PHOENIX — “Have you guys talked to Little Jesús yet?” Noah Gragson asked a group of reporters walking by at NASCAR’s Championship 4 Media Day.
No further context was needed; everyone knew immediately Gragson was talking about his NASCAR Xfinity Series rival, Ty Gibbs. It’s been five days since Gibbs’ religious comments went viral, coming after his controversial Martinsville Speedway win that was followed by a chorus of boos and a “Thank you, Grandpa” chant.
“Jesus was hated first and among all the people,” Gibbs told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “That’s a part of it … silencing out the crowd.”
That one sentence quite possibly caused more of an uproar than Gibbs dumping his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Brandon Jones.
If I remember correctly Jesus turned water into wine not his teammate into the fence
— Aly Dawson (@alydawson14) October 29, 2022
It even led to a fan dressing up as Jesus Christ the next day at Martinsville, walking up and down the grid for the NASCAR Cup Series race in a mission to seek out Gibbs.
— Avery (@Abrugh94) October 30, 2022
At Media Day, Camping World Truck Series driver Ben Rhodes had some fun with it, asking Gibbs if he walks “on water.”
"Do you walk on water?"
Ben Rhodes jumps in to ask the hard question to Ty Gibbs pic.twitter.com/ve5ByErQbL
— Matt Weaver (@MattWeaverRA) November 3, 2022
To his credit, Gibbs did apologize Thursday (Nov. 3) for bringing Jesus into it.
“I totally do [regret it], and I wasn’t trying to say it like that,” Gibbs told FOX Sports. “It came out the wrong way, of course. Moving forward, I should do the best I can to be more aware of my situation and know what’s going on.”
In that answer, Gibbs seemed genuine. I truly don’t think he really meant to compare himself to Jesus.
But the fact is, he said it, and it’s another instance of him using Jesus and his faith as an excuse to do whatever he wants.
The verse Gibbs was trying to reference was John 15:18, which says, “If the world hates you, understand it hated me first.”
The problem is Gibbs used this verse completely out of context. The verse before it says, “This is My command to you: Love one another.” Well, Jones sure as hell didn’t feel too loved by Gibbs when he was getting sent into the outside wall. In the way that Gibbs used it, it would be like if Jesus stole bread from one of his disciples, and then was like, “Yep, I knew people were gonna hate me,” when people got mad after.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. noted on his podcast Dale Jr. Download that he didn’t think Gibbs came up with the “people hated Jesus” comment on his own, but rather it was something he regurgitated that a mentor had told him recently.
Well, that mentor is not doing him any favors.
I may be a NASCAR reporter but I’m also a Christian, and I’m offended any time Gibbs slanders the name of Jesus as an excuse to keep driving dirty while acting like the victim. I’m not saying all this because I want to drag a brother in Christ down, but rather to help him get back on the right track.
When I or other Christians go to church, read the scriptures or spend time in prayer, we’re turning to God as a means of learning, reflecting and bettering myself. With Gibbs, I don’t see that. He seems to use Christianity to hide as well as to gain power for himself while not changing anything about his demeanor for the better. Unfortunately, there have been many throughout history who have used Christianity in the same manner, and the problem is it gives it a bad look and makes others super skeptical and critical of all Christians.
Should Gibbs give all the praise and glory to God in interviews? Absolutely. He should be doing that win or lose, which is what he did after he crashed out at Bristol Motor Speedway and lost the regular-season title.
But right now, it’s coming across as phony because actions speak louder than words, and his actions indicate he’s out to serve himself, not God. We’ve seen at least seven instances this season where Gibbs, the second he was wronged, almost went into a blind rage and immediately retaliated exponentially worse than the initial incident.
“Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words,” is the quote most commonly attributed to St. Francis and one I think about often. I think Gibbs also needs to think about that phrase the next time he has an altercation.
And look, Joe Gibbs is a great mentor to many and someone who genuinely seems sincere about his faith. But sometimes your own grandpa ain’t the one who you’re going to listen to the best.
About the author
Michael Massie is a writer for Frontstretch. Massie, a Richmond, Va. native, has been a NASCAR superfan since childhood, when he frequented races at Richmond International Raceway. Massie is a lover of short track racing and travels around to the ones in his region. Outside of motorsports, the Virginia Tech grad can be seen cheering on his beloved Hokies.