With the news that Kyle Busch will reportedly take his talents to Richard Childress Racing next season, it leaves a vacant seat at one of NASCAR’s greatest teams in Joe Gibbs Racing. Well, that situation is certainly almost figured out.
Ty Gibbs is expected to take over the No. 18 Cup car next season. Let’s dive into this development and what is next for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Ty Gibbs expected to drive the No. 18 Cup car next season
Gibbs, 19, has seen a fast rise through the sport that currently has him driving the No. 54 car for Joe Gibbs Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Gibbs has five wins, 10 top-5 finishes, 16 top-10 finishes, and a 9.8 average finish in 2022.
The 19-year-old driver has also been substituting for the injured Kurt Busch in the No. 23 and No. 45 car after the number swap that put Bubba Wallace in the No. 45 car before the NASCAR playoffs.
Gibbs has not been great for the equipment’s standards with only one top-10 finish and a 20.9 average finish in eight starts; however, it is a massive learning curve to be thrown into a NextGen car when things are on the line for drivers.
It is perfectly reasonable to understand his struggles and patience should be taking place with the young driver. Gibbs would have the seventh-worst average finish in NASCAR’s top level behind Cole Custer and ahead of Ty Dillon.
This all comes full circle at the end of the day. The only way for Gibbs to improve as a driver in the Cup Series is to, theoretically, throw him in the deep end and watch him learn to swim with the best of them.
Gibbs has proven he has talent in the Xfinity Series and while he might not be fully ready for the jump, there is enough performance that has been shown to justify moving him up a year earlier than anticipated.
It should be understood that expectations need to be low for his first full-time Cup Series season. There will be highs and lows but as a rookie driver, it should not be expected to win right out of the gate anymore.
Gibbs’ inevitable move to the Cup Series means that Brandon Jones will be the only current full-time driver for the Xfinity Series program. Who will replace the 19-year-old driver starting in 2023?
NASCAR: The driver likely to replace Ty Gibbs in the Xfinity Series
Toyota Racing continues to find diamonds in the rough when it comes to young prospects. Gibbs, Christopher Bell, Erik Jones, Kyle Larson, and many more to come with the most notable being Buddy Kofoid.
Add Sammy Smith to the list. Smith just turned 18 years old in June and has been running bigger tracks in NASCAR for the first time in his career. This includes the ARCA Menards Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series.
The 18-year-old driver won the ARCA Menards East Series championship last season and seems poised to claim it again this season. Smith also has three wins, 11 top-5 finishes, and 11 top-10 finishes in 12 races for the main ARCA series.
It has been a learning curve for Smith as he looks to improve on the bigger tracks. Joe Gibbs Racing threw him into the fire in the Xfinity Series and it has produced results that might not have been expected.
Smith was going to finish in the top-10 positions during his Xfinity Series debut at Road America, ahead of noted road course expert A.J. Allmendinger, before a mechanical issue ended his day before overtime.
He wrecked in his second race at Pocono Raceway but bounced back in a major way at Michigan International Speedway. Smith was contending for the lead at his first Xfinity Series race at a traditional oval.
The day was squashed by a speeding penalty during the final green-flag pit stop sequence but it is a learning experience that can’t be learned anywhere else in the lower ranks.
Watkins Glen International was a high point after Smith beat A.J. Allmendinger on a restart to take a stage victory. It was a massive moment for the 18-year-old driver and he came home with a third-place finish.
Smith went to his first superspeedway race at Daytona International Speedway but practice and qualifying were canceled. He went on to wreck off Turn 4 after getting loose by himself.
Finally, Smith participated in the race at Kansas Speedway and showed quality speed. However, some restarts were rough and it ended his day in eighth place after the rain poured down on the track.
It has not been a perfect six races for him but it is enough to show that he has a very bright future in NASCAR. It would be shocking to not see Smith replace Gibbs on a full-time basis in the No. 18 car or No. 54 car next season.
As one young prospect leaves for the top series, another potential future star emerges. The future is bright at Joe Gibbs Racing as the youth movement might finally be on its way.