The Xfinity Series headed to Martinsville for the penultimate race of the year. With only two drivers locked in – Josh Berry and Noah Gragson – the action along the cut line was the talk of the day, with veterans Justin Allgaier and AJ Allmendinger fighting to decide the fourth and final spot in the Championship 4 with Ty Gibbs effectively locked in already on points.
Brandon Jones and Sheldon Creed made up the front row, while Sammy Smith and Ty Gibbs made up row two. Allgaier rolled of sixth, while Allmendinger started right behind him in eighth. Sam Mayer and Austin Hill, also below the cut line, would start 22nd and 36th respectively.
Mayer was never really a factor all day long, as he came into the race in a must-win scenario, and ran at the back end of the top-10 much of the day. Hill had plenty of speed, but could never get the track position to be a legitimate threat for the win, eventually getting involved in a series of late race incidents that ended his championship hopes.
Allgaier and Allmendinger battled on either side of the cut line all day long until the bitter end – which ended up coming for Allmendinger with about 15 laps to go when Allgaier used him up the track through turn 4 causing Allmendinger to cut a tire, bringing out the caution and effectively taking him out of contention as he went a lap down.
It seemed at that point that Allgaier was ready to punch his ticket to Phoenix- but that didn’t account for Brandon Jones, who had run up front all day, with his only real competition for the win being his teammate Ty Gibbs. With just under 10 to go, Jones put the bumper to Gibbs and took the lead, just before caution came out for a Kyle Weatherman spin. AJ Allmendinger got the free pass under that yellow, getting him back on the lead lap.
With two to go the race went back green, with both Jones and Gibbs choosing the inside line, while a third JGR driver, Sammy Smith, took the outside of the front row. Smith had an excellent restart and held his own on the outside, leaning on Jones all the way around the track, allowing Gibbs to send it three wide in turns one and two. Going in to turn three, Gibbs kept it three wide and drifted up the track into Jones, causing Smith to spin and bring out a caution, prompting another green white checker.
Of huge importance, Jones was leading at the last scoring loop prior to the time of the caution, allowing him to stay at the front.
Jones and Gibbs again took the first two spots on the inside line, with Riley Herbst taking the outside of the front row. Another spin and caution occurred exiting turn two of the first GWC lap, as Josh Berry went for a spin off the front bumper of his teammate Justin Allgaier. Allgaier took some damage in the wreck, muddying the waters along the cut line with Allmendinger back on the lead lap. Meanwhile, Ty Gibbs nosed back to the lead just before the caution flew, and got the first choice at the cone.
Coming to the third GWC, Gibbs and Jones took the inside, with Noah Gragson taking the outside lane. Jones gave Gibbs the bumper from row two to take the lead, eventually coming around to take the white flag. Coming into the first turn on the white flag lap, Ty Gibbs all but drove through the back of the 19 car, effectively wrecking his teammate intentionally for the win.
Upon exiting the car on the front stretch, Gibbs was booed heavily by the Martinsville crowd, that obviously wasn’t happy with the display by a driver who has made a habit of hyper-aggressive racing.
Gibbs would claim that he did not mean to wreck Jones, but given that he hit the 19 hard enough to buckle his own hood, that isn’t a particularly believable position.
One person that was definitely happy to see Gibbs win the award for “teammate of the year” was JR Motorsports driver Justin Allgaier, who secured the fourth and final championship four spot on points. With that, the field of four is set: Noah Gragson, Josh Berry, Justin Allgaier, and Joe Gibbs’ grandson will battle it out for the championship next week at Phoenix!
Back through the field, there were a few career bests to celebrate, as Nick Sanchez and Blaine Perkins earned their first career top-10’s, finishing seventh and tenth respectively, while Rajah Caruth picked up a new career high 12th place finish, the third best finish of the season for Alpha Prime Racing. Derek Griffith also collected a career best finish, coming home p15 for Sam Hunt Racing.
Photo Credit: Joe Gibbs Racing on Twitter