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NASCAR: Joe Gibbs Racing will change the No. 18 to No. 54 car

Ty Gibbs will drive the No. 54 car for Joe Gibbs Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series next season as the organization sets the No. 18 car aside.

NASCAR: Cup Championship

Joe Gibbs Racing finished its final event with Kyle Busch in the No. 18 car at Phoenix Raceway with a seventh-place finish as he moves to Richard Childress Racing starting next season.

However, Ty Gibbs, will pilot the No. 54 car instead of the No. 18 car moving forward.

The history of the No. 18 car with Joe Gibbs Racing

NASCAR: Cup Championship
Nov 6, 2022; Avondale, Arizona, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Busch (18) races during the Cup championship at Phoenix Raceway. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 18 car has an incredible place in the history of Joe Gibbs Racing as the organization broke into the NASCAR Cup Series with Dale Jarrett piloting the entry for the 1992 season. While the season wasn’t fantastic, it would only get better from there.

Jarrett won the 1993 Daytona 500 which marked the first career Cup Series victory for Joe Gibbs Racing. It was an incredible turnout and not the organization’s only victory after Jarrett won at Charlotte Motor Speedway later in the year.

After the 1994 season, Bobby Labonte took over the No. 18 car and became a NASCAR Hall-of-Famer. Labonte stayed with the organization for 11 years and won 21 races, including Joe Gibbs Racing’s first Cup Series championship in 2000.

J.J. Yeley would take over for Labonte after the conclusion of the 2006 season and ran poorly the next two seasons. It would also represent the last two seasons the organization spent with Chevrolet.

Kyle Busch entered the scene for the 2008 season and never slowed down. Busch won Toyota’s first race in NASCAR at Atlanta Motor Speedway that same year. The young driver broke out for eight victories in his first year with Joe Gibbs Racing.

He would go on to win 56 races with the organization while becoming the most notable driver for the team and Toyota. When people thought about those two situations, they would think about Busch.

The first championship in the No. 18 car since Labonte came in 2015 when Busch returned from a broken leg and foot suffered in a crash during the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Daytona International Speedway.

It would mark Busch’s first of two titles as he would do it again at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2019. However, this story for Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing did not have a happy ending.

Busch would see his long-time sponsor, Mars, leave the sport and no agreement would happen between the two sides. The 37-year-old driver will move to Richard Childress Racing despite having a victory in every season with the organization.

Related: Christopher Bell signed ‘long-term deal’ with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2022

Ty Gibbs will create his own brand and image

Syndication: Arizona Republic and Joe Gibbs Racing
Nov 5, 2022; Avondale, AZ, USA; While celebrating his championship and race victory, Ty Gibbs hoists the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship trophy after the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship race at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022. Mandatory Credit: Alex Gould/The Republic Nascar Xfinity Series Race

Gibbs, the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion, finished his first full-time season in the series with seven wins, 16 top-5 finishes, 23 top-10 finishes, and a 9.2 average finishing position in the No. 54 car for Joe Gibbs Racing.

The 20-year-old driver will replace Busch in the organization’s NASCAR Cup Series program but it won’t be in the No. 18 car. Instead, it will be his Xfinity Series number.

This is a situation that Hendrick Motorsports saw a while back when Kasey Kanne left the team after the 2017 season. William Byron was expected to drive the No. 5 car but he slotted into the No. 24 car after Chase Elliott got the No. 9 car.

The No. 5 car was Hendrick Motorsports’ flagship car. It was the first number the organization ran in the Cup Series and it went away from it until Kyle Larson joined the team for the 2021 season.

Gibbs needs to create his own brand and image. While following the footsteps of Jarrett, Labonte, and Busch would be incredible, people will always think of the two-time champion he replaced.

Gibbs drove the No. 54 car for the 2022 season in the Xfinity Series so it makes sense to move forward with that being his number. It doesn’t mean the No. 18 car is gone for good either.

The next crop of Joe Gibbs Racing talent is being led by Sammy Smith, who is expected to join the organization’s Xfinity Series program on a full-time basis starting next season.

Once Smith is ready to jump to the Cup Series, the organization could bring the No. 18 car back. The 18-year-old driver has been using the number in both the ARCA Menards Series and Xfinity Series this season.

It just makes sense for Gibbs to continue with the number where he was born as a champion in the top three levels of the sport.

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