There was never much uncertainty around the decision. After all, Gibbs had just won the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship in just his first full-time season a few days prior.
It’s what happened after Gibbs won that championship, though, that gave the decision the biggest impact of all.
Moments after the highest peak yet in his motorsport career, Gibbs lost his father, Coy, who heavily involved in JGR’s operations.
Coy spoke to the media shortly after Ty’s win the night before his passing.
“He’s got skills and he’s determined,” he said of his son. “It definitely made me proud … he just hammered down and did his job. If he wants to do this for a living, he’s going to learn how to do that.”
Ty Gibbs wins the Xfinity title in his first full season. 11 wins and a championship at age 20. Fans booing like crazy. pic.twitter.com/TpqhrQOorg
— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) November 6, 2022
Ty Gibbs won it all at the proving ground, and now he’ll get his shot at a full-time ride with a team and in a car that is built around him. He saw a fair amount of action in Cup last year in relief of an injured Kurt Busch. He managed just one top 10 in his 15 starts, though they came with 23XI Racing rather than JGR.
There will be one stark difference, and that’s the number Gibbs is running. He’s slated to drive the No. 54 Toyota, as JGR has elected to keep the No. 18 sidelined for a year.
If you’d like proof that we live in the matrix, think about this for a second. Gibbs is running the No. 54 car in the Cup Series next year in replacement of Kyle Busch, who brought the No. 54 to Toyota as part of his now-defunct NASCAR Xfinity Series entry at Kyle Busch Motorsports.
On the flip side, Kyle Busch will be suiting up for another team for the first time in 15 years. He’s slated to join Austin Dillon at Richard Childress Racing and will immediately put RCR in the hunt for its seventh title, which — if he’s successful — would be the first someone not named Dale Earnhardt has won for the organization.
A breath of fresh air might have been just what RCR needed. Tensions were boiling between it and Tyler Reddick earlier last season after he and 23XI announced that Reddick would be joining it in 2024. All the signing of Busch and his brother’s move away from full-time driving in 2023 did was move those plans forward a year, so Reddick will be joining 23XI.
One of, if not the biggest reason for Busch leaving JGR in the first place was Mars, Inc. announcing it would no longer be sponsoring the two-time champion going forward. RCR was able to offset the costs of Busch’s contract with plenty of sponsorship, as it returned the bulk of Reddick’s sponsors from the previous season; Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen, 3CHI, Alsco, Lenovo and BetMGM all elected to return.
RCR took home four wins last year, with Dillon claiming one of them at Daytona. Busch has to fill one of the bigger vacancies on the circuit; three wins is no short order, especially with the parity we saw last season. If that continues, Busch will have his work cut out for him.
Ultimately, one of the more interesting comparisons to make during the 2023 season might not be an immediately obvious one: can Gibbs improve the statistics of the ride Busch departed? And can Busch do the same at RCR?
Can a rookie come out on top over a seasoned veteran? Stay tuned.
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