Ty Gibbs was the class of the NASCAR Cup Series field Saturday night at the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum until an untimely late caution.
Gibbs finished 18th in the 23-car field, which did not reflect how strong his Joe Gibbs Racing Camry performed. The sophomore driver led the most laps, 84, and was in control of the race, driving away from the field by over two seconds in the second half when the caution flew with 10 laps to go.
On the ensuing restart, Gibbs washed wide in Turn 1, which opened the door for his teammate Denny Hamlin. At the white flag, Gibbs spun due to contact from Kyle Larson.
“He just did a good job there getting back in contention for the race,” Gibbs said of Hamlin. “I just overdrove the corner and got wrecked after that.”
The restart that took Gibbs out of contention when he went wide into the first corner also affected Joey Logano’s race. Logano had lined up outside Gibbs for the restart — the wrong place at the wrong time, as Gibbs inadvertently took him along for the ride out of the racing groove.
Logano confronted Gibbs at his hauler after the race.
“I ran him up, but if you go back and look at the replay, the 12 (Ryan Blaney) kind of chucks him out of the way, too,” Gibbs said. “It is just hard racing there at the end. This place is really hard to get your tires warm once the caution comes out — as you could see, everyone was sliding around, so I just got in there deep and washed up into him. We just got all tangled up after that.”
It was the second-most laps Gibbs has led in a single Cup Series race in his young career. Last fall, Gibbs led 102 laps at Bristol Motor Speedway on his way to a top-five finish.
“It was just unfortunate,” Gibbs said. “I just have to get better at restarts. My team brought me a great Monster Energy Camry, as we saw. It was a good showing.”
Despite the disappointment of the result, Gibbs finished the race, unlike his first appearance in L.A. in 2023, which was cut short due to a mechanical issue. Gibbs went on to win Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors last season, finishing 18th in the championship standings. A fast car Saturday night is a good start to a season in which TRD president David Wilson believes Gibbs will win a race and qualify for the playoffs.
“Everyone did a great job,” Gibbs said. “We started where we left off last year. It was a good showing for us. Our guys did a good job. Experience helps, and we will just keep going.”