DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Eighteen-year-old Ty Gibbs wrote his name in the NASCAR Xfinity Series history books by winning in his series debut Saturday night at the World Center of Racing.
With a masterful – and agricultural – charge to the front on a double-overtime restart, Gibbs came from fifth to the lead in less than a lap at the 3.61-mile Daytona Int’l Speedway road course.
Gibbs passed Jeb Burton in the international horseshoe and then made his Toyota wide over the final lap and a half, holding off the damaged Ford of Austin Cindric for an emotional and surprising victory.
The triumph made Gibbs the sixth driver in the modern era of the Xfinity Series, dating back to 1982, to win in their first series start. He joined Dale Earnhardt, Joe Ruttman, Ricky Rudd, Terry Labonte and Kurt Busch in that exclusive club.
After a smoky burnout that ended in the middle of the infield, Gibbs dropped to his knees after climbing from his car and was near tears during his victory lane interview.
“I can’t thank everybody enough right now. This is like a dream come true to me. This is awesome,” said an emotional Gibbs. “I can’t do burnouts; that’s one thing I cannot do at all. … I really didn’t think I had it there. Just kind of fought back and we won.
“Thank you to Monster Energy and everybody, I don’t even know what’s going on.”
Gibbs’ shining moment came when he dove to the apron on the final restart, going four-wide and plowing through the infield grass next to pit road as he charged from fifth to second behind Burton.
That was the moment that Gibbs knew he had a chance, though it could have easily ended in disaster.
“I thought I ripped the nose off of it,” Gibbs said of the move. “We just got lucky, I guess.”
From there, Gibbs pulled away by nearly two seconds, while Cindric battled an ailing car that was suffering from damage suffered in a crash at the end of the first 15-lap stage Saturday night.
Cindric and A.J. Allmendinger came together coming to the start-finish line battling for the win in stage one, with both cars being damaged heavily as Allmendinger’s Chevrolet spun off Cindric’s front bumper.
While they both continued on, that singular moment altered the course of the race. Though Cindric was able to battle all the way back to a runner-up finish, his car was never quite the same after that point.
“I don’t think it changed anything at the end of the race, because by the time I got into second-place he (Gibbs) was gone and all l had to hope for was him screwing up or a caution coming out … but it definitely affected my handling in some of the higher speed corners and I’d almost put money on it affecting my braking,” Cindric explained. “My braking got significantly worse throughout the evening. I made a lot of mistakes on the brakes while in the lead. I’m not very proud of those, but just have to go back and understand it better – see what our brake wears look like – and obviously losing a ton of downforce and adding a lot of drag, so definitely didn’t help in a lot of facets.
“I felt like on equal terms I probably could have been able to make a pass; I wish we wouldn’t have had to overcome that, but my guys did a great job of clearancing all that and not letting me go a lap down,” Gibbs added. “All in all, I’m not sure how avoidable any of tonight’s circumstances were. We still put ourselves in position to win the race at the end … and it just wasn’t in the cards.”
Gibbs’ Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, Daniel Hemric and Brandon Jones, crossed the line third and fourth, respectively. Jeb Burton filled out the top five after leading at the final restart.
Finishing sixth through 10th were Harrison Burton, Miguel Paludo, Brandon Brown, Justin Haley and Jeremy Clements.
The first overtime period was set up by debris on the backstretch, which came off Bayley Currey’s machine after Currey cut down a right-rear tire.
That led to split pit strategy, with nine drivers – led by Ryan Sieg after Myatt Snider failed to maintain caution-car speed – staying out on old tires in an attempt to gain track position late in the race.
When the green flag waved, mayhem ensued, with a multi-car crash in the international horseshoe leading to the seventh and final caution of the night – as well as the decisive double-overtime finish.
Allmendinger was able to continue after the stage-one crash, limping home 13 laps down in 35th.
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