Even though Ty Gibbs is scheduled to make just his 15th career NASCAR Xfinity Series start in Saturday’s Alsco Uniforms 302 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, he’ll hope to kick off a championship run in the series, albeit a different kind of championship.
While the Xfinity Series playoffs for the driver title begins this weekend at Las Vegas, Gibbs will kick off the final seven-race stretch of the season with the No. 54 team very much in the hunt for the owner title. He’s shared the car this season with Joe Gibbs Racing’s (JGR) Cup Series regulars Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., and Christopher Bell, along with Cup Series veteran Ty Dillon, who joined the team for a handful of early season races. The No. 54 team arrives at Las Vegas third in the owner standings, 16 points behind the leading No. 16 car for Kaulig Racing.
Adding to the excitement for Gibbs this weekend is another chance to drive the No. 54 Supra featuring the colors of Interstate Batteries, as JGR’s founding sponsor returns for the second time this year with the next generation of the Gibbs family behind the wheel after he drove it during Throwback Weekend at Darlington back in May. For JGR and Interstate Batteries, this weekend continues the 2021 celebration of their 30th anniversary together.
In addition to the Cup Series history of Interstate Batteries, the soon-to-be 19-year-old Gibbs has joined several other drivers who have made Xfinity Series starts for JGR’s founding partner, including Busch, Hamlin, Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth, Erik Jones, Elliott Sadler, and Daniel Suarez.
While it’s only the 15th Xfinity Series race of the season for Gibbs, the start of his career has been impressive, to say the least. He won in his very first start on the Daytona road course back in February, then backed it up with a runner-up finish in his second start at Phoenix Raceway. Two more victories would come this season for the young driver – at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway in May and last month at Watkins Glen (N.Y) International.
While Gibbs is set to compete in 18 total Xfinity Series races in 2021, he is competing fulltime in the ARCA Menards Series, where he is first in points and has won at Phoenix, Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Toledo (Ohio) Speedway, Charlotte, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Iowa Speedway in Newton, Winchester (Ind.) Speedway, Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, The Milwaukee Mile, and Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. His 10 ARCA wins are just two short of Tim Steele’s modern-era single-season record of 12 wins in 1997. Gibbs has 18 ARCA victories in all and is tied for 14th on the all-time series wins list with Ken Schrader.
So as Gibbs heads west to Las Vegas for the first time, he’ll not only focus on trying to get his Interstate Batteries Toyota Supra to victory lane for the fourth time, he’ll look to kick off the team’s playoff-within-the-playoffs run in style with JGR’s founding partner riding along.
|TY GIBBS, Driver of the No. 54 Interstate Batteries Toyota Supra for Joe Gibbs Racing:|
| What are your thoughts heading to Las Vegas to race there for the first time? “I’m looking forward to racing at Las Vegas and it’s another new track for me. It’s great to have Interstate Batteries on the car. They have such a longstanding relationship with JGR and the Gibbs family. They are our founding sponsor. So I’m looking forward to having a great race at Las Vegas and hopefully putting them in victory lane. We’ve run well at the mile-and-a-half tracks and we won at Charlotte, so we should be good this weekend. Chris Gayle (crew chief) and the 54 boys will bring me a great Toyota Supra. Again, it’s just about learning each week and I’m hoping to do that this week at Las Vegas.” |
How special is it to run for Interstate Batteries given its 30-year history with your family?“Interstate Batteries means a lot to everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing. You just see all the pictures and highlights of the 1993 Daytona 500 and how excited everyone was. Norm (Miller, chairman) and everyone at Interstate Batteries have been a big part of Joe Gibbs Racing over all these years. It’s just really cool how they’ve been able to grow with us as the team grew over the years. It’s really an honor to be able to run an Interstate Batteries car and I’m hoping we can make everyone proud this weekend at Las Vegas.”
|Chris Gayle, Crew Chief of the No. 54 Interstate Batteries Toyota Supra for Joe Gibbs Racing:|
| You have Interstate Batteries returning to the No. 54 car this week. You personally have had a relationship with them over the years, working on the No. 18 car and some in the Xfinity Series, as well. What does that relationship mean to not only yourself, but the entire team? |
“JGR has had such a longstanding relationship with Interstate Batteries, so it’s really cool to have them get involved with Ty. They’ve obviously been involved with the Gibbs family for a long time. It’s pretty cool to start off our playoff races with them in Vegas and Ty. It’s a really neat deal to transcend into the next generation for a company that has been with us for a long time.”
This will be the first time Ty has raced at Las Vegas. Can you talk about his progression this year since the Daytona road course, where he didn’t know anything about the place and then won, until now, where he’s trying to do the same at Las Vegas this weekend? “It’s really unexpected. I don’t think any of us knew how good he was really going to be. He was really good at the road course right away but, beyond that, I’ve seen him become a little more racer savvy and learn how to race around other cars and not get himself in trouble. Richmond was a good example of him taking care of tires and learning that. It’s really cool to see that, and hopefully there’s a lot of that left. I’m hoping that this year’s playoffs, we hope to use that as a springboard for next year, where we could be doing it on the driver’s side.”
You are technically not in playoffs from a driver standpoint, but you are from the owner side. How important is that to you and the team? “It is very important for us. I think, from the financial standpoint and still getting the championship, that’s all we can do. Not only from a money standpoint, but a pride and sentimental standpoint, it means a lot to be able to win the championship because it would mean we scored the most points this year than anybody. That’s what the No. 54 team is hanging their hats on and we would really like to get that championship.”