There was a time when the teenaged Joe Gibbs Racing prodigy with a knack for aggressive driving as he climbed the NASCAR ladder was a precocious young ace from Connecticut named Joey Logano.
Nearly 15 years later, the driver who fits that description is 19-year-old Ty Gibbs, already an ARCA Menards Series champion and a seven-time winner in just 26 Xfinity Series races. How he’s accomplished it, though? Logano — now 31 and established with Team Penske — says he can relate, having been a feather-ruffler at that age.
Gibbs found himself at the center of attention after Friday night’s Xfinity Series event at Martinsville Speedway, where he squared off with rival Sam Mayer in a post-race altercation that became physical on pit road. Both drivers were summoned to the officials’ hauler after the run-in, and both said they would try to move on as best they could
“I have a lot more grace for seeing that stuff after going through it myself,” Logano said Monday. “Do I agree with the way it went down? No, I don’t. Have I done that type of thing before? Yeah, I have. Am I proud of it? No, not at all, but I learned from it at least. And it’s part of growing up on TV. You’re growing up in the limelight, right? It’s a very popular driver. He’s very good, he wins, he’s in a great car, and he’s pretty dang aggressive. And I can relate to all that.
“I learned a lot. I learned a lot. The unfortunate part is people don’t forget, and the other part is that everybody on this call was 18, 19, 20 years old at one time and you guys all did something stupid at some point. You did, right? You’re a kid, you did something dumb. But nobody knows it, right? It’s forgotten about. It moves on. There’s this thing called YouTube now where my kid can see this stuff, right? It’s like, ‘Oh, no!’ So I guess taking a deep breath and understanding the big picture and handling things correctly is probably the way to go. But we’ve all done dumb things. Just as a driver, it’s just gonna be out there in the open. There’s two younger guys ambitious to win, and I wouldn’t say what happened on the race track was wrong, but I’d say what happened after was probably not the right direction.”
Gibbs lost a race that he had dominated at Martinsville, leading 197 of the 261 laps. But his No. 54 Toyota had been shuffled back in the final overtime attempt; teammate Brandon Jones won the race, and the chance at a $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus also evaporated, going to a surprised AJ Allmendinger.
The confrontation marked the third controversial incident for Gibbs in the last six Xfinity Series races. At Las Vegas on March 5, Gibbs spun out Ryan Sieg early in the race, and a pit-road conversation and a retaliatory bump followed. April 2 at Richmond, Gibbs bumped and brushed by teammate John Hunter Nemechek on his way to victory. That incident came one week before Friday’s fracas at Martinsville.
“I don’t know if he had to go straight to fists right off the bat, but for what it was, if you’re gonna race a certain way, you gotta expect to be raced that way back,” Logano said. “That’s the driver code and nobody can understand, that’s it. If you’re willing to push, you gotta be willing to take some pushes, and that’s kind of what it comes down to. So, to me … gosh, you’re asking my opinion. I don’t have a horse in this race, I shouldn’t even be commenting on this, but if you’re willing to push for a win, and someone’s willing to push for 100 grand behind you, it’s one for the other at that point. That’s my opinion. Each one’s entitled to their own.”