By Adam Carabine & Crystal Clay
While drama and a dirty move may have marred the Martinsville cutoff race, a clean, hard-fought battle resulted in a Ty Gibbs Xfinity Championship at Phoenix Raceway.
The Championship Four were all involved from beginning to end. Gibbs, Noah Gragson and Justin Allgaier took the lead a collective 13 times. Josh Berry didn’t lead any laps but spent a majority of the race in the Top 5.
The conversation around Ty Gibbs all week surrounded his last-lap move that turned his teammate Brandon Jones at Martinsville last Sunday. Gibbs not only took the win, but also knocked Jones out of the playoffs, resulting in a Championship Four where Gibbs was the only Joe Gibbs Racing driver.
During media day, Ty Gibbs was downcast, remorseful, and ready to own his actions.
“I have to face the fact that I made a mistake and I have to work as hard as I can to fix these issues. I put myself in this position, and I’m the one that did this to myself. It really hurts me because it’s my family’s team.”
Much was made of Gragson’s comments about Gibbs, as clearly a fiery rivalry developed all season.
“I’m just voicing my opinion, I don’t like him. I’m excited to race with Justin, excited to race with Josh, excited to race with a lot of the other guys in the field, but I’m just over it. I’m just sick and tired of the ‘I’m sorry, I’m trying to learn’ deal, like, it’s been two years.”
What may have been disappointing in unnecessary drama was more than made up for in pure excitement. All of the Championship Four drivers raced each other clean and with respect.
So much so, Gragson even went and shook Gibbs’ hand after the race, adding “He raced like a champion tonight, and he deserves it.”
In response, Gibbs said, “I really respect him coming up. I feel like I’ve known him for a long time. Definitely some harsh words said, but that’s part of it, that’s part of the path. I definitely respect him, I feel like we had a lot of great racing with Noah and his teammates tonight.