In his first-ever NASCAR Xfinity Series start, 18-year-old Ty Gibbs, the grandson of NASCAR hall-of-famer Joe Gibbs, won on Saturday night at the Daytona International Speedway road course, becoming one of the youngest winners in the series.
Gibbs won stage 2 of the race and, after a few late-race cautions, took the lead in double overtime en route to his first win.
With his impressive run, Gibbs became the third-youngest winner in Xfinity Series history behind Joey Logano and Chase Elliott. He also became just the sixth driver to win in their Series debut, a feat which was accomplished by Dale Earnhardt, Joe Ruttman, Ricky Rudd, Terry Labonte and Kurt Busch.
Gibbs, who led 14 laps, spent much of the second half of the race in a close battle with Austin Cindric, who won the inaugural Daytona road course event last August.
Cindric was involved in a collision on the last lap of stage 1 when AJ Allmendinger tried to block, but Allmendinger ended up spinning off the bumper of Cindric’s Ford, handing Cindric the stage win, but damaging his bumper.
The race had 11 lead changes between eight drivers and was run under caution seven times for a total of 14 laps.
The Xfinity Series will head to southern Florida’s Homestead-Miami Speedway next weekend, where the series will log another 250 miles.
The race in Miami will be at 4:30 p.m. eastern on Saturday, Feb. 27.
Stage 1 – 15 laps
Prior to the race even starting, Noah Gragson’s no. 9 Chevrolet wouldn’t fire, and he didn’t take the green flag with the rest of the field. Brett Moffitt led the field to the green flag, but lost the lead in turn 3 to Austin Cindric. Gragson got on track on lap 3, but not without losing his third lap. Further back in the field, Natalie Decker, making her first NASCAR Xfinity Series start, spun in the frontstretch chicane. Fluid on the track brought out the first caution on lap 4. Decker soon retired from the race during the yellow flag period.
The race restarted on lap 7 with Cindric out front, but AJ Allmendinger was right on his tail. Allmendinger followed in Cindric’s tracks for four laps before Allmendinger made the pass for the lead in turn 6. Less than a lap after the pass for the lead, NASCAR threw the caution again for Ryan Vargas’ no. 6, which was stopped on the apron just outside of the pit road exit.
Only a handful of drivers elected to pit under the caution, including Justin Haley, Harrison Burton, Brett Moffitt, Ty Gibbs and Justin Allgaier.
Allmendinger led the field to the green flag with just two laps to go in the stage. Cindric continued to run second, but he continued to close the gap between himself and Allmendinger. Out of the last chicane, Cindric got to Allmendinger’s inside. The two drivers collided, but Cindric was able to drive away to take the stage win, despite the right side of his front bumper now hanging off the car. Allmendinger spun and damaged his nose in the infield grass and Riley Herbst drove through the grass and ripped the nose off his car altogether, ending his day.
The top-10 finishers in stage 1 were Cindric, Myatt Snider, Jeremy Clements, Andy Lally, Brandon Brown, Harrison Burton, Kyle Weatherman, Bayley Currey, Justin Allgaier and Ty Gibbs.
Stage 2 – 15 laps
Harrison Burton led the field back to the green flag with Justin Allgaier second on lap 19. Allgaier was quickly overtaken by Ty Gibbs, who was making his first Xfinity Series start. Gibbs took the lead from his teammate on the seventh lap of the stage. Allmendinger was able to meet the minimum speed set by NASCAR after repairs, so he was able to continue, but the no. 16 team opted to come back down pit road to make more repairs to their heavily-damaged Chevrolet.
Cindric, who was involved in the crash at the end of stage 1, was beginning to make progress in the middle of the field. With four laps left in the stage, he had driven into eighth. He took seventh when Miguel Paludo lost a tire and had to limp to pit road. Brett Moffitt also lost a tire, but he was able to pull into the pits quickly and get serviced.
Back at the front, Gibbs was running away from the field. Daniel Hemric, one of Gibbs’ teammates, moved into third. Cindric made more passes, bringing his damaged vehicle up to sixth. Fortunately for Gibbs, his large lead was enough to hold off the field as he ran away with his first career stage win in his first start.
In stage 2, the top-10 finishers were Gibbs, Burton, Hemric, Justin Haley, Allgaier, Cindric, Brandon Jones, Myatt Snider, Preston Pardus and Jeremy Clements.
Race to the finish – 22 laps
Under the stage-end caution, drivers came to pit road to make their last stops of the night. Hemric came out of pit road first, followed by Burton, Gibbs and Cindric. Coming off pit road, Brandon Jones, Preston Pardus and others ran into each other, causing damage to their cars.
The green flag came back out at lap 35 with Gray Gaulding, who didn’t pit, out front. Hemric quickly took the lead from Gaulding, who was then overtaken by Cindric. Another lap later, Cindric passed Hemric for the race lead, but Ty Gibbs was keeping pace with Cindric. Gibbs passed Hemric for second and was able to stay close. Cindric slid his right front tire in turn 3 with 15 laps to go , letting Gibbs close in even closer. Fortunately for Cindric, the caution came out shortly after when the no. 48 of Jade Buford spun out.
Cindric led the field back to the green flag with 12 laps to go. Hemric took a shot at Cindric through the kink, but couldn’t stay with Cindric. Hemric tried again off of turn 6, but Cindric was able to out-brake Hemric’s Toyota into the backstretch chicane. Ty Gibbs took a shot at Cindric on the next lap, but he too came up short. Through the slower portions of the track, Gibbs closed on Cindric, only to lose ground on the faster parts of the track. Behind the battle for the lead, Justin Haley and Harrison Burton traded the third position back and forth. With each lap, Cindric inched away from Gibbs, but with three laps to go, Bayley Currey’s right front tire came apart on the backstretch, bringing out a caution that would send the race into overtime.
The field came to pit road under the yellow. Justin Haley was the first off pit road, but he didn’t take any tires. Cindric came off pit road behind Haley with four fresh tires, but nine cars, led by Ryan Sieg and Myatt Snider, stayed out and took their chance to steal a win.
The green flag came out for the first overtime. Sieg jumped out to a commanding early lead, but quickly slid off track, and with drivers being aggressive, a chain-reaction crash broke out, bringing the caution out again with Jeb Burton in front of the field.
Jeb Burton led the field to the green flag for the second overtime, but Ty Gibbs drove through the top three to take the lead, but Cindric was behind him and gaining. Cindric tried to catch Gibbs’ no. 54, but Gibbs had enough of a gap to hold of the reigning series champion to win his first race in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
Featured photo credit: John Raoux/AP Photo