Rubbin' is Racing, Mostly, for Ty Gibbs after Richmond Win

The young racer continues to win in bunches but sometimes under wild circumstances.

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The race winner’s press conference felt like an interrogation, but the defendant took every prosecutorial effort in stride.

Okay, it wasn’t quite that intense, but Ty Gibbs spent more time relitigating the contact with John Hunter Nemechek that sent him to victory lane at Richmond on Saturday than the accomplishment itself.

It was arguably a controversial finish, and one that Gibbs concedes Nemechek may feel compelled to get even for at some point down the road. Nemechek was making a one-off appearance in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 and had just taken the lead from his full-time teammate in the No. 54 with four laps to go.

Gibbs gave Nemechek several shots out of Turn 2 to get in position to dive under and get side-by-side on the final lap. They pulled even down the backstretch and Gibbs pushed Nemechek both lanes up the track to complete the winning pass.

It was missing the corner that left Nemechek miffed.

"I was fine with getting run into, and getting my back bumper beat off, getting hit in the left rear or whatever," Nemechek said. "Packing air, that’s hard racing and short track racing, but when you flat out miss a corner and just drive through someone, I wouldn’t call that racing."

In the immediate aftermath, Gibbs knew a line might have been crossed to a certain degree.

"I deserve one back," Gibbs said in Victory Lane.

It didn’t make it sting any less.

"That doesn’t mean anything," Nemechek said. "We didn’t take the hardware home today. I have limited starts in this No. 18 car. I think I have two more after this, so just trying to make the most of them."

Nemechek is full-time in the Truck Series with Kyle Busch Motorsports this season, with two more starts remaining in the Gibbs No. 18 and the occasional start in the Sam Hunt Racing No. 26. The No. 18 represents his most viable opportunity to win at this level in 2022, and he feels like he did everything right to win the race.

And then came Gibbs’ appearance before the press corps to talk about it.

HAVE YOU TALKED TO JOHN HUNTER YET?

"No, I have not with all the media (appearances) going on. Like I said, I probably deserve to get bumped back for a win, but we're racing hard. These wins are hard to come by, so you just have to take every advantage. I didn’t let him by and clean him out for the win but I doored him and got in there hard. I was tight, but there was no excuse for me hitting him that hard, and knocking him up the track, but we’re fighting for wins."

IS THAT WHAT YOU MEANT TO DO?

"I was going to have to hit hm in some way. He could turn the center better and I just couldn’t rotate, so I was definitely going to hit him. If I could go back, I would not have drove in as hard and hit him to knock him way up the track … I didn’t drag brake him, like we’ve seen before, to get behind and dump him. We raced to the finish, I hit him, and that was my goal. I could change it if I could, not hit him as hard, but that’s part of learning and I learned that."

You get the drift -- there were several questions to that affect.

Perhaps adding to the scrutiny is that both his dad, Coy, and grandfather Coach Joe were in the back of the room, no doubt taking notes on how the entire situation was managed.

"It is a little intimidating because sometimes I’ll mess up, and he’ll sit me down, and that’s part of it," Gibbs said while smiling towards his dad and grandfather. "My dad has actually been surprisingly, you know, good. He kind of lets me go, but coach is on me. He’s back there, he’s already coaching me. He judges me on my golf swing too. Everything."

Say what you will about the move to win the race, and if the ethics were sound, but it wasn’t too dissimilar to the move Daniel Hemric pulled on Austin Cindric last autumn at Phoenix to win the Xfinity Series championship.

If that’s now how the most important short track races are won and lost at this level, does Gibbs feel compelled to immediately get into that mode in advance of a playoffs format he has already qualified for?

"I think there is a difference between wrecking somebody," Gibbs said. "I didn't check up and wreck him. I got into his door like Daniel did last year. I got into him a little harder, but I'm just trying to maximize these spots where we're in a spot to win."

It's something Gibbs has made a habit of over the past two years. Winning. And after racing Corey Heim extremely tough for an ARCA Racing Series championship last year, Gibbs is taking those lessons to heart in his debut full-time Xfinity campaign.

Gibbs now has seven Xfinity wins in 25 starts in addition to his 18 ARCA wins in 47 starts. The results are there, and the results are the entire point of competition.

"I feel like I’ve lacked a lot of patience over the years," Gibbs said. "Last week, I blew a tire due to contact, got roughed up and made a mistake. So, the biggest thing I’ve learned is getting to the end of these races and then you let it play out.

"Once you get to the Cup Series, it doesn’t matter what your winning percentage is, we’ve seen it. So, to me, it’s just about maximizing all the situations that you’re presented to get wins. You never know win your last one could be."

And with that, court adjourned.