Race Weekend Central

Friday Faceoff: Where Will Ty Gibbs Win His First Cup Race?

Where will Ty Gibbs win his first NASCAR Cup Series race?

James Krause: On a road course. As a rookie last year, Ty Gibbs secured the third-best average finish of drivers who ran all six road course races. Gibbs averaged a finishing position of 9.5, grabbing two of his four top-five finishes at Watkins Glen International and the Charlotte ROVAL. Gibbs’ fourth-place run at the ROVAL was his best career finish prior to taking third on Sunday. During his brief but dominant run in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, five of his 12 victories came on road courses. Gibbs has had strong showings on the short tracks, but not to the level of his teammates. All five other Toyota drivers last season finished in the top nine in average finishes on short tracks while Gibbs was 17th. While his performance — and that of Toyota as a manufacturer — at Phoenix Raceway with the brand new short track package was promising, the five road courses this season feel like the most likely spot for Gibbs to pick up his first win.

Wyatt Watson: It could honestly be as early as this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway. Gibbs has only gotten better and better over time, and after having a solid run last year on the high banks and with how fast Toyota looked at Phoenix, it seems like it’s Gibbs versus the rest of his Toyota colleagues. However, if Gibbs doesn’t win this week, I could certainly see him win at least before the playoffs start. He has skill on road courses and has only gotten faster on intermediate tracks. Additionally, you can’t count him out on winning a superspeedway race at Daytona International Speedway before the playoffs begin. I expect the 21-year-old to get that first win sooner rather than later.

Austin Bass: Gibbs will win his first Cup race this weekend at Bristol. The super sophomore led 105 laps there last fall, the most he has led in a Cup Series event so far, and finished fifth, his career-best result on an oval until last week’s third-place effort. The Toyotas were exceptionally strong last week and Joe Gibbs Racing historically runs up front at Bristol. Expect Gibbs to have a monster day.

Josh Calloni: Bristol, this weekend. Gibbs has momentum on his side, entering the season with the highest average finish through the first four races in Cup, and a third-place finish at Phoenix, leading 57 laps. In addition to that, Gibbs is returning to a track in Bristol in which he led 102 laps in the fall, only his second time there in a Cup Series car. It seems like a perfect storm for the 21-year-old to reach victory lane for the first time.

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NASCAR has held discussions about holding a race at Dodger Stadium. Would it be good for the sport?

Watson: A new venue is always fun and is good for the first year or two, but with the Busch Light Clash staying in Los Angeles, I think overall this doesn’t do any good beyond the next two years. It will certainly be interesting to watch NASCAR run on the diamond of Dodger Stadium rather than in the football stadium at Los Angeles Coliseum, but overall, this move suggests that the Clash is continuing to die in the L.A. market. For instance, the seating capacity of the Coliseum peaks at 77,500 seats while Dodger Stadium holds only 56,000 seats. Not to mention, thanks to the extraordinary weather conditions this February in Southern California, this year’s event took place in front of only a few thousand people. I think what would work best for the sport is to either return the event to where it was meant to be run, Daytona, or rotate it across the country to different venues or facilities that have not been tapped into by NASCAR that can house a stadium-style race, such as Houston, New York City, Mexico City or Seattle.

Krause: Absolutely. It’s no secret that Southern California is a huge market that NASCAR wants to keep a hold of despite Auto Club Speedway being reimagined, and Dodger Stadium fits the bill as a venue that can fit a big crowd and make an experience out of a race. There’s a case to be made for not just keeping stadium racing around but expanding it beyond the Coliseum. The anomaly and visuals of stadium racing, especially in a beautiful part of the country like Southern California, still can pull in fans year after year. What does need reworking is the on-track product, as the Clash more closely resembles bumper cars at a nearby amusement park than professional stock car racing. A new stadium with new dimensions hopefully inspires some creativity in terms of track design.

Calloni: It certainly couldn’t hurt the sport, that’s for sure. Any new market or new venue that the sport visits is going to generate some conversation and revenue. Whether that be a new track in the south or a well-known sports stadium out west like the L.A. Coliseum was a few years ago. Dodger Stadium is specifically one of the most well-known Major League Baseball stadiums and houses one of the most popular teams in the league. Putting a NASCAR race right in the heart of that definitely can’t do any harm to the sport.

Bass: To paraphrase children’s literary author Judith Viorst, it is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea to race at Dodger Stadium. The stadium racing experience grew stale in its third year at the L.A. Coliseum, both in importance and intrigue surrounding the pomp and circumstance of NASCAR racing where other major historical sporting events have been held. The exhibition race has run its course in Los Angeles as the novelty has worn off. To move the Clash down the road to a less significant stadium in L.A. and contest the event on a street circuit with limited sight lines and viewing options would be a disservice to the handful of new fans interested in the sport, and downright disrespectful to the millions of lifelong fans watching at home.

In light of Joey Logano’s struggles, should his crew chief Paul Wolfe be on the hot seat?

Calloni: No. Paul Wolfe is a winning crew chief and has proven so, winning two titles and numerous races over his time not only with Joey Logano but with Brad Keselowski before him. A slow start for Logano shouldn’t spell the end of the partnership between him and Wolfe.

Bass: Wolfe has to be feeling the pressure to perform because of Logano’s subpar results last year, combined with his more recent struggles at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Phoenix. Last season, the championship duo only won one race, and it came on a drafting track which is effectively like not winning at all when reviewing and analyzing their performance as a whole in 2023. The No. 22 is off to a similarly slow start to the ’24 campaign and is buried deep in the standings, while reigning champion teammate Ryan Blaney has three consecutive top-five finishes and is the Cup points leader. That dichotomy in performance and results within the Team Penske camp may soon result in people crying that Wolfe needs to be replaced.

Watson: It’s not quite time to overreact like that yet, but the start of the season should not be blamed on Wolfe. Logano’s been involved in accident upon accident, and there’s nothing the crew chief can do about that. It only makes the team’s job harder to crawl back from this slow start in terms of points. The biggest thing the No. 22 team can do is win, and that will solve all of its issues.

Krause: No … at least not yet. There’s not a lot of good for the No. 22 team to hang its hat on, but also not a lot you can blame on Paul Wolfe. Logano’s 32nd-place finish at Daytona? He got collected in The Big One with eight laps to go while running near the front. The 28th at Atlanta Motor Speedway? Logano threw a late block on Chris Buescher while racing for stage points. The positive from the first three races — apart from a top 10 at Vegas — was that Logano qualified well enough for three front-row starts. Phoenix is where that good qualifying run ended, and Logano and company weren’t able to get speed out of the car before being knocked out in a crash during stage three. It’s way too soon to put Wolfe on the hot seat with the current sample size, but it’s something worth circling back to in a month.

Should we make anything of Marco Andretti finishing outside the top 20 in both his ARCA Menards Series starts?

Bass: It’s too early to call Marco Andretti a stock car bust. He showed speed in the Superstar Racing Experience and was able to acclimate to the draft in the ARCA at Daytona, but a crash resulted in a finish that was not indicative of his performance. However, the former NTT IndyCar Series driver’s showing at Phoenix in the General Tire 150 was more reminiscent of Danica Patrick than it was of Smoke or even Juan Pablo Montoya. The No. 17 car he is driving was fast in 2023. It won three races, had three runner-up finishes and won the owner’s points championship in the ARCA Menards Series West with drivers Landen Lewis and Kaden Honeycutt. Yet last week, Andretti was way off the leader’s pace and finished a lap down. It was only one race, but the lack of speed out of the third-generation racer was alarming. With a famous surname and solid funding, expectations are certainly much higher than what we saw last week.

Krause: No. While the Andretti name always was bound to carry high expectations, it shouldn’t be all too shocking that Andretti isn’t blowing the doors off his younger competition. For starters, Daytona and Phoenix were Andretti’s second and third starts in a stock car on an oval longer than a mile. His only other start prior, a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway last year, saw him finish 18th. On top of that, Andretti’s only full-time seasons since 2020 were the six-week sprints of SRX. His final full-time IndyCar season saw him capture just one top-10 finish. Picking up on a new discipline is hard enough, let alone when you’re 37 years old and only racing a part-time schedule. Andretti finding some success this season would be an awesome story and draw some nice attention to ARCA, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see a driver in the back half of his career struggle to make a complete crossover.

Calloni: No. As well-known and celebrated as Andretti is, he’s still learning how to maneuver a stock car. His stock car experience is extremely limited, starting four NASCAR races before 2023, with a best finish of 18th in those races. This is a new discipline of racing for him, and the competition level he’s faced while developing his craft is not like what he faced in SRX, despite being a champion of that series. He’ll catch his footing soon enough.

Watson: Andretti was involved in some early shenanigans at Daytona for the first race, but he seemed to be a non-factor at Phoenix. However, it’s way too early to determine how he will fare in ARCA. There is a little concern with the pace his team showed last weekend, but it has over a month to sort out the issues heading toward Talladega Superspeedway weekend.

About the author

James Krause joined Frontstretch in March 2024 as a contributor. Krause was born and raised in Illinois and graduated from Northern Illinois University. He currently works in La Crosse, Wisconsin as a local sports reporter, including short track racing. Krause is a fan of football, auto racing, music, anime and video games.

Austin Bass joined Frontstretch in 2024 as a contributor to combine his passion for racing and writing. Born in Wilson, NC, he developed a passion for racing at an early age while attending local short tracks on Saturday nights with his dad and watching the stars of the sport from their living room on Sunday afternoons.

Bass is a graduate of UNC-Wilmington with a degree in Communication Studies where he developed a deep understanding, appreciation, and love for the Oxford comma. He is an industrial degreaser salesman for Cox Industries whenever he is not writing or talking about racing.

Josh joined Frontstretch in 2023 and currently covers the ARCA Menards Series. Born and raised in Missouri, Josh has been watching motorsports since 2005. He currently is studying for a Mass Communication degree at Lindenwood University

Wyatt Watson has been an avid fan of NASCAR since 2007 at the age of 8. He joined Frontstretch in February 2023 after serving in the United States Navy for five years as an Electronic Technician Navigation working on submarines. Wyatt writes breaking NASCAR news and contributes to columns such as Friday Faceoff and 2-Headed Monster. Wyatt also contributes to Frontstretch's social media and serves as an at-track reporter.

Wyatt Watson can be found on Twitter @WyattGametime

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Joshua

Andretti is overrated, much like John Andretti was (RIP).

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