Ty Gibbs hands in top-20 finish in Cup debut at Pocono

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·5 min read
Ty Gibbs hands in top-20 finish in Cup debut at Pocono
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LONG POND, Pa. — Ty Gibbs left Pocono Raceway after Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race lamenting his loss to Noah Gragson.

Just hours later, he was scrambling to prepare for his last-minute debut in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Gibbs replaced Kurt Busch in the No. 45 Toyota for 23XI Racing Sunday at Pocono Raceway following Busch’s Saturday crash that left him with concussion-like symptoms. A standout in the Xfinity Series with plenty of discussion around his potential future, Gibbs was thrust into his much-anticipated premier series debut.

RELATED: Kurt Busch recovering from crash | Official Pocono results

“Chaos for sure,” Gibbs said of the 19 hours between the Xfinity race’s end and Cup race’s start. “I didn’t know (about the Cup opportunity) until actually my best friend Drew Dollar’s here and we were parked on the side of the highway for like 45 minutes trying to figure out what I needed to do, where I needed to go. Do I need to go home? Do I need to stay? It was just chaos.”

Despite the rushed nature of his inaugural Cup appearance, Gibbs escaped with a 16th-place finish, earning an additional two spots after his Sunday co-owner Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch suffered disqualifications.

“I’ll take that,” Gibbs said. “I still wish I could have put it together a little bit quicker, but these are experiences for me in my life that I’ll just take hold of and always remember how it felt.”

To come away with a top-20 finish was a feat made far more impressive considering the 19-year-old had never sat in a Cup car before Sunday at 12:28 p.m. ET, just two and half hours before the command to start engines on Sunday. That’s after getting limited simulation time until 1 a.m. to hurriedly prepare for the event.

Coy Gibbs, Gibbs’ father and vice chairman and chief operating officer of Joe Gibbs Racing, told NASCAR.com the young competitor accomplished all anyone hoped for at Pocono.

“I think that, honestly, that was the goal,” Coy Gibbs said of the top-20 finish. “Get all the laps, don’t wreck the car and bring it home. So he was successful doing that. So we were all excited. Obviously, it was last minute. It was late last night. I feel bad for him. He probably only got like four hours of sleep. I missed the first plane. So I slept in a little bit. I wasn’t driving … but he did a good job. It was a good day.”

Billy Scott, crew chief of the No. 45 Toyota, was equally pleased with Gibbs’ debut.

“He did everything that was expected, right? Everything that was asked of him,” Scott said. “Did an awesome job. He kept it clean, he didn’t make any mistakes. And he actually raced the hell out of it there at the end on those last few restarts. So, you know, it was fun to see him get up there and challenge some of the veterans in the sport and like you said, to do it in his first attempt ever, at a track like this with so many of them pushing the edge there, it was fun to watch. And it was great for us and was proud to be part of it.”

There was plenty of coaching over Gibbs’ radio, with both Scott and spotter Jason Jarrett advising the eight-time Xfinity Series winner through his initial laps. Gibbs said it took the first two stages to feel more comfortable behind the wheel — evidenced by stage finishes of 29th and 27th, respectively — but later found a comfort level.

It was certainly different for Scott, who’s used to the 22-year veteran Busch behind the wheel as opposed to someone who hadn’t even sat in a Cup car previously.

“I think everybody was playing that role,” Scott said. “You know, he probably got more advice than he wanted at times throughout the last 15 hours or whatever it was. And you know, Kurt was a big part of that, though, just giving him some general advice and keeping him calm. And that was part of it was for him (Gibbs) to learn and continue to get better. And he did that.

“He was taking the feedback and it was fun to watch him make some improvements. We did have the car too tight at the end there, rightfully so just to make sure we were protecting a little bit, but I think he could have done even better had we chased the balance like he needed.”

Gibbs’ name continues to swirl as a potential Cup option for JGR, his grandfather’s team, while Kyle Busch’s contract situation remains unresolved.

WATCH: Joe Gibbs provides update on Busch’s contract

Coy Gibbs voiced pride in his son’s performance but hesitated to make any true evaluations after Gibbs’ debut.

“You don’t know with any of them,” Coy Gibbs said. “You bring the young ones up and you figure it’s a long, cold winter for 70, 75 races. That’s kind of traditionally what it’s been. And then hopefully at the end of two and a half, three years, you got something. And that’s the hard part because it’s a tough, tough deal up here. These guys are so fast. So you’ve just got to look at a longer term period to see what you got. You can’t judge it off one day.

“Now if he went and fenced it Lap 1, then it’d be a different story.”

Ty Gibbs, meanwhile, understands he likely has little say in what his Cup future holds.

“I think it definitely helps but I’m not in control of all that,” he said. “So I just do what I can do. And just even being interviewed by all you guys, it’s super cool. I never thought I’d ever be able to be at this level no matter what anybody says or where I’ve came from. I feel like it’s just super cool.

“The future hits fast, I guess. I’m already making my Cup Series debut and I graduated high school last year, and I was in fourth grade about I feel like two months ago. All this is just crazy.”