MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Sam Mayer said Ty Gibbs had snapped. Gibbs admitted as much.
On a fevered Friday night at Martinsville Speedway, the two Xfinity Series rivals clanged fenders and exchanged words and hands on pit road after a heated second overtime. Instead of pocketing the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash prize that both drivers were eligible for, Mayer and Gibbs earned two trips — one to the pit-road concrete after their altercation became physical and another to the Xfinity Series hauler for a talking-to from NASCAR’s brass.
Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Brandon Jones sailed through for the win in the Call 811 Before You Dig 250, and AJ Allmendinger — with help from Kaulig Racing teammate Landon Cassill bowling through for second — crept by for the Dash 4 Cash bonus in third. Mayer bruised his way to fifth, with Gibbs wilting to an eighth-place finish.
Gibbs had been dominant again from the pole position, leading 197 of the 261 laps in a strong bid for his fourth victory of the season. But the fateful two-lap sprint to the end opened the door for fireworks on the track and off.
“That restart, the 19 (Jones) pushed us both up the race track,” Mayer told NASCAR.com. “So at that point, the race win was out of my hands. So I had the $100,000 in my sights and I was gonna do what I had to do to try to get back, and yeah, I put the bumper to him. That was like, in my opinion, we talked in the trailer and it was just a clean bump-and-run, and the 10 (Cassill) kind of stuck it in there, kind of got us both crossed up, and that’s kind of what, where it kind of went to crap.”
Gibbs planted his No. 54 Toyota on the bumper of Mayer’s No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet during and after the cool-down lap, as Gibbs’ JGR crew implored him to remain calm over the radio. That lasted until the two drivers dismounted on pit road, and punches were thrown.
THE BOYS ARE THROWING DOWN pic.twitter.com/Ht9d574K80
— NASCAR Xfinity (@NASCAR_Xfinity) April 9, 2022
“What led up to that moment was, I talked to Sam, I was frustrated,” Gibbs told NBC Sports‘ Dustin Long, adding that it wasn’t his intention to fight when he approached Mayer. “I was like, ‘what are you doing when we got drove the fence’ and you know, we kind of shoved a little bit, and I turned away. And when I got grabbed, and kind of pulled, that just led up to that moment. I think, just build-up, build-up, build-up and I snapped, and that’s just part of it. You know, hopefully I’ll learn from it. I made some other mistakes. But you know, just once I got off the bottom (lane), it was just game over for me when Brandon got inside of me.”
Mayer went to the infield care center after the race, and his face bore some scrapes from the grappling. As far as what escalated their confrontation, Mayer said the post-race emotions were running hot.
“Heat of the moment type stuff,” Mayer said. “I mean, I think it’s more I was just trying to get his attention, and he took it the wrong way, and it just … he just snapped. I mean, that’s what I say just happened. Nothing anything horrible, but it’s just part of the sport.”
The two were separated and Gibbs conducted a brief TV interview before disappearing inside the officials’ hauler. All along the way, the healthy crowd sent boos in his direction — a cacophony that Gibbs didn’t seem to mind.
“It’s just part of it, you know. At least they’re making noise, so that’s a good thing,” Gibbs said. “And I got to talk with all the NASCAR guys in here, and Wayne (Auton), and Steve (O’Donnell) and all of them, and I got to talk to Sam. So no, we’re all good. We’re on the same page. It’s just, boys are playing hard out there and it led up to that moment.”
The two weren’t exactly singing kumbaya after their 10-minute consultation in the Xfinity Series hauler, but it seemed a temporary cooling-off had at least been achieved.
“I just talked to him, he came back over, he was upset and just decided to throw a couple punches, but it’s fine by me. We talked about it,” Mayer said. “We’ll be good going forward, especially at Talladega. That’s a place where you don’t want to be enemies, so we’re gonna move on and be A-OK, keep our head down and go out try to get a win next week or next time.”