Ty Gibbs was promoted to NASCAR’s top Cup series on Tuesday in an expected announcement that was void of any celebration as Joe Gibbs Racing continues to mourn the loss of Gibbs’ father.
Coy Gibbs died in his sleep hours after his 20-year-old son won the Xfinity Series championship on Nov. 5 at Phoenix Raceway. He was 49, the same age as older brother, J.D., when he passed away in 2019.
Joe Gibbs, the NASCAR and NFL Hall of Famer, has lost both his sons a month before their 50th birthdays. Coy Gibbs was vice chairman of his father’s NASCAR team at the time of his death.
The Gibbs family has made no public statements since confirming Coy Gibbs’ passing shortly before the NASCAR season finale. Ty Gibbs did not race in the Nov. 6 finale and has made just one public appearance since, courtside at a Charlotte Hornets game last week with his younger brother, a cousin and another driver.
The Tuesday announcement that Ty Gibbs will replace Kyle Busch in JGR’s Cup lineup came in a four-paragraph press release that said Gibbs will move up with Chris Gayle, his crew chief during this year’s championship season.
Ty Gibbs will drive the No. 54 Toyota Camry next year and JGR said it plans to use the No. 18 for future use. Joe Gibbs chose the No. 18 when he launched his NASCAR team in 1992 and Busch spent the past 15 years with the number.
Ty Gibbs has used the No. 54 the past two seasons in the Xfinity Series, where he won 11 of 51 races and the championship in the season finale at Phoenix. His first national series title ended a bumpy season for Ty Gibbs, who scrapped with other drivers, was fined by NASCAR, and then cost JGR driver Brandon Jones a spot in the championship finale by spinning him out of the lead on the final lap at Martinsville Speedway.
If Gibbs had simply stayed in second behind Jones, both JGR drivers would have made the championship race and Toyota would have had two entries. Joe Gibbs promised consequences would be coming for his grandson, but the team had to get through championship week first.
Ty Gibbs then won the title but learned of his father’s passing at a Phoenix-area hotel the next morning.
Before the incident at Martinsville, Toyota Racing Development president David Wilson had defended Gibbs’ growth while noting he’s younger than most of his peers. He’ll join a JGR lineup that includes 42-year-old Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin, who turns 42 later this week, as well as Christopher Bell, who turns 28 next month. Bell raced for the Cup title at Phoenix, finishing third in the title race.
Tony Stewart won the battle with partner Gene Haas over next year’s NASCAR lineup by giving reserve driver Ryan Preece a shot with a top-tier Cup organization.
Preece spent this entire year doing simulator work for Stewart-Haas Racing that helped the organization adapt to NASCAR’s new car. Haas said last month he and Stewart disagreed over the direction of the No. 41 Ford, with Stewart wanting to promote Preece but Haas preferring that Cole Custer return for a fourth season.
Haas, the founder of the NASCAR team, seemed inclined to follow Stewart’s talent assessment and it became official Wednesday when Preece was given the seat. Custer will stay at SHR but move down to the second-tier Xfinity Series.
Preece at the end of the 2021 season chose the reserve role with SHR rather than take a full-time Cup ride with a mediocre team. Alex Bowman took a similar path and now drives the No. 48 at Hendrick Motorsports.
Preece’s hope was that he’d do enough behind the scenes to earn a Cup seat when one opened. Preece is represented by the company owned by SHR veteran Kevin Harvick, and Haas has said Harvick told the organization he intends to retire at the end of 2023.
Additionally, Aric Almirola said ahead of this season that it would be his last, then backtracked and will return next year. Any way he looked at it, Preece figured SHR would eventually have openings and being embedded within the organization made him the frontrunner.
Preece clawed his way from Berlin, Connecticut, into NASCAR’s national series through the Whelen Modified Tour, NASCAR’s oldest division and the only open-wheel series it sanctions. The 32-year-old won the modified championship in 2013, the same year he made his debut in the Xfinity Series.
He made his Cup debut in 2015 and two years later mortgaged his house to fund two Xfinity races with Joe Gibbs Racing. The superior equipment allowed Preece to finally show his talent and he finished second in his JGR debut won the next race at Iowa Speedway.
Preece parlayed it into 17 more Xfinity races with JGR — a run that included a 2018 victory at Bristol, and finally in 2019 a chance in the Cup Series with a three-year deal with JTG-Daugherty Racing.
Next year he will be teammates with Harvick, Almirola and Chase Briscoe. Harvick is the 2014 champion and both he and Briscoe made the playoffs this season.
Custer, the son of SHR executive Joe Custer, won a Cup race in his 2020 rookie season but his success has mostly come in the Xfinity Series. He’s a 10-time winner in Xfinity, including a February victory in one of five starts.
He will drive a new second Xfinity Series car as teammate to Riley Herbst, who SHR is bringing back for a third consecutive season.