MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Brandon Jones passed Ty Gibbs on the final lap of a two-lap sprint to the finish and won at Martinsville Speedway on Friday night for his fifth career win, and one that sparked a fight over pit road when it was over.
On the final restart, which followed a number of warnings, Gibbs opted to start on the inside lane and had to outrun Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Jones, also on the inside as he ran second. Jones walked into him several times, then finally took the top spot while Gibbs got into a pickle.
“What a day,” Jones said after getting out of his car. “I can’t say we could have played better. … I had older tires than all those guys at the end.”
When it was over, Gibbs and his longtime rival Sam Mayer, who were both racing for a $100,000 Dash4Cash bonus, came to blows on pit road. Gibbs was wearing his helmet, while Mayer was not, and when Mayer pushed him, Gibbs threw a punch and they came together in a melee as others tried to break him.
“I tried to talk to him and he put everything in my face and at that point we have to start fighting,” Gibbs said. “We were put in a bad position there. The only thing I’m crazy about is [Mayer] had nothing. He wasn’t going to get past [third-place finisher A.J. Allmendinger] and I just got hit in the left back.”
But, Gibbs acknowledged, a week ago at Richmond Raceway it was he who had to apologize to teammate John Hunter Nemechek for nudging him on the final lap to take the win, his best third in the series in seven races.
Instead of a fourth win on Friday night, he finished eighth.
Prior to the crazy finish, Gibbs had emerged unscathed each time the last of 16 yellow flags flew as cars sped behind him. Much of the peloton then crashed out on the first attempt of a two-lap overtime sprint to the finish when second-placed Mayer spun third-placed Noah Gragson, causing a major pile-up before even the peloton enters the first corner. .
It was the final warning of the cold night and brought out a red flag that lasted just under 20 minutes, setting the stage for drama on the finish.
Landon Cassill came out of nowhere to finish second, the first of four Chevrolets behind Jones’ Toyota as Allmendinger was third – and claimed the $100,000 bonus – followed by Austin Hill and Mayer.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who made his first career start on the .526-mile oval in his annual foray into the series, started at the back, never contested and finished 11th.
It was also a tough end for points leader Gragson, who raced in the lead for much of the night but was relegated to 20th place after Mayer took him out.