Column By: REID SPENCER / NASCAR – BROOKLYN, MI – By his own admission, Ty Gibbs didn’t have his best race last Sunday at Richmond.
Nevertheless, he salvaged a 15th-place finish and gained both positions and points in the standings at the expense of other bubble drivers—Daniel Suarez, Michael McDowell and AJ Allmendinger—who fared worse at the .75-mile short track.
Gibbs comes to Michigan International Speedway 17th in the NASCAR Cup Series standings, 18 points behind McDowell for the final Playoff-eligible position.
There are potential good omens for Gibbs at Michigan. Not only did he win last year’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at the 2.0-mile track, but he also scored his best Cup finish of 2023 (10th) in a substitute role for injured Kurt Busch.
“I think for me and my team, we just have to execute every week,” said Gibbs, who qualified third for Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 (2:30 p.m. ET on USA, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). “We didn’t really good last week, or I didn’t really do good last week, and we gained a bunch of points still.
“I’ve just got to do better than that, and I think we will have a better shot. I’ve got all the confidence in my team. I know they are bringing great race cars to the track, and we’ll see what we can do.”
To make the Playoffs in his first full season in the Cup Series would be a significant accomplishment for Gibbs.
“First of all, it’s a rookie season,” Gibbs said. “That’s what everybody has been telling me. It’s all right—just do the best you can. For me, I feel like I go into each race the same—just try to complete the mission and do the best I can and do the best I can with my car…
“It’s a mental game. Racing is really, really hard. Cup is really, really hard, and I think the Xfinity-to-Cup jump is three times as hard as it has ever been. You have a whole different car, and track position means more than anything, but I really enjoy it and my team does a great job and works really hard. We have a great pit crew, and we’ll keep working hard.”
Martin Truex Jr. will return to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2024
Martin Truex Jr. put questions about his immediate future to rest on Saturday, confirming he will return to Joe Gibbs Racing for another NASCAR Cup Series season next year.
The driver of the No. 19 Toyota has won three times this season, at Dover, Sonoma and New Hampshire, to bring his career victory total to 34. Truex won the series championship in 2017 and currently leads the series standings with four races left in the regular season.
Next season will be his sixth with JGR.
“I’m ready, and I’m excited and I’ve got a great thing going,” Truex said on Saturday at Michigan International Speedway.
Truex said he signed his new contract on Friday. The deal is for one year, as is his agreement for 2023.
“Honestly, I’ve been leaning that way for a couple of weeks, and I was like OK, I kept thinking about it and seeing if something changed and nothing changed, so I was like
‘Here we go, let’s do it.’”
Brad Keselowski would consider adding a third team, but charters are the issue
The two Fords at Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing are vastly improved this season, and co-owner Brad Keselowski says he would not be averse to adding a third team.
The problem is the lack of availability of NASCAR Cup Series charters, which have increased in value significantly over the past few years.
“I think we would definitely like to do that, but it is easier said than done,” Keselowski said Saturday at Michigan. “For the time being, I think we’re quite satisfied with the relationship we’re building with the Rick Ware Racing cars, which allows us to kind of add some depth to our roster without going out and buying another charter right now.
“I think it is maybe well documented, and maybe not, but it is almost impossible to buy a charter. Nobody is selling one. Really, no matter what your offer is, you can’t buy one. I think there have been some people knocking on the door with a lot of money and the answer is that your money is not good anywhere.
“Everyone on the team owner side wants to see where the charter goes and where the TV media rights deal goes. So there are no charters even actively for sale right now. It will be interesting to see where that plays out over the next 24 months when this (Cup TV rights deal) gets announced. Ultimately, we would like to get to a third car. It has to be possible, and right now it is not possible.”
With his victory last Sunday at Richmond, RFK driver Chris Buescher earned a spot in the Cup Playoffs. Keselowski is in a comfortable points position (151 points above the current Playoff cut line) and is likely to qualify for the postseason.
Legacy suspends Noah Gragson from No. 42 Cup car; Josh Berry to race Sunday
Josh Berry will drive the No. 42 Legacy Motor Club Chevrolet in Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 NASCAR Cup Series race after the organization suspended regular driver Noah Gragson on Saturday.
Gragson “liked” a meme on the X app that made light of the murder of George Floyd.
Legacy issued the following statement:
“We have made the decision to suspend Noah Gragson effective immediately regarding his actions that do not represent the values of our team. Josh Berry will drive the No. 42 entry for this weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Michigan.”
NASCAR followed with a statement and suspension of its own:
“NASCAR fully supports Legacy Motor Club’s decision to suspend Noah Gragson. Following his actions on social media, NASCAR has determined that Gragson has violated the Member Conduct section of the 2023 NASCAR Rule Book and has placed him under indefinite suspension.”
Gragson issued the following post on the X app on Saturday morning:
“I am disappointed in myself for my lack of attention and actions on social media. I understand the severity of this situation. I love and appreciate everyone. I try to treat everyone equally no matter who they are. I messed up plain and simple.”