LOS ANGELES — Ty Gibbs was on his way to his first win at the NASCAR Cup Series level — and then it all went horribly wrong.
In the last 11 green-flag laps of the Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday night (Feb. 3), Gibbs went from leading the race to falling to sixth to being spun off the bumper of Kyle Larson.
Instead of having a breakout race, he left Los Angeles in 18th place.
“It just was unfortunate,” Gibbs said. “I guess I got to get better at restarts. My team brought me a great car, as we saw, and they did a great job. It was a great showing.”
And to make matters worse, Joey Logano confronted Gibbs at the No. 54 hauler after the race in the latest chapter of their feud.
Gibbs and Logano had a few disagreements last year, with the feud coming to a head when the No. 22 sent the No. 54 into the wall in the fall Martinsville Speedway race.
The two were racing hard for the lead in the Clash Saturday.
“He’s just mad that I ran him up,” Gibbs said. “But if you go back and look at the replay, the [No.] 12 [Ryan Blaney] kind of chucks him out of the way too. It’s hard racing at the end. This place is really hard to get your tires warm once the caution comes out, as we all see everybody sliding around.
“I just got in there too deep and washed up into him. We just kind of got all tangled up after that. He just came over and said that to me in a bunch of different words. But I knew what happened.”
The 2023 Rookie of the Year seemed primed to make the statement that he had arrived. Gibbs qualified in third and took the lead from eventual winner and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin on lap 50 of the 150-circuit event.
Gibbs led 84 of the next 91 laps and was driving off into the sunset when a caution with 11 laps to go bunched the field back up. On the ensuing restart, Hamlin got under and around Gibbs.
Despite multiple attempts, Gibbs was unable to get back around his teammate. He then drifted all the way back to the sixth position.
“We were definitely faster at the time,” Gibbs said. “He had left-front lock-up issues, so did I. I think that’s something on our side as an organization with the left fronts. But I just overdrove it trying to get to him and kind of messed up and lost position.”
On lap 149, Larson got hit from behind and into Gibbs, sending the No. 54 spinning.
“He just did a good job of getting back in contention for the race win, and I just overdrove the corner there and then I got wrecked after,” Gibbs said.
Though the race would not have counted as a points-paying win for Gibbs had he held on, it would’ve made a bit of NASCAR history. Gibbs would’ve been the third driver to win the Clash before snagging their first Cup victory. The two to have done so are Jeff Gordon in 1994 and Hamlin in 2006.
Instead, Gibbs is left wondering what could’ve been.
“We started where we left off last year,” Gibbs said. “It was a good showing for us. Our guys did a great job. That experience helps, and we’ll just keep going.”
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.
A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.