Editor’s note: This continues a series where we review the top 20 drivers in 2023 NASCAR Cup Series points.
Season in review: Ty Gibbs
No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Crew chief: Chris Gayle
Final 2023 Ranking: 18
Key stats: 0 wins, 4 top fives, 10 top 10s, 112 laps led
How 2023 ended: The grandson of team owner Joe Gibbs had a rough end to the season, with four finishes of 20th or worse in his last seven races, including wrecking out in back-to-back races at Texas Motor Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway. Conversely, he bounced back from those two early exits to earn his best finish of the season: fourth on the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course and seventh at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He finished the season with a 21st-place showing at Phoenix Raceway. Even so, Gibbs still capped off the season by earning Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors, the fourth driver in JGR history to do so, joining Tony Stewart in 1999, Denny Hamlin in 2006 and Joey Logano in 2009.
Best race: Even though his fourth-place showing on the Charlotte Roval was his best finish of the season, Gibbs’ best overall race was the Bristol Night Race, where he led a season-high 105 laps and finished fifth. He yielded the lead to teammate Denny Hamlin on Lap 359 of the 500-lap event, with Hamlin leading 140 of the final 141 laps to capture his third win of the season.
Other season highlights: Even though he failed to make the playoffs – by a thin margin of just six points – Gibbs still had an excellent season for a driver who didn’t even turn 21 years old until Oct. 4. The rookie driver strung together four consecutive top-10 finishes in the spring with three straight ninth-place runs at Atlanta, Circuit of The Americas and Richmond before a 10th-place run on the dirt at Bristol. Road courses appeared a strong suit as well, as he nabbed another ninth-place finish on the Chicago Street Course and fifth at Watkins Glen International, with one more top five added on the triangular 2.5-mile Pocono Raceway.
Stat to know: One of the most significant things that stands out about Gibbs’ performance in 2023 was his knack for adapting to and doing well at all different types of tracks. Of his 10 top-10 finishes, four were on either road or street courses (fourth at Charlotte Roval, fifth at Watkins Glen, and ninth at both COTA and Chicago), three were on short tracks (fifth at Bristol, ninth at Richmond and 10th on the Bristol dirt surface), two were on 1.5-mile tracks (ninth at Atlanta and seventh at Homestead-Miami), and one was on a superspeedway (fifth at Pocono).
Quotable: “I’m always going to push it and get the most that I can. There are times that you can push it over the limit, over slip the tire and it’s going to hurt you. That stuff happens, but I feel like for me, I’m going to work the best I can every week, work hard in the simulator and get my setups really close for the race weekend. Then next year, I’m going to come back and I’ve been to those tracks before with my team that I’m racing with right now. We are going to be better and keep getting better and better and better.”
Looking ahead: If he can avoid NASCAR’s notorious “sophomore jinx” and continue to improve on what he did in 2023, there’s a good possibility Gibbs will make the playoffs in 2024 and potentially advance to the Round of 12. Gibbs, along with teammate Christopher Bell, represents the future of JGR as Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin near retirement in the next few years. It would not be surprising to see either or both of the young drivers become Cup champions in due time.