March 23, 2023
Gibbs destroys Jones to win Xfinity in Martinsville

Gibbs destroys Jones to win Xfinity in Martinsville

Ty Gibbs took no prisoners Saturday with a winning move that dramatically changed the composition of the NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship 4 field.

On the final lap of the third attempt at overtime, Gibbs slammed into soon-to-be ex-teammate Brandon Jones so hard the contact dented the hood of Gibbs’ No. 54 Toyota.

The contact sent Jones, who had been leading the previous lap, into the outside wall at Turns 1 and 2, and Gibbs had the lead as NASCAR claimed the 14th caution of the race for a wreck.

By that point, Gibbs had already clinched one of the two remaining spots in Championship Round 4, but the bulldozer move deprived Jones of an opportunity to race for the series title at Phoenix Raceway next Saturday.

As a chorus of boos rained down from the grandstands, Gibbs made no apologies for the tactic that saw him race-winner for the sixth time that season, his first at Martinsville and his 10th in 50 starts of the Xfinity Series.

“It definitely wasn’t a clean move,” Gibbs said. “I definitely didn’t want to ruin him, but I definitely wanted to get him out of the groove so I could win. I felt like we lost the spring race when we were moved by him.

“He’s my team-mate, but he really wants to win here. It’s important to get the win. And now we go to the championships. It’s cool. Hopefully I don’t get hit by any cans or anything.

“We got out of the way earlier this year, so that’s part of it.”

Jones won pole and led 98 laps ahead of Gibbs 102, but finished 23rd, the last driver on the lead lap.

“I know Ty enough to know that he doesn’t care what he’s done,” said Jones, who will join JR Motorsports next season. “He’s quite, well – he wasn’t ‘quite a bit’ – he was suspended to the next round. So really, what did that bring?

“I don’t really understand the move. I understand trying to get aggressive – you want to win the race. But I don’t see the point of simply destroying the racing car. I get no satisfaction from it. Maybe he does. Maybe he likes to win like this? But I’ve never felt strong enough to race. So we just take it and do it.”

Jones’ misfortune propelled veteran Justin Allgaier, his future JR Motorsports team-mate, to a final fourth place in the championship. Jones needed a win to secure the spot, but Allgaier was able to move up on points, which he did by 12 points over Regular Season Champion AJ Allmendinger.

Allgaier was fifth and Allmendinger 16th after contact between their cars cut Allmendinger’s left rear tire as the drivers played bumper tag and swapped positions in the closing stages of the race. Allgaier was happy about progressing, but not at all thrilled with the way it happened.

“I can’t even describe it,” Allgaier said. “It’s disappointing that it’s gotten to the point where unfortunately it’s easier to drive through someone than to overtake them. Really proud of our team. We never gave up until the checkered flag fell. Had a lot of damage right there (from a collision on lap 262 in the second overtime) but made it to the last lap.”

After the race, Allmendinger visited Allgaier in the pit lane and congratulated him.

“They get to the end, (Allmendinger) pushed pretty hard,” said Allgaier. “He has chosen to meet us so often that you get to the point where you have to try. As he turned left again, he knew we were going to hit.

“I hate it for these guys. I don’t know if we could have done 25 laps to fight as hard as we did in the end. You played a great season. We had a great season. It’s just so hard when it comes down to the last race, especially in a place like Martinsville.”

Gibbs and Allgaier will compete in Phoenix for the series championship against Josh Berry and Noah Gragson, who earned their Championship 4 spots with respective wins in Las Vegas and Homestead-Miami in the Round of 16.

Non-playoff drivers Sheldon Creed and Riley Herbst finished second and third after the late-race melee, followed by the JR Motorsports trio of Gragson, Allgaier and Sam Mayer. Nick Sanchez, Daniel Hemric, Austin Hill and Blaine Perkins completed the top 10.

Along with Allmendinger and Jones, Hill and Mayer were eliminated from the playoffs.


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