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Joe Gibbs Racing announced Tuesday that Xfinity Series Champion Ty Gibbs will transition full-time to the NASCAR Cup Series next season, filling the roster spot left open by Kyle Busch and the next step in his rapid rise in the will mark the major leagues of stock car racing.
Gibbs will drive the #54 Toyota for his grandfather Coach Joe Gibbs’ team. The 20-year-old driver will bring with him the car number he fought for in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, marking a departure from the No. 18 which has served with the JGR organization since its Cup Series debut in 1992 is. Although Gibbs will be in the number 54 car, Joe Gibbs Racing intends to field the number 18 in the Cup Series for years to come.
Chris Gayle, who served as crew chief during Gibbs’ championship season, will transition with him to serve as crew chief in the Cup Series.
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Gibbs has excelled at every stage of his rapid rise up the NASCAR ladder. He ended the season as a seven-time Xfinity Series winner and capped his first full season in Xfinity competition with a title win at Phoenix Raceway. That triumph was marked by tragedy the death of his fatherCoy Gibbs, in the night hours just after his Phoenix win.
He has won 11 times in splits of two Xfinity seasons, including winning his series debut in 2021 at the Daytona International Speedway street course. But Gibbs also made an unplanned jump into the Cup Series this year, filling in with 23XI Racing – a subsidiary of JGR – when former series champion Kurt Busch suffered a concussion after falling during qualifying on July 23 at Pocono Raceway failed.
Gibbs was pressed into service the next day for his Cup Series debut and he entered 15 races for Busch for the remainder of the year. He retired from the Cup season finals after his father’s death.
Joe Gibbs Racing’s high-profile vacancy on his four-car team was officially opened on September 13 when Kyle Busch and Richard Childress Racing announced they would be joining forces from next season. The move ended a partnership dating back to 2008, a long-standing association that produced two Cup Series championships and 56 of Busch’s 60 career wins.
The younger Gibbs’ rise to the top flight of NASCAR was one of success and some controversy. Even as he almost immediately became a consistent contender for Xfinity Series wins on a part-time schedule last season, Gibbs drove to an ARCA Menards Series championship, winning 10 of the 20 races in 2021. He is an 18-time winner at this circuit, and he also has multiple wins at each of the two ARCA regional tours.
Gibbs’ aggressive manner helped him finish in victory lane, but it also upset some of his competitors. He was given a misconduct penalty and a $15,000 fine in April for making contact with Sam Mayer’s car on the pit lane after an Xfinity race at Martinsville Speedway. This disagreement led to fisticuffs between the two. On the Cup Series side, Gibbs also angrily bumped next to Ty Dillon’s car in the pit lane during a September 25 race at Texas Motor Speedway, drawing a check and $75,000 fine for unsafe driving near race officials and pit crew personnel after them.
The controversy came to a head in the penultimate race of the Xfinity Series when Gibbs rammed teammate Brandon Jones into a crash on the final lap at Martinsville Speedway. The maneuver prevented another JGR driver from making the Championship 4 field and a remorseful Gibbs apologized for the move.
Gibbs drove the number 18 during his ARCA successes and flew the car number his grandfather used when he started Joe Gibbs Racing as a single car team with Dale Jarrett as his driver 31 years ago. However, as an Xfinity regular, he established his own identity with the No. 54.
The last time the No. 18 was not in the regular NASCAR Cup Series rotation was in 1991. JGR drivers account for all but one of the car number’s 80 victories — Marvin Burke was the first, in 1951 at his only Cup -appearance won. Three of JGR’s five Cup Series championships have come with the No. 18 – Bobby Labonte’s 2000 title and the two crowns claimed by Kyle Busch (2015, 2019).
The No. 54 has not competed in the Cup Series since 2003 when driver Todd Bodine teamed up with team owner Travis Carter. The No. 54 has won just three times in NASCAR’s top division, most recently in 1978 when Lennie Pond scored his only Cup Series win at Talladega Superspeedway.