota driver and Playoff contender Kyle Busch lost an engine, both 23XI Racing cars still returned to the track many laps down. Wallace passed Busch, who ultimately was eliminated from Playoff contention, while Gibbs pulled off the track just four laps short of catching the #18. A more troubling issue came up last week in Texas, where Gibbs and Ty Dillon made contact on pit road late in the race. Gibbs retaliated, swerving into Dillon, who nearly struck a NASCAR official and members of Chris Buescher’s pit crew. The incident resulted in a $75,000 penalty and a 25-point deduction for the #23 team, after which Gibbs tweeted an apology.

Talladega proved to be a bizarre weekend for Gibbs. On the XFINITY side, he started outside-pole, then on Lap 3 contact from Justin Allgaier caused him to spin out of 3rd place. Incredibly, Gibbs didn’t make contact with any other driver and made just light contact with the wall. In a race where all 38 starters finished under power, Gibbs finished 7th. In Cup, Gibbs’ #23 briefly had the fastest lap in Round 1 of qualifying despite smoke from his right-front tire. The issue kept him from competing in Round 2, so he earned the 10th spot. Additional repairs meant Gibbs would incur a tail-end penalty on Sunday for unapproved adjustments, the same for 35th-place B.J. McLeod in the #78 NASCAR Rivals Ford and 8th-place Tyler Reddick, whose #8 Realtree Chevrolet suffered splitter damage after a brake failure in qualifying caused him to hit a NASCAR official on pit road. Gibbs’ teammate Bubba Wallace required an engine change, so he would also drop to the rear in his #45 Leidos Toyota.

On race day, Ryan Blaney was slow coming off pit road as his #12 Menards / Dutch Boy Ford had a radio issue. NASCAR allowed him to rejoin the field in his original 19th-place starting spot, last of the 12 current Playoff contenders. When the race started, Gibbs and Wallace were the last two cars across the stripe, 2.765 and 2.997 seconds back of the lead, respectively. By Lap 1, both pulled past McLeod, who was 2.579 seconds back of the lead and just 0.074 behind J.J. Yeley’s #15 Summit Racing Equipment Ford. McLeod then dispensed with Yeley by Lap 3 with Martin Truex, Jr.’s #19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota ahead of him in 36th.

The next time by, as RFK Racing teammates Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher dropped toward the tail end of the field, Yeley lost touch with the pack, and was already 1.344 seconds back of 36th place. Yeley relayed information on his rpms and voltage, and by Lap 6 said his car was running between 7400 and 7500 rpms. By then, he was now 7.151 behind 36th and 9.632 back of the lead. The crew told Yeley to keep running, hoping for an early caution to look over their car. On Lap 8, they got that break when a debris caution came out for the right-side window coming out of Ty Dillon’s #42 Chevrolet. By then, Yeley had dropped a full 14.412 seconds back of 36th place, 20.082 back of the lead.

Gibbs was among those joining Yeley on pit road, and on Lap 9, Michael McDowell took over the last spot after an extended stop for handling issues on his #34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford. McDowell held the spot until Austin Cindric incurred a pit road speeding penalty, then his #2 Discount Tire Ford came in another time to top off his fuel cell before the restart. Cindric passed the RFK duo on the restart, moving Chris Buescher to last in the #17 Fastenal Ford behind teammate Brad Keselowski in the #6 Kohler Generators Ford. Buescher was still running in last, following Keselowski’s tire tracks, when trouble broke out just in front of them on Lap 24.

Gibbs' car being towed to the garage after the Lap 24 crash.

Heading into Turn 1, Harrison Burton’s #21 made a move for 13th by pulling his #21 DEX Imaging Ford in front of Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.’s #47 Kroger / SunnyD Chevrolet. But the two cars made contact, causing Burton to spin across Stenhouse’s nose. The two-wide pack behind them jammed up with at least seven cars colliding and spinning. Among these was the #62 Beard Oil Chevrolet of Justin Allgaier – the lone “open” entry in the field – which after their incident in Saturday’s race ended up the one who pinned Gibbs’ #23 into the outside wall. Of those involved, both Gibbs’ and Burton’s cars were stopped on the infield grass with Allgaier limping to pit road.

On Lap 24, it appeared that Allgaier’s string of terrible luck on the Cup Series side would continue as he took over last place, the same spot he finished in this race last year for Spire Motorsports. Allgaier wasn’t slated to run this race until Noah Gragson was tabbed by Hendrick Motorsports to take over for Alex Bowman in the #48 Ally Chevrolet, Bowman the victim of a concussion in a crash last week at Texas. But on Lap 25, Allgaier’s crew got the #62 back on track, dropping Gibbs to last on Lap 26. Gibbs’ car was towed to the garage, followed by Burton’s, which was dragged backwards toward the exit of pit road. Gibbs’ car reached the garage on Lap 28 followed by Burton’s on Lap 30. Both were done for the day, declared out by NASCAR on Lap 40.

Finishing 35th was Corey LaJoie, whose #7 Schluter Systems Chevrolet was in a trailing pack of cars when he lost a tire in Turns 1 and 2 and bounced off the outside wall. Daniel Hemric took 34th after he drew the last caution when his #16 Celsius Chevrolet had an electrical failure at the exit of pit road. McLeod rounded out the Bottom Five with a 33rd-place showing, six laps down to the leaders.

Cassill and Gilliland enjoy strong runs

Following a 3rd-place finish in the XFINITY Series race the day before, Landon Cassill earned a strong 11th-place finish in the #77 Voyager: Crypto For All Chevrolet, backing up his 4th-place run in the crash-marred Daytona race in August. Also impressive was Todd Gilliland, whose 7th-place finish wasn’t a career-best, but his #38 Georgia Peanuts Ford was among the lead pack all day long, often drafting with his teammate and eventual 3rd-place finisher Michael McDowell.

*Gibbs has so far handed 23XI Racing two of their three last-place finishes this year, one each in both the team’s car numbers.
*This marked the first time the #23 finished last in a Cup race at Talladega since October 19, 2014, when Alex Bowman crashed his #23 Dustless Blasting Toyota after 102 laps.

37) #23-Ty Gibbs / 23 laps / crash
36) #21-Harrison Burton / 23 laps / crash
35) #7-Corey LaJoie / 44 laps / crash
34) #16-Daniel Hemric / 180 laps / electrical
33) #78-B.J. McLeod / 182 laps / running

1st) Live Fast Motorsports (6)
2nd) Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing (4)
3rd) 23XI Racing, Spire Motorsports (3)
4th) Penske Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing, Team Trackhouse (2)
5th) Kaulig Racing, NY Racing Team, Richard Childress Racing, Rick Ware Racing, Team Hezeberg (1)

1st) Chevrolet, Ford (12)
2nd) Toyota (7)


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