Ty Gibbs, who stirred controversy by crashing a teammate last week at Martinsville Speedway, brought the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship home to Joe Gibbs Racing by winning Saturday’s season finale at Phoenix Raceway.
Gibbs, 20, outran fellow championship contenders Noah Gragson, Justin Allgaier and Josh Berry — all JR Motorsports drivers — to claim the race win and series title. The victory was Gibbs’ seventh of the season. He led 125 of the 200 laps.
Gragson, who led 35 laps, chased Gibbs over the final eight laps and made gains but couldn’t close the gap at the finish.
The closing miles featured fierce racing for the win — and the championship — by Allgaier, Gibbs and Gragson. The lead swapped hands numerous times as each driver searched for the best lines through the one-mile track’s turns.
“I know what I did last week was unacceptable, and I apologize once again,” Gibbs said minutes after winning. “It was unacceptable because we could have had two shots to win this deal, and it was stupid from an organization standpoint. I will sit here and tell you I’m sorry as much as I can, but it is not going to fix it. I’ve got to fix my actions.
“I feel like today I had a good race. We made some good moves. Me and the 7 (Justin Allgaier) were racing really hard. Hopefully we put on a good show for you fans. Thank you for all of what you guys do.”
Gragson and Allgaier, who led 26 laps, followed Gibbs to the finish.
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A caution with 45 laps to go opened the door for pit stops for the championship drivers. Allgaier held the lead over Gibbs and Gragson at that point. Gibbs’ team won that challenge in the pits, returning him to the track in first place ahead of Allgaier, Berry and Gragson. Berry’s move into third place gave him his best spot of the race.
But Berry fell back with 30 laps to go, losing momentum and slapping the outside wall.
With 60 laps to go, the championship contenders filled the first four spots, with Gragson first, Allgaier second, Gibbs third and Berry fourth. Berry ran at the back of the top 10 for most of the first half of the race but rallied in the final stage.
A fast mid-race pit stop put Allgaier in front to start the last stage, but Gibbs needed only a couple of laps to pass him for the lead.
A few laps later, a multi-car crash produced the day’s fifth caution. The wreck started with contact between Sammy Smith and Sam Mayer.
Gibbs, the pole winner, led the race’s first 45 laps to win Stage 1 and also got a boost during a later round of pit stops when all three JR Motorsports teams had issues.
Gibbs received pressure at the front from Gragson, Allgaier and Smith in Stage 2 but also won it.
Gibbs wrecked Brandon Jones, his JGR teammate, on the last lap to win last Saturday’s race at Martinsville Speedway, denying Jones the victory and a spot in the Championship 4. Gibbs apologized numerous times, including after his championship win, for the Martinsville move, which produced heavy criticism for the young driver.
Stage 1 winner: Ty Gibbs
Stage 2 winner: Ty Gibbs
Who had a good race: Ty Gibbs managed to swim through what had been a tough week of criticism after his Martinsville move and won the race and the title. … Noah Gragson had Gibbs’ number for a portion of the race but couldn’t pull close near the end. … Justin Allgaier finished third but missed yet another shot at the championship.
Who had a bad race: Josh Berry managed to race near the front for a while but ultimately finished 13th after slapping the wall. … Dillon Bassett qualified well but finished last with an engine issue.
Next: The 2023 Xfinity Series schedule will open Feb. 18 with a 300-mile race at Daytona International Speedway.