Hamlin made the comments during a press conference at Kansas Speedway on September 10. He reminded the media members in attendance that Gibbs is still only 19 years old and that he has a lot to learn about the Cup Series. Though Hamlin also made positive comments about how Gibbs has performed in the No. 45 and the No. 23.
“He’s been good. He’s done what we’ve asked him to do,” Hamlin said about Gibbs. “It’s still a learning process. He’s still 19. He’s still learning as he goes. I think that, certainly, he realizes that the fence between the Xfinity and the Cup Series garage is a tall one and these guys are really, really good.
“It’s difficult, but he’s learning every week and he’s not tearing up equipment and he’s getting us in the top 20. So, it’s good,” Hamlin added.
Gibbs Avoided Incidents at Darlington Raceway
The Lady in Black was the site of the first playoff race, and it featured multiple incidents featuring championship hopefuls. Chase Elliott crashed and collected Chase Briscoe while Ross Chastain and Kyle Larson both fell multiple laps down for different unexpected issues. Kevin Harvick’s day came to an end due to a fire.
Meanwhile, Gibbs turned in a quiet performance. He is not in the playoffs, but he is a driver with little experience at the South Carolina track. However, his first time at Darlington Raceway in a Cup Series car did not feature any problems.
Gibbs started 21st overall in the No. 23 Toyota Camry TRD, and he worked his way up into the top 10 during Stage 1. He then avoided mistakes and on-track issues alike before ending the day 15th overall. This was his fifth top-20 finish in seven starts, a run that also includes a top-10 at Michigan International Speedway.
Gibbs Will Likely Make More Starts in 2022
The situation surrounding Gibbs, Kurt Busch, and 23XI Racing remains in flux. There is no set date for Busch to make his return from a crash during qualifying at Pocono Raceway, and Hamlin previously said that the 2004 Cup Series champion had “plateaued” in his recovery. He still needs the doctors to clear him to make a return to the Cup Series.
If Busch does not return in the coming weeks, Gibbs will continue to make some more starts in the No. 23. He will potentially make his Cup Series debut at Bristol Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway, and the Charlotte Roval among others.
Gibbs hasn’t struggled much during his other debut races despite facing off with the best drivers in stock car racing. He has delivered solid performances for 23XI Racing, Hamlin, and the crews that have accompanied him to each race on the schedule. Now there will be questions about whether he will continue this streak at Kansas Speedway and all of the other remaining tracks on the 2022 schedule.