The ARCA Menards Series has seen its share of impressive first-year drivers over the years, even more so in recent seasons as several top-level NASCAR organizations have utilized the series as a driver development platform. One of the most impressive young drivers to come through is seventeen-year-old Ty Gibbs.
Driving for his legendary NFL and NASCAR Hall of Fame grandfather Joe Gibbs, the Huntersville, North Carolina native made an immediate splash when he finished second in his series debut at Five Flags Speedway in March. After a sixth-place run in the rain-shortened spring race at Salem Speedway, Gibbs cranked off a pair of additional runner-up finishes at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville and Toledo Speedway.
Gibbs would lead fifteen laps at Madison International Speedway, but an ill-timed rain shower muddled his pit strategy and allowed Chandler Smith, who pitted before the red flag, to steal the victory while Gibbs was forced to settle for eighth at the finish.
Despite the disappointment Gibbs rebounded immediately. He qualified eighth at WWT Raceway at Gateway and was up front all night long, battling for the lead with another impressive youngster, 2019 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East champion Sam Mayer. Gibbs would from lap 80 to lap 110 before giving up the lead to Mayer. Gibbs challenged Mayer into turns three and four of the final lap – some say there was contact – pushing Mayer into the upper lane and allowing Gibbs to sneak through and take the last-lap victory.
Another runner-up finish followed at Elko Speedway, followed by a fifth-place finish at Iowa Speedway. His dirt-track debut followed at Springfield, and Gibbs again proved to be strong. He qualified third and led ten laps throughout the day but was relegated to fifteenth at the finish due to overheating issues.
Again, the rebound from disappointment was immediate and unmistakable. Gibbs dominated the fall race at Salem, leading practice, starting from the General Tire Pole, and leading 196 of the race’s 200 laps on his way to his second win of the season. The only laps Gibbs didn’t lead were under caution when Christian Eckes beat him off pit road and led four laps under yellow.
Gibbs picked up where he left off in his final start of the season at Lucas Oil Raceway, scoring his second consecutive General Tire Pole Award and leading the first 143 laps before being swept into a crash not of his making that ended his day.
In eleven starts, Gibbs led 437 laps and finished in the top ten nine times. Seven of those finishes were in the top five, and six of those were finishes of second or better. His average starting position was 3.9 and even with two fifteenth-place finishes his average result was 5.4. Gibbs shared his ride with Riley Herbst and, for one race, Todd Gilliland, and combined they powered car owner Coy Gibbs to fourth in the final owner’s standings.
ARCA’s 67th season will come to a close when Christian Eckes will officially be crowned the 36th ARCA Menards Series champion on Saturday, December 14 at the Championship Banquet held at the Indiana State Convention Center, held annually in conjunction with the Performance Racing Industry Trade Show. Tickets to the black tie gala, which are also available to the general public, are on sale now.