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Long: Boo him or cheer him, Ty Gibbs creates a buzz in NASCAR

Amid a cascade of boos, Ty Gibbs says he "definitely didn't want to wreck" Brandon Jones during the last lap of an overtime restart at Martinsville and "wanted to get him out of the groove."

MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Fans booed as Ty Gibbs stood atop his car and celebrated his Xfinity win Saturday at Martinsville Speedway. They booed his team’s hauler when it entered the track after the race. Some even chanted about him getting his ride because he’s the grandson of car owner Joe Gibbs.

All that noise is just part of why NASCAR needs a driver like Ty Gibbs.

While you may not agree with how he raced Brandon Jones at the end of Saturday’s race or believe it when Gibbs said he didn’t mean to wreck his teammate, the 20-year-old is creating must-see moments on the track.

The next one could come Nov. 5 at Phoenix Raceway. It could be how Gibbs wins the championship. Or how someone pays him back. Either way, it could be memorable.

Even if he wins the title, Gibbs won’t escape the silver spoon label fans put on any driver who has the same name as the team owner.

While Gibbs is arguably in some of the best equipment in the Xfinity Series, he’s still won 10 of 50 starts (20%). All the other drivers who have competed in a JGR Xfinity car since last year have combined to win nine Xfinity races, including five by Kyle Busch.

That Gibbs is winning in the equipment more often will lead to more complaints about nepotism, but he doesn’t seem to care.

“There’s always going to be people in life that are always going to hate,” he said. “You can’t listen to the chatter, and you can’t listen to the opinions or thoughts. I feel like I go out here and do my job and go race for wins. It’s part of life.”

Maybe fans wanted to see Gibbs profusely apologize Saturday for wrecking Jones and beg for forgiveness, but that isn’t going to happen. Keep shouting if it makes you feel better.

Gibbs didn’t have to win Saturday’s race. Even if he had finished second he would have advanced to the title race. But Jones had to win to advance. So why couldn’t Gibbs have just let his teammate win this race?

It’s a question Jones had.

“I get you want to win the race and go for it,” Jones said. “I want to race against the best. I want to try to beat the best out here, but, man, you’ve got to give me an opportunity and a chance. That’s not really even having a chance to go race for a win. At least we could have been side-by-side.

“Second place, last place, it didn’t matter for us today. We had to win the race. … I would have liked to have had a chance to race against him and try to hold him off. To me, that’s what is fun, door-to-door racing and doing that, not just wrecking somebody.”

Gibbs said afterward that “I definitely didn’t want to clean him out, but I definitely wanted to move him. I just crossed that line a little bit too much, crossed the line of his car grip on track and spun him out.”

While it’s easy to say Gibbs should have let his teammate win, Gibbs is focused on winning. Until someone teaches him a lesson — either on the track or off it — this is how Gibbs is going to race. Maybe the next time he’s more careful in how he hits a lead car going into the corner at Martinsville or any other track. Then again, maybe not.

Asked what he might tell Jones when their paths cross this week, Gibbs said: “We’re racing for wins and I got moved. Truth to be honest, I didn’t want to wreck him, but I definitely wanted to move him out of the groove so I could go take the win and get a clock. I feel like we got moved out of the way by them in the spring and lost and got in a whole bunch of stuff.”

In the spring race, Jones tapped the left rear of Gibbs’ car on the final restart and moved him up the track, allowing Jones to get on the inside as they raced for the lead. On the final lap, Jones slipped underneath Gibbs without any contact and won the race. Gibbs wrecked after contact from Sam Mayer and fought Mayer on pit road after the race.

Any conversation between Gibbs and Jones this week may not go over too well.

“I didn’t expect to get wrecked into (Turn) 1, that’s for sure,” Jones said. “Me and Ty have always been kind of friends. Lost all respect today. I know a lot of guys on pit road have for him.”

Gibbs has created much excitement in the Xfinity Series since he won in his series debut in February 2021 on the Daytona road course and ruffled some feathers.

Don’t like how he drives? This is professional sports. It’s about winning. If someone isn’t winning the right way, they’ll be taught a lesson. If no one is willing to give it to them, then there’s no reason to complain. It’s that simple.

Saturday, the driver set to replace Busch in the No. 18 Cup car next season at Joe Gibbs Racing got the win. The boos will fade. The chime of that grandfather clock Gibbs won will drown the boos out in his home.
“We came out here to get the win and transfer (to the title race) and we did,” he said. “We completed our mission.”