By Holly Cain, NASCAR Wire Service
Even the very drivers he beat offered congratulations to 18-year old Ty Gibbs for the teenager’s victory in Saturday afternoon’s Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey 200 at the renowned Watkins Glen International road course.
No matter which side of the track Gibbs re-started from, no matter the occasional hiccup getting up to speed, the grandson of NASCAR Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs proved he was up for the task – leading a race-best (and career-best) 43 of 82 laps to claim his third NASCAR Xfinity Series victory in 10 assorted starts this season. He also won at the Daytona road course and at the Charlotte oval.
Gibbs beat one of the track’s all-time best, A.J. Allmendinger by .938-seconds to take the victory, passing him with two laps remaining to seal his fate and raise his third trophy of the year.
“Ty did a great job, he was clean, made a great move on me and I couldn’t really do anything to defend it,” Allmendinger said, noting that although he initially took the lead on the race’s final restart with four laps remaining, he knew he would have to deal with Gibbs for the win.
“I knew how good he was, especially in the carousel and going through the last couple corners,” Allmendinger said. “That car had a lot of rear grips and he used it. Congratulations. Fantastic job by him.
“Proud of everybody at Kaulig Racing. Solid day, but it sucks when you come in second.”
For his part, Gibbs was all smiles and few words after climbing out of his No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. The fans gave him a huge ovation. He is the youngest driver in Watkins Glen’s storied history to win an Xfinity Series race.
“Probably the most fun racing with A.J. (Allmendinger), the 7 (Justin Allgaier), and the 22 (Austin Cindric); those guys are very experienced veterans in this racing series, and being able to race and beat them means a lot,” Gibbs said. “I learned a lot too.”
Cindric, the 2019 Watkins Glen winner and Xfinity Series championship leader finished third, followed by Allgaier and Harrison Burton. Brandon Jones, Noah Gragson, Jeb Burton, Justin Haley, and Sam Mayer rounded out the top 10.
Cindric won Stage 1 – for his series-best eighth stage win and Allmendinger won Stage 2.
Gibbs wasn’t even among the top 10 in the opening stage, but a different pit strategy moved him forward and he ran among the top five for the remainder of the race, battling forward at each restart figuring out a way to pass whoever held the lead – Cindric, Jones or Allmendinger. He passed them all.
“This is just a dream come true to win at Watkins Glen,” Gibbs said, adding “This is just wonderful, I can’t even believe it. It… Just a great race. I’m at a loss for words.”
With their impressive showings, Saturday, Penske Racing’s Cindric – a four-race winner already this season – and two-race winner Allmendinger maintain their places atop the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship standings. There are six races remaining to set the 12-driver Playoff field. JR Motorsports driver Michael Annett is currently 12th in the standings with a 30-point advantage over Stewart-Haas Racing’s Riley Herbst and a 45-point edge over Brandon Brown.
The series’ next race is the Pennzoil 150 at the Brickyard, next Saturday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course (4 p.m. ET, NBCSN, IMS Radio Network; SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images/NASCAR Media