NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series
Inside the Battle that Decided the Trucks Championship
Nov 5, 2022
After all of that, this narrative ended with Noah Gragson shaking Ty Gibbs’ hand.
"Because they did a good job," Gragson said. "They beat us."
And Gibbs, the 20-year-old grandson of Coach Joe Gibbs, really beat them on Saturday at Phoenix Raceway to claim the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship. Overall, the younger Gibbs still has much to learn in the aftermath of everything that has happened this summer, but to persevere through this past week and win the championship still has to have a tremendous amount of meaning.
It just might take some time to fully appreciate it.
"Definitely have made some mistakes in the past and last weekend, but the best thing for me is to move on," Gibbs said. "And that's what I did today in my race, and we won.
"Just moving on and learning from my mistakes. I can't go back and change the past; and if I could, I would. But we can't do that, and the best thing for me is to learn from it. But to be able to be a champion is awesome."
No one is confusing the triumph for redemption and Gibbs’ peers say there is so much room for growth before his presumptive ascension to the No. 18 Cup Series car before the start of next season. Gragson, who claims to simply not like Gibbs, still respects the drive and that is what he wanted to convey through the handshake.
He also says he empathizes with where Gibbs is right now because it wasn’t that long ago that Gragson was there too. Remember when Gragson intentionally dumped Riley Herbst, badmouthed NASCAR lifer David Starr and got into a public spat with Mike Joy?
Gragson understands fully what it’s like to be a pariah to a large portion of the fanbase but also how to become the good guy again too.
"It takes a lot and being honest with yourself, to have honest people around you, to sit you down and say, hey, changes need to be made," Gragson said.
He says they used to be friends.
"You know, probably three, four years ago, he was a super cool kid," Gragson said. "He really was, but I don't know, it's just kind of changed over the last couple years, and I've told him that, and he knows that…
"I told him that ’hey, you used to be a super cool kid and you kind of turned into a little bit of a d----bag.’ There's your quote, you headlines."
That’s a snapshot of the uphill battle Gibbs faces just to be perceived positively within the confines of a sport he’s spent his entire life in. Even Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin made a subtle reference to his incident at Martinsville last weekend, seemingly suggesting that Ty could have benefitted from the tutelage of his late uncle JD.
His dad, Coy, says Ty is aware of how costly the past week has been to his reputation.
"To see a kid hurting, because he knows he screwed up, and to go through all that, it’s tough. It's tough as a parent for sure."
Coy says he entered this weekend just wanting to get it over with so they could turn the page as a team and family.
"Watching today, and seeing his determination, because he’s got that and the skills, that definitely made me proud," the elder Gibbs said. "I think it made my wife … we were both proud, just because he just hammered down and did his job. If he wants to do this for a living, he's going to learn how to do that."
Justin Allgaier says Gibbs controls his destiny in terms of what comes next.
"I think we all kind of agree he's probably going Cup racing next year in the 18, but no official announcement, but I think he's going to have to right some wrongs," Allgaier said. "You've also got to think like he's super young, he's lived a different lifestyle than Noah and I have, and he's making decisions based on what he thinks is best.
"Is that decision always best? Probably not.
"But we've all been there, we've done that. He did a great job tonight. He ran the best race, and they had the best car. You can't knock them for that."
And for his part, Gibbs says all he can do moving forward is let his next actions dictate his reputation, because he knows the industry is beyond hearing words that appear to be hallow in hindsight.
He knows he still has some growing up to do -- championship notwithstanding.
"People have had a lot of harsh things to say, and that's their opinion," Gibbs said. "And some of it might be true, but I don't really -- that's what they're going to say, and I just do the best work I can, let my on-track performance show for that.
"And if I've made some mistakes, then I'm going to work hard as I can to fix them. I know I have and that's what I'm going to do. I can't control what they say."
From that standpoint, maybe Gragson isn’t suddenly going to like Gibbs, but offering that handshake was the first step towards gaining some respect back.
"There was definitely a lot of disrespect, but I really respect him coming up," Gibbs said. "I feel like I've known him a really long time. Definitely some harsh words said, but it's part of it. It's part of the path that I'm on here.
"I definitely respect him. I feel like we had a lot of great racing with Noah and his teammates, as well, tonight, so thank you to him and thank you for all the kind words. It was awesome to be able to get this championship."