Ty Gibbs got a taste of Daytona and is 'having a blast'

It almost wasn’t fair for Ty Gibbs, getting to run testing laps (single-car and drafting) at Daytona International Speedway this weekend but not being able to compete in a race at the track.

Ty Gibbs got a taste of Daytona and is 'having a blast'
Ty Gibbs, grandson of Joe Gibbs
Ty Gibbs, grandson of Joe Gibbs
Ty Gibbs, grandson of Joe Gibbs

Such is life when you are an aspiring stock car racer who has not yet turned 18 years old.

Under ARCA rules, drivers at least 16 (with approval) can test at Daytona but they cannot compete in a race at the superspeedway until they are 18. 

Gibbs, who turns 18 on Oct. 4, spent much of the two-day ARCA test being shepherded around Daytona’s high banks by his teammate, Riley Herbst, who is competing fulltime in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this season for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Gibbs, the grandson of JGR owner and three-time Super Bowl champion coach Joe Gibbs, will run all of the ARCA Menards Series races this season in which he is old enough to compete. He will also contest some ARCA East and West events as well as run some Trans Am races.

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“It’s been a lot of fun. It was very fun drafting with Riley and then him kind of talking me through it because he has a lot of experience on these big tracks,” Ty told Motorsport.com. “It was really cool. 

“I was having a blast drafting – way more fun than when you are out there by yourself. I’ve been down here all my life around my family. It’s just really cool to be able to come down here and get to drive out on the track. And then thinking about all the history here – wow.”

The JGR organization has an extensive history and much success in a variety of forms of motorsports, but its main emphasis now is NASCAR competition. 

While there have been some members of the Gibbs family who have competed on the track, including Ty’s father Coy and uncle, J.D., Ty is currently the only Gibbs family member trying to make a career behind the wheel of a race car.

“I raced with my cousin (Jason Gibbs) for a while in go-karts and box-stocks at Millbridge Speedway. We raced together for a while but he kind of stopped – he’s way too smart to race,” Ty said. “I think he could definitely be a crew chief. 

“I’ve raced in something my whole life. I’ve really set my mind to it and learned a lot in the last five years being in racing.”

Yes, Ty is quite familiar with the criticism that has come his way at times from those who think the only reason he has an opportunity to race is because of family connections. 

It may have bothered him at one time, but maturity and success on the track have helped to shut out the doubters.

“I feel like that’s one of the things I’ve gotten better at dealing with. Everything I’ve ever done in racing, there comes a lot of pressure,” he said. “It doesn’t get to me now. 

“It’s been so much that now it just doesn’t bother me. I go out there and race. I’m doing it because I love it. I’m not trying to impress anybody. I’m doing it because I want to race cars. It’s what I love.”

A strong 2019

Ty is coming off his best season yet as a racer. 

He won roughly a half-a-dozen races in 2019, beginning with a Late Model race last January at Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Speedway and including two NASCAR K&N Pro Series races and two ARCA races. 

“I feel like I really progressed from 2018 and through the 2019 season. I felt like I needed to fix a few things with me and stepping up into full body (stock) cars, I felt like they fit me a little bit better,” he said. 

“I felt like I did pretty good, picking up several wins. I won in every series I competed in. It felt good to go right out and win that first race right off the bat (at Myrtle Beach) and the ARCA race at Gateway was really cool and then winning Phoenix (in the K&N West finale). 

“I felt like a transitioned a lot better. I keep pushing myself to do as best as I can and try to win as much as I can. I can’t stop – I have to keep going.”

As much as 2019 was an extremely successful year for Ty and the JGR organization, it began on a sad note, with the death last January of Ty’s uncle and Joe Gibbs’ son, J.D. Gibbs.

It was especially difficult for Ty, who spent a lot of time around J.D., particularly during weekends at race tracks as Ty was growing up.

“It’s been hard but it’s pushing me to be a better person trying to live up to J.D.’s legacy. I grew up around him, he would always take me to pole night at Charlotte,” Ty said. “I look at his legacy and it makes me want to be a better person. 

“If I’m having a bad day, I think, ‘What would J.D. do?’ ”

Testing at Daytona has only wetted Ty’s appetite more to become a successful NASCAR driver and he has set lofty goals for himself in 2020.

“I just want to go out and win every race – that’s my goal. I want to be a better driver and a better person. That’s what I’m going to focus on,” he said. 

“If I can’t run for a championship, then I’m going to get all the experience that I can on the small tracks before I get to the big tracks. I always try my hardest. You can’t stay still, you have to keep moving forward.”

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