Welcome to the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ty Gibbs! It is not an easy series to win in… wait, you already did it?
The 18-year-old Gibbs did not have to spend much time in the Xfinity Series long visiting Victory Lane. In just his very first race, the Super Start Batteries 188 on the Daytona International Speedway road course, he held off reigning series champion Austin Cindric in overtime to become the sixth driver in series history to win in his debut. Unlike the five who came before him, Gibbs is the only one without prior experience in any of NASCAR’s three national series (Cup, Xfinity, Truck) and is the youngest by a wide margin. In fact, Gibbs is only in his rookie season in the ARCA Menards Series, a series in which his 2020 slate was limited due to age restrictions, and he had finished second in ARCA’s stop on the road course in 2020.
Brett Moffitt and Cindric, who respectively finished second and first in last Saturday’s season opener on the Daytona oval, started on the front row for the road race. Gibbs began his maiden Xfinity race in fifteenth after taking over the #54 of his grandfather’s Joe Gibbs Racing from a fellow Ty in Ty Dillon. JGR team-mate Daniel Hemric started at the back after failing pre-race inspection three times.
Cindric, the defending winner on the Daytona RC and a road course ace in general, led the way. Noah Gragson quickly faced an uphill battle when his car failed to start for pace laps and needed a replacement ignition box, causing him to fall three laps down when he joined the race.
The first caution of the day came on lap four when Natalie Decker, making her series début, spun in the frontstretch chicane and dropped fluid on the track. A second yellow flag waved for Ryan Vargas, running with sponsorship from NFL running back Alvin Kamara, losing power on the track; Vargas eventually returned to the race and finished thirty-seventh. Before the race, Kamara and fellow NFL RB Antonio Williams made a friendly bet in which the loser (whoever’s driver finished behind the other; for Williams, it was Joe Graf Jr.) had to donate money to the victor’s charity of choice; Graf finished twentieth to win the wager.
Cindric and fellow road course expert A.J. Allmendinger battled for the lead throughout the opening stage, but their duel would result in the segment ending under yellow when Cindric turned Allmendinger coming to the finish. Myatt Snider slipped by to finish second followed by Riley Herbst, Jeremy Clements, Andy Lally, Brandon Brown, Harrison Burton, Kyle Weatherman, Bayley Currey, and Justin Allgaier. Despite the third-place finish, Herbst suffered terminal damage when he went through the grass to avoid Allmendinger.
“Obviously, I don’t want to be racing to a stage probably that aggressive,” Cindric commented in his post-race interview. “I’d love to see a replay. Just hopefully we can avoid something like that because A.J. and I were gonna be fighting for a win later today, so I hate to be able to do that much damage to our PPG Ford Mustang that early. It just seemed like he was trying to block, whether if he didn’t know I was there or not. It sucks.”
The second stage began with Burton leading Justin Allgaier, while Gragson regained a lap between stages. Gibbs took the lead on lap 21 and stayed in front to the green-checkered flag, leading team-mates Burton and Hemric, Justin Haley, Allgaier, Cindric, Jones, Snider, Preston Pardus, and Clements. Jones and other drivers like Clements and Pardus were later caught in a pit road accident.
The final segment saw Cindric take the lead from Gray Gaulding and Hemric, but he faced a challenge from Gibbs. A caution was briefly called on lap 39 when Jade Buford‘s car stopped in the West Horseshoe. Gibbs spun his tyres on the ensuing restart and Hemric began fighting Cindric for first before Gibbs rejoined the conversation.
Cindric and Gibbs traded blows throughout the race before the former cleared him with six laps to go. However, a debris caution forced overtime.
Ryan Sieg and eight other drivers—Snider, Jeb Burton, Jones, Lally, Moffitt, Stephen Leicht, Gaulding, and Weatherman—elected to stay out while Haley was the first off pit road ahead of Cindric. Sieg led the field to the restart, but went wide and fell back, leading to chaos in the infield when Leicht, Gaulding, Cody Ware, and Josh Williams went around or suffered damage in the ensuing infield stack-up. Burton slipped past to take the lead as the final yellow was waved.
The second overtime saw Burton and Jones on the front row, but a strong restart by Gibbs propelled him to the front in the International Horseshoe. Lally and multiple cars including Sieg spun behind the leaders, but the race stayed green. As Gibbs led, Cindric passed Burton for second and tried to close in, but ran out of time as Gibbs stormed off to win.
Gibbs is the sixth driver to win in his Xfinity début after Dale Earnhardt (1982 at Daytona, the series’ inaugural race under its current iteration), Joe Ruttman (1982 at Dover), Ricky Rudd (1983 at Dover), Terry Labonte (1985 at Charlotte), and Kurt Busch (2006 at Texas). However, the five all possessed Cup experience prior to their Xfinity starts; for example, Busch—also a Monster Energy-sponsored driver like Gibbs—bypassed the second tier entirely and moved from the Truck to Cup Series in his early career. At the age of 18 years, four months, and 16 days, Gibbs also became the youngest Xfinity road course winner, passing Cindric’s 2019 Mid-Ohio victory at 20.
“This is like a dream come true to me,” Gibbs said. “This is awesome, I can’t do burnouts, that’s one thing I cannot do at all. I just can’t thank everybody, this is just a dream come true to me. I really didn’t think I had it there. Kind of fought back and we won. Thank you to Monster Energy and everybody, I don’t even know what’s going on. […]
“I don’t even know how to feel. This is really hard for me to explain. After my uncle (J.D. Gibbs, former JGR president) passed away, it’s been hard for me. It’s just a dream come true. I’m just rambling. I’m excited. Mixed emotions for sure. This is just awesome.”
Other finishers of note include Miguel Paludo scoring a seventh in his first NASCAR race since 2013 and first Xfinity event since 2012, and Kris Wright ending his series début in eighteenth. Gragson finished twenty-eighth but was able to complete his climb back onto the lead lap. David Starr‘s first race for MBM Motorsports ended with a transmission issue in thirty-eighth, while Buford’s retirement for a suspension failure concluded his first start for Big Machine Racing two spots ahead.
|1||15||54||Ty Gibbs||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||56||Running|
|2||2||22||Austin Cindric||Team Penske||Ford||56||Running|
|3||5||18||Daniel Hemric||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||56||Running|
|4||39||19||Brandon Jones||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||56||Running|
|5||3||10||Jeb Burton||Kaulig Racing||Chevrolet||56||Running|
|6||4||20||Harrison Burton||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||56||Running|
|7||35||8||Miguel Paludo||JR Motorsports||Chevrolet||56||Running|
|8||7||68||Brandon Brown||Brandonbilt Motorsports||Chevrolet||56||Running|
|9||29||11||Justin Haley||Kaulig Racing||Chevrolet||56||Running|
|10||18||51||Jeremy Clements||Jeremy Clements Racing||Chevrolet||56||Running|
|11||1||02||Brett Moffitt*||Our Motorsports||Chevrolet||56||Running|
|12||14||4||Landon Cassill||JD Motorsports||Chevrolet||56||Running|
|13||8||2||Myatt Snider||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||56||Running|
|14||13||78||Jesse Little||B.J. McLeod Motorsports||Chevrolet||56||Running|
|15||33||1||Michael Annett||JR Motorsports||Chevrolet||56||Running|
|16||11||47||Kyle Weatherman||Mike Harmon Racing||Chevrolet||56||Running|
|17||22||92||Josh Williams||DGM Racing||Chevrolet||56||Running|
|18||19||26||Kris Wright*||Sam Hunt Racing||Toyota||56||Running|
|19||10||5||Matt Mills||B.J. McLeod Motorsports||Chevrolet||56||Running|
|20||9||07||Joe Graf Jr.||SS-Green Light Racing||Chevrolet||56||Running|
|21||30||52||Gray Gaulding||Jimmy Means Racing||Chevrolet||56||Running|
|22||36||36||Alex Labbe||DGM Racing||Chevrolet||56||Running|
|23||32||15||Colby Howard||JD Motorsports||Chevrolet||56||Running|
|24||20||44||Tommy Joe Martins||Martins Motorsports||Chevrolet||56||Running|
|25||38||17||Cody Ware||SS-Green Light Racing||Chevrolet||56||Running|
|26||25||7||Justin Allgaier||JR Motorsports||Chevrolet||56||Running|
|27||27||39||Ryan Sieg||RSS Racing||Ford||56||Running|
|28||26||9||Noah Gragson||JR Motorsports||Chevrolet||56||Running|
|29||34||61||Stephen Leicht||MBM Motorsports||Toyota||56||Running|
|30||37||0||Jeffrey Earnhardt||JD Motorsports||Chevrolet||56||Running|
|31||24||99||Andy Lally||B.J. McLeod Motorsports||Chevrolet||55||Running|
|32||31||74||Bayley Currey||Mike Harmon Racing||Chevrolet||55||Running|
|33||23||90||Preston Pardus||DGM Racing||Chevrolet||49||Transmission|
|34||17||66||Timmy Hill||MBM Motorsports||Toyota||46||Running|
|35||6||16||AJ Allmendinger||Kaulig Racing||Chevrolet||43||Running|
|36||28||48||Jade Buford||Big Machine Racing||Chevrolet||38||Suspension|
|37||12||6||Ryan Vargas||JD Motorsports||Chevrolet||33||Running|
|38||40||13||David Starr||MBM Motorsports||Toyota||20||Transmission|
|39||16||98||Riley Herbst||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||15||Accident|
|40||21||23||Natalie Decker||RSS Racing||Chevrolet||3||Accident|
* – Ineligible for Xfinity points