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Just because Ty Gibbs’ promotion to the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series for Joe Gibbs Racing surprised no one doesn’t mean there weren’t a couple of unexpected developments to announce Tuesday afternoon.

JGR is taking pains to establish the reigning Xfinity Series champion as the first Ty Gibbs and not the next Kyle Busch. That means taking some obvious steps toward wiping away memories associated with the No. 18 Toyota.

JGR gives Ty Gibbs his first full-time Cup Series assignment

Ty Gibbs poses with the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship trophy after winning at Phoenix Raceway on Nov. 5, 2022. | Meg Oliphant/Getty Images
Ty Gibbs poses with the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship trophy after winning at Phoenix Raceway on Nov. 5, 2022. | Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

Winning the Xfinity Series championship in his first full season gave Ty Gibbs a leg up in earning a full-time ride in the Cup Series beginning next February. Performing respectably while driving in 15 races in NASCAR’s top series to fill in for Kurt Busch at 23XI Racing was another major step. And, when all else fails, there’s always falling back on the fact Gibbs’ grandfather founded and still owns the team.

Joe Gibbs Racing made the announcement Tuesday. Gibbs fills the void left by Kyle Busch’s departure, and he will compete alongside JGR veterans Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, and Christopher Bell. He will still be just 20 years old when he begins pursuit of his first Cup Series playoff berth.

Gibbs went to 23XI on loan beginning on July 24 at Pocono and finished with one top-10 showing. He bowed out early four times, twice due to crashes and twice following mechanical issues. Otherwise, he finished on the lead lap in nine of 11 races.

Wrinkle No. 1: Ty Gibbs isn’t inheriting Kyle Busch’s No. 18 Toyota

The M&Ms No. 18 Toyota was probably the most easily identifiable car in the NASCAR Cup Series during Kyle Busch’s 15 seasons with Joe Gibbs Racing. Alas, Mars, Inc., left Busch behind this offseason, and Busch is leaving JGR behind to drive for Richard Childress Racing.

All that remains is the No. 18, but even that will go missing once action starts with the Busch Light Clash in February. That’s because Ty Gibbs will be bringing the No. 54 that he used in the 2022 Xfinity Series campaign to the Cup Series.

That’s a savvy move on the part of Joe Gibbs Racing. Comparisons to the driver he’s replacing will be inevitable. Busch was just 19 when he started his first full Cup Series season, and he won twice that year. Gibbs has just gone through a hectic season of 48 races, culminating with a championship and followed just hours afterward by the death of his father. The last thing he needs is weekly reminders he’s taken a future Hall of Famer’s spot in the JGR lineup.

Wrinkle No. 2: JGR has promoted Chris Gayle to Cup Series crew chief


Ty Gibbs Misses the Season-Ending Race Due to the Death of His Father

Tuesday was too soon for Joe Gibbs Racing to reveal sponsors for Ty Gibbs’ No. 54 Toyota but not to announce a significant personnel change. Chris Gayle, who was Gibbs’ crew chief in the Xfinity Series, will follow him to the Cup Series.

Before manning the pit box for all 11 of Gibbs’ Xfinity wins over two seasons, Gayle was Erik Jones’ crew chief from 2017-20 in the Cup Series, where the two scored a pair of wins together.

The JGR announcement did not reveal whether Ben Beshore, Kyle Busch’s crew chief the past two seasons, will remain with the organization in some other role. Fox Sports reporter Bob Pockrass speculated on Twitter that Beshore might handle one of JGR’s Xfinity Series cars in 2023.

Got a question or observation about racing? Sportscasting’s John Moriello does a mailbag column each Friday. Write to him at [email protected].