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March 10, 2024

Ty Gibbs overcomes setbacks after strong start, earns career-high result at Phoenix

Ty Gibbs drives at Phoenix
Meg Oliphant
Getty Images

AVONDALE, Ariz. — Sunday’s 312-miler around Phoenix Raceway proved a monumental one for the Toyota camp as Christopher Bell cruised in the closing laps to nab the manufacturer’s first Cup Series victory of 2024, temporarily ceasing Chevrolet’s stranglehold.

Toyota’s roster was the class of the field with five of its drivers leading 50 or more laps underneath the desert heat.

Two of those drivers were Ty Gibbs and Denny Hamlin, who appeared to be the frontrunners for the race win in the opening stage. But pit-stop miscues and a spin while battling for the lead eliminated the chance for either driver to go for the win.

Gibbs was able to rebound and maximize his day with a third-place result after split strategies jumbled the field with just under 100 to go.

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“Yeah, it was a good day for our 54 team,” Gibbs said. “Just needed a little bit more, kind of in a hole there a little bit, [lost] a couple points on pit road and got back to it. Good recovery, really good recovery.”

After a second-place finish in Stage 1, Gibbs fell out of the top five after the first pit stops and ran into some handling woes while trying to fight his way back to the front.

“I felt really good early in the run but just in that middle section, we just struggled really bad,” Gibbs said. “But we got it figured out and we had a great strategy call by my crew chief. We just got to get a little bit better, but we kind of know where we need to get better at.”

Gibbs’ crew chief Chris Gayle has sat atop the box for the 21-year-old since he broke through in the Xfinity Series in 2021 on the Daytona road course.

With the synergy the two have developed in Gibbs’ rapid rise to the top level of NASCAR, the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing team is elevating itself into a serious playoff contender, able to manage its way to a bronze finish despite minor setbacks throughout the day.

“The balance wasn’t probably where it needed to be,” Gayle told “But the first run, we were able to hold on because we had clean air a little longer than we had any other point in the race, so you could start to see towards the last 10 to 15 laps of that first 60-lap run the 45 was a little better and obviously he got us there towards the end.

“Then we lost track position just with a couple pit-stop issues that got us further back in. I think that just magnified our problem, and honestly we were OK for 20 laps. We were just falling off too far after that and so I think there’s some that just happens when you get back in traffic and everything’s a little worse than what it needs to be, and then some we need to get the balance better for being that far back in traffic … But you know, the 20 car was just better. Bell was just able to run through the field and pass us with four tires.”

Phoenix did not serve Gibbs well last season, as the then-Cup Series rookie could only muster a best finish of 21st at the 1-mile Arizona oval. With drivers still learning and adapting to the Next Gen Cup car, Gibbs is on the upward trend and has already amassed two top fives and three top 10s to start 2024, compared to his highest finish of 16th after four races in 2023.

“You have something to build from and he pretty much carried us those last couple restarts,” Gayle said. “He kind of basically got us back from 15th, 16th to the top 10 and then the strategy got the rest but he was able to get us close enough to even use that strategy. I think it speaks well for his perseverance and staying strong minded through the whole thing and just keep focused on ‘race is not over. It’s a long race. Something can change here that helps me get back in the race.’ Him just staying focused on that. Once we did put him out there with two tires, he did a good job of not over-running the tires. He did a better job of making it last, kind of looking at the bigger picture racing-wise.”

As both JGR owner and grandfather of Ty, Joe Gibbs had an all-around positive day watching his organization and grandson shine at Phoenix.

While Ty still seeks his maiden Cup victory, his grandfather understands that there is still work to be done for Ty to reach that milestone.

“I think it’s anybody out there with kids or grandkids knows what I’m talking about, no matter what the sport, whether it’s baseball … hitting, pitching, or basketball, you know, it’s part of your family, and you love them to death,” Joe Gibbs said.”You want them to be successful at what they want to do. This is Ty’s dream. I think from the time he was two he’s been on something with wheels, eight hours a day. It’s a very tough climb. Tough world. He’s got to really work hard. We’ll see if he can get it done.”