What’s Happening?

Many were skeptical of how Ty Gibbs would fare in the Cup Series in 2023, but he quietly had a solid rookie season where he narrowly missed the Playoffs. His 2024 got off to a solid start by leading the most laps in the Clash at the LA Coliseum before being shuffled out late. With all of this in mind, will this be Ty Gibbs’ breakout year?

  • Ty Gibbs is the grandson of Joe Gibbs Racing’s namesake Joe Gibbs. Ty is the son of the late Coy Gibbs, Joe’s youngest son. Coy was a former driver and college football player before being an executive at JGR.
  • When he came to the Cup Series, Gibbs was seen as someone with a lot of talent but a bit reckless. This came to a head at Martinsville in 2022 when he spun out teammate Brandon Jones, who was racing to make the Championship 4. Jones stated after the race that he was excited to leave JGR to join JR Motorsports.
  • Fans are a bit split on Ty Gibbs. Some fans still hold the Xfinity Series reputation over him, but, others were impressed by his performance in 2023.

The Importance of Year 2 in a Cup Series Career

A driver’s 2nd NASCAR Cup Series season is an important one. While a rookie season is all about learning the ropes and getting acclimated to the Cup Series, year 2 is when drivers are expected to start performing. While most NASCAR drivers struggle to some extent in their rookie season, great ones tend to start figuring it out by year 2.

There are plenty of examples throughout history and in modern NASCAR that show great drivers improving from year 1 to year 2. Dale Earnhardt was a Champion in his 2nd full-time season, and Jeff Gordon won 2 races in his 2nd year after going winless his rookie year. Three of the four Championship 4 contenders from 2023, William Byron, Ryan Blaney, and Christopher Bell were all in the Playoffs in year 2 with both Bell and Blaney winning their first career races in their second season.

By contrast, if a driver struggles in their second season, it often puts them in the hot seat the following year or out of the team entirely. Look at Harrison Burton and Austin Cindric, who both struggled in their second season and some are speculating about the future of both drivers with their respective race teams. Daniel Suarez missed the Playoffs in year 2, and he was bounced from JGR to make room for Martin Truex Jr.

While there are some exceptions of drivers who struggle in their second season but eventually figure it out, Kyle Larson is the chief example, that’s usually when drivers show their true colors. If a driver has what it takes, their second season usually showcases that.

Ty Gibbs Goals/Expectations for 2024

Ty Gibbs did exactly what he needed to do in 2023. He came into the Cup Series with a shaky reputation, so, what he needed to do was perform well and not make any enemies along the way. He kept his nose clean and missed the Playoffs by just one spot. That’s impressive given that only 5 rookies (Denny Hamlin, Chris Buescher, Chase Elliott, Cole Custer, and Austin Cindric) have ever made the Playoffs.

The bottom line is that Gibbs is in top equipment as JGR. With a talented enough driver, the #54 car can compete for and win races and Championships. Now that he’s enjoyed a solid rookie season with 10 top-10 finishes. It’s time to take that next step.

Gibbs’ goal should be to make the Playoffs at the very least in 2024. The easiest path to do that is by winning a race. What his performance at the LA Coliseum proved is that Gibbs can run up front when he is at his best.

What the LA Coliseum also showed is that he is inexperienced. He was schooled on an early restart by Joey Logano, and an over-aggressive move on a later restart gave teammate Denny Hamlin the lead. That second move cost Gibbs the race.

There’s not much we can take from the LA Coliseum in terms of performance since there is literally no other track like it on the regular schedule. However, Gibbs’ issues late in the race had nothing to do with the track and everything to do with inexperience.

He needs to learn how to race up front. A driver cannot race for the win the same way they’re racing for 15th. The LA Coliseum was definitely a great lesson for Gibbs, but, can he turn that performance into a consistent performance throughout the season? We will find out.