By Seth Eggert, Associate Editor
The driver of the No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota Camry TRD climbed up the running order in the final Stage of the Ambetter Health 400. Just as he hovered outside the top-10, chaos broke out up ahead.
Kevin Harvick spun from the lead setting off ‘the big one.’ In the chaos Gibbs clipped Erik Jones. Despite the contact, the grandson of team owner Joe Gibbs received minimal damage. The Charlotte, N.C. native had to avoid another wreck 20 laps later, though he emerged from that one unscathed.
In the closing laps of the 400-mile race, Ty Gibbs found himself second in line on the inside for a time. However, it was when the inside lane was fading, not surging. That prevented the 20-year-old from linking up with his Toyota Racing brethren on the outside lane.
Although he wasn’t in the dominant lane, the narrow racing surface on the superspeedway style of Atlanta kept Gibbs from losing too much ground. Late charges allowed superspeedway aces Corey LaJoie and Erik Jones to swing by the Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year contender.
Gibbs ultimately took the checkered flag in ninth, his first top-10 since moving to the Cup Series earlier this year. It was also his career-best finish to date.
“I feel like from where we started to where we finished, we made really good progression,” Gibbs said. “The team, my 54 group never gave up on me and we had great stops all day. We had a very fast Monster Energy Toyota Camry TRD, just ran out of laps there. Probably could have worked our way up a little bit and been more aggressive, but it just comes with experience, but we’re plate racing and that’s just part of it and just learning and we’ll move on and go to the next race.”
Gibbs qualified in 35th after breaking loose and tagging the wall in qualifying. With few cautions in the opening Stages, he never moved into the top-10 to earn Stage points. Though Gibbs did flirt with entering the top-15 by the end of Stage 2.
The ninth-place finish is his first top-10 in the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season and the second of his career. His first career top-10 came last season at Michigan Int’l Speedway while subbing for Kurt Busch.
The ninth-place finish moves Gibbs from 23rd in points to 19th. He’s 12-points below the cutline, held by Bubba Wallace, and 87 behind leader, and Atlanta race winner, Joey Logano.
In the Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year points standings, Gibbs leads Noah Gragson by 22-points. Gragson finished four spots behind the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion at Atlanta.
Next for Gibbs is the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas (COTA). Though he does not have a Cup start at COTA, he does have one start in Xfinity at the 3.410-mile road course. Gibbs won the pole and finished 15th.
The NASCAR Cup Series race at COTA is scheduled for Sunday, March 26 at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX. The race will also be broadcast on the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.