Dale Earnhardt Jr Makes Massive Playoff Prediction for Ty Gibbs Amidst Performance Breakout

Published 02/07/2024, 2:16 AM EST

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The season opener at the Coliseum in Los Angeles not only officially kicked off the 2024 season but also gave the community their first dramatic episode with the bad blood between 2-time Cup Series champion, Joey Logano and young gun, Ty Gibbs spilling out on the track. It was the best opening race a driver could ask for, and Gibbs looked like he was on a mission.

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However, at the end of the day, the #54 JGR driver who started off from the third spot and led the race, for the most part, had to be content with a dismal 18th position finish. On top of that, the youngster’s stint with Logano brought the Team Penske to his hauler as Logano got out to serve a warning to Gibbs. However, on a positive note, reflecting on the LA confrontation, NASCAR veteran Dale Earnhardt Jr let out his thoughts about the 2023 Rookie of the Year, revealing his expectations about the young speedster.

Dale Earnhardt Jr gets blunt about Ty Gibbs’ playoff chances

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21-year-old Ty Gibbs on Saturday impressed a lot of people with his performance. Though the eventual race winner, Denny Hamlin started the 150-lap feature, his teammate Gibbs snatched the lead from the veteran in the 50th lap of the race and it was almost certain that he would seal the deal, acing the quarter-mile track, eyeing his first win on the big stage.

Unfortunately, fate had other plans. As the race progressed, an ugly tussle sparked up between the #22 driver Joey Logano and Gibbs. Both drivers were going toe to toe with the youngster running the older driver up the track. Gibbs led more than 80 laps until he spun out, ending up finishing the race 18th. Reflecting on the young gun’s blistering pace, Dale Jr didn’t hesitate to appreciate Ty Gibbs.

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Speaking on his popular, Dale Jr Download podcast, Junior spoke highly of Gibbs, saying, “I expect Ty Gibbs to step it up a little bit and have a bit of a better season and you know if you’re looking at the pace that he had on the field during some of the Clash, I mean that’s a great example of what I think is capable of and he almost, he battled right on the bubble there, trying to get into the playoffs, I think he gets in you know as little more comfortably this year.” 

And not just Dale Jr, even Ty Gibbs’ teammate Denny Hamlin joined the bandwagon in acknowledging the up-and-coming talent that the young driver is.

WATCH THIS STORY: Logano’s warning to Gibbs: A brewing NASCAR rivalry 

Gibbs gets a thumbs up from his teammate, Hamlin after the Coliseum clash

To be fair, the young 21-year-old’s performance definitely deserved credit. And he got plenty of that from within the industry. Before Dale Jr came out with his thoughts, Gibbs’ teammate and Cup Series veteran, Denny Hamlin, who snatched the win, gave props to the rising talent who is coming from his rookie season in NASCAR’s elite faction.

He even gave a tough fight to Cup Series regulars last season, battling for the bubble against some of the best racers on the planet. Following his Coliseum performance, Hamlin during his post-race interview gave a huge thumbs up to his young teammate. He said, “I think he’s going to have tremendous success this year. I think he’s going to be part of the playoffs. I don’t think that’s going to be a big shock to anyone,” said the veteran.

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Further talking about Gibbs’ improvement since last season, Hamlin said, “He’s just gotten better, right? I mean he’s very young, he’s green. I mean, he is definitely green, but I have a lot of interactions with Ty. Obviously he flies to the front in races with me each and every week and he asks a lot of questions.” 

With big names in the circuit putting their hopes on the driver, his playoff presence this year becoming reality wouldn’t seem like a far-fetched dream anymore. What do you think?

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Written by:

Kishore R

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Kishore is a NASCAR Writer at EssentiallySports. He actively covers live events and does detailed race analyses, helping fans understand the very nitty gritties of the sport. Using the right mix of storytelling and game expertise, Kishore can take his readers on a journey to see how a particular race was for some of their most loved drivers, like Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott.
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Edited by:

Ariva Debnath

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