Look Ahead — 2023 Newcomer of the Year: Ty Gibbs’ talent, aggressiveness join Cup Series

The grandson of Joe Gibbs makes the jump to NASCAR’s top level after winning the Xfinity Series title

Ty Gibbs makes the full-time jump to the Cup Series in 2023 after a year of success, controversy and heartbreak. (Rick Scuteri / AP Photo)

Ty Gibbs is just 20 years old, but the Charlotte native already has an Xfinity Series title under his belt and 11 wins in 51 races in NASCAR’s second-tier series.

In February, he’ll make the jump to a full-time ride in the Cup Series, driving the No. 54 for Joe Gibbs Racing, the team owned by the former NFL coach who is also his grandfather.

While the critics will certainly claim the younger Gibbs is the beneficiary of nepotism, there’s no denying his talent. There’s also no doubt he has big shoes to fill. Still, North State Journal has predicted Ty Gibbs will be 2023’s Newcomer of the Year.

Not only will Gibbs carry the weight of his grandfather’s winning reputation, but he will also be replacing two-time Cup Series champion Kyle Busch in JGR’s stable of drivers. Busch won 56 races and two titles during his 15 seasons with the team, averaging 3.7 wins per season, twice winning eight races and reaching Victory Lane at least once in every year of his decade and a half with the Huntersville-based Gibbs.

Busch also built a reputation as one of the Cup Series’ most polarizing drivers, sneering at reporters, smiling at booing crowds and earning his “Rowdy” nickname on the track.

It will be tough for Gibbs to match Busch’s on-track success, but he’s well on his way to becoming one of NASCAR’s heels.

He got in hot water in September while driving part-time in the Cup Series for JGR-aligned 23XI Racing, slamming into Ty Dillon on pit road at Texas and putting crew members and officials at risk. That cost him a $75,000 fine and 25 points in the standings. He had one top-10 in 15 Cup races.

Then Gibbs drew criticism during the Xfinity Series playoffs for bumping teammate Brandon Jones into the wall to win at Martinsville in the penultimate race of the season. It cost Jones a spot in the Championship 4 race at Phoenix, meaning JGR had only one driver, Gibbs, in contention.

“At JGR, we’re all one big family,” Gibbs said during a half-hour press conference after the incident. “And for me to break that apart through my selfish actions, it really hurts me. … If I could redo it multiple times, I would. I’ve thought this scenario over millions of times. And it’s hard for me because I have to live with it now.”

Gibbs went on to win at Phoenix to claim the Xfinity title in his first full season in the series. But tragedy struck when Gibbs’ father, Coy, died in his sleep the night of his son’s biggest moment at age 49. Joe Gibbs’ other son, J.D. had died three years earlier of a neurological disorder, also at 49 years old.

Ty Gibbs did not race in the Cup Series finale and went silent in the weeks after his father’s death. He did attend the NASCAR Awards in early December but declined to discuss the sudden passing of Coy.

“I’ve been doing good, thank you for asking, definitely appreciate you guys,” Gibbs said in Nashville. “Right now, I’m not going to touch on that subject at all, just going to stick with the racing questions.”

Both his father’s untimely death and the mercurial start to his career will follow him as he joins NASCAR’s top rung. The lessons learned, both personally and professionally, should serve him well — and he’s poised to become one of the sport’s biggest names all before he reaches age 21.

Ready or not, here comes Ty Gibbs.